Begegnungen beim Sukkot-Fest in Bukarest

Die Föderation Jüdischer Gemeinden in Rumänien hatte HILFE UND HOFFNUNG zum Sukkot-Fest 2019 nach Bukarest eingeladen, um ihre Anerkennung für das Engagement von HILFE UND HOFFNUNG bei der Unterstützung jüdischer Gemeinden in Rumänien auszudrücken. Einige finnische Freunde von HILFE UND HOFFNUNG kamen direkt aus Finnland zum Fest nach Bukarest. Einer der finnischen Besucher verfasste einen Bericht in englischer Sprache, den wir hier veröffentlichen möchten.

My Bucharest visit, 15. – 22.10.2019

Written by Jarmo Majamaa

The Romanian Jewish people were celebrating their annual Feast of Tabernacles (in Hebrew: Sukkot) this year perhaps in a little unusual way. They had invited some foreign people from the Austrian organization HILFE UND HOFFNUNG to join the party which was held in Bucharest on 15th October, 2019. In the foreign delegation, there was one person from the organization, Ms. Ilona Turunen, and six liaison members from Finland. I was one of those Finnish delegates.

HILFE UND HOFFNUNG has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria with the mission of sending material support to the Jewish people in Romania, Hungary and Ukraine. Majority of the supporting goods go to retirement homes and kindergardens. Such a delivery was carried out also during this visit with a van.

The Jewish Community organized their own taxi-service for us for sight-seeing. During many days a person from the Jewish Federation in charge of the cultural affairs guided us. In the following, I will tell about my traveling experiences.

Tuesday, 15th October

Our group of six people traveled from Helsinki, Finland, to Bucharest, Romania. After arriving in Bucharest we were taken care of by the Jewish Community. After getting accommodated in a hotel we were taken to The Great Synagogue by car. A huge setting of Tabernacles (the ”Sukka”) had been built by the synagogue. A few police officers were also seen outside the building guarding the happening.

In the celebration there were almost one hundred people sitting by tables which were arranged in a shape of a horseshoe. In the middle there was sitting the Rabbi and he was leading the meeting and explaining the traditions related to the feast. We heard prayers and speeches, which were translated from Romanian to English. The speakers paid a lot of attention and expressed their gratitude to those Finnish people who are involved in this support mission. In addition, the speakers were especially happy for the reason that we had received the invitation and had come to participate in their celebration.

They wanted also to hear a speech from us. I was the one who had to give that speech. I told them that we are just ordinary people from Finland who take seriously the word of God. I also said that God will bless those who bless Israel and He will curse those who curse Israel.

We became very satisfied with food and then they started singing songs in Yiddish and Hebrew. Part of the songs were sung together and we also could recognize those melodies. We were in a very good mood and the atmosphere grew so high that even I stood up and started singing ”Hine ma tov” and ”Hine lo janum” with all people joining in. The party was an overall success, everybody was feeling happy. At the end I had a change to shake hands with the rabbi and had a friendly discussion with him. He turned out to be a man with a good sense of humor as well.

Wednesday, 16th October

Before noon, we got acquainted with The Choral Temple Synagogue and we had a change to meet the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, Mr. Aurel Vainer. Anne and Hannu Ylitalo activated a discussion about a similar kind of religious-cultural co-operation that has been carried out in Hungary. In the discussion there came out also Jewish Theatre and music.

We were told that in the afternoon there would be a Klezmer music concert in front of the Jewish Theatre. We got very excited about that information and we went to see it. Excellent playing and singing was heard, dancing and acting was seen in the middle of ordinary life and traffic on the street. An officer was guiding the audience and traffic. Everything succeeded well.

Later in the afternoon we visited a Jewish retirement home in which a part of the residents are survivors of the Holocaust. The cargo of the van contained a lot of support packages from Austria which the personnel started to move into the building. We were taken to have a round in the institution, they also had a ”Sukka” of their own. We were told about many activities like painting and acting in theatre plays in which the residents take part. These kind of communal activities improve the quality of life of the elderly people. They live more healthy and longer than those who live alone.

Thursday, 17th October

We visited the Holocaust Memorial (on the street Calea Victoriel), which was built in 2009 in the square side in front of the building of the Romanian Ministry of the Interior. The Memorial is an ascetic-looking ”bunker” and partially below the ground level. The Memorial has been built for the memory of those Jews and Romans who passed away in the Holocaust. Inside of the Memorial there is nothing but an empty room and names of victims of the Holocaust on the walls. Beautiful garlands have been imported there by representatives of the state and many organizations. To them, for doing this, I give my deepest respect.

Then we visited The Jewish Museum of Art and Culture which was in a synagogue. Romanian Jewish history was introduced there by a guide and by means of pictures, objects and texts. There were plenty of paintings by many artists. We also found there a class room with old school desks.

We paid a visit to the ”Village Museum”. There we could see a great number of houses from different centuries. Among them were houses of rich people as well as homes of the poor. We found the museum area extremely impressive!

Friday, 18th October

We made a whole day trip to the Carpathian mountains close to Transylvania. We visited a synagogue in Ploiesti and we were also guided there. Some of the support packages were left in this place.

Then we saw the Synagogue of Campina which also serves as a museum. Here we heard stories of life and destiny of some Jewish individuals via large photographs and texts. To me, one unforgettable positive detail was a photograph of a school report of a Jewish boy. There could be seen only the best possible numbers, 10 and 9.

On our way back we stopped at Sinai, a village in the mountains. We ate there some food on the terrace of a local restaurant. The scenery around the village was so fantastic and the houses looked very beautiful. The environment and the buildings reminded me of the sceneries that I had earlier seen in some places in Austria and Zapopan, Poland. Here I felt a necessity to take photographs!

Saturday, 19th October

Messianic Jews

We had a walk to a near-by meeting place of the local Messianic Jewish Congregation. We got there in due time and we had our first contact with their Rabbi. As soon as we met him, he turned out to be a very cheerful person praising God. Then we participated in their Saturday morning prayer which included a lot of singing. The words were written in Hebrew and Romanian (Hebrew texts also transliterated).

After the meeting we were served some delicious food. I had a talk with a retired engineer who called himself ”a gentile” in this place. After some talking I noticed that both of us shared the very same opinions – based on the Bible – on these modern times of ours: words of the prophets are getting fulfilled, God is collecting His people to the Holy Land and other people of this world are continuously turning more and more against the Jews. Political and military activities in the Middle East coincide with the biblical prophesies.

In the same place our guide saw some Israeli tourists and he went to greet them. He speaks a very good Hebrew. He told us that there are about 20,000 Israeli tourists in Romania every month as an average. Romania is cheap, safe and relatively near for them to make, for instance, a weekend tour. There is no active anti-Semitism, either. Spending a weekend in Romania becomes cheaper for Israelis than to spend the same time in some targets of tourism in their home country.

Monday, 21th October

Peoples’ House

One of the top targets of our one week travel (from the point of view of tourism) was visiting ”The People’s House”. Its construction started in the year 1975 during the regime of Nikolai Ceausescu and it is still under construction. The building serves today as House of Parliament and as a place for various kinds of meetings and congresses. The building is the second largest in the whole world by surface area after the Pentagon in the USA. The building was not used for 20 years starting from the year 1990. After that they started to build and repair it again.

The interior of the People’s House is paved with marble which has been mined in Transylvania, the halls and corridors are enormous. When we saw this, we understood that a lot of time, labor and natural resources have been used for vanity and needlessness. After seeing the People’s House, I wanted to say that now I have seen all the splendor of vanity that exists in this world.

Jarmo Majamaa (November 2019)