Town in southwest Romania; capital of the province of Oltenia. In the eighteenth century, Craiova was a craft center and a hub for specialists in dressing and tanning skins and hides, as there was demand for such products in the neighboring markets of the Habsburg Empire.
Beginning in the eighteenth century, Sephardic Jews from the Ottoman Empire began to settle in Craiova, establishing a community organization and then founding a ḥevrah kadisha’ in 1790. Ashkenazic Jews moved there at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Though two distinct communities existed, they were ultimately compelled to converge in 1949, the result of measures taken by the Communist regime against religious denominations. There were 82 Jewish families living in Craiova in 1831; 490 in 1860; 2,891 in 1891; and 1,762 in 1942.
Craiova was home to two outstanding rabbinical personalities: Reuven Elyahu Israel, who led the Sephardic community in the mid-nineteenth century, and Ya‘akov Me’ir Spielman, of the Ashkenazic community, who left Craiova at the end of the 1850s and settled in Bucharest, where he was widely known as the Craiover Ruf. Sephardic Jews built a synagogue in 1832 that was eventually demolished, as it fell into ruin. In 1887 a Choral Temple was erected on the same location following designs developed by the architect Birkental.
The communities of Craiova developed a strong network of schools for both boys and girls, as well as a private trade institute that was set up in 1877 and managed by Emanuel Gross. In 1848, Radian Samitca established a modern printing press that functioned in Craiova for almost 100 years, producing Hebrew books and textbooks. Several outstanding Jewish intellectuals were born in Craiova, among them the composer Filip Lazăr; M. Stăureanu, a high-school teacher and compiler of widely used Latin–Romanian dictionaries; and the philologist Constantin Marius Şăineanu. Jews were also active in the town’s economic life; for example, Solomon Iritz, in 1890, and A. Waldman, in 1894, set up mechanical workshops for farming machines.
During the Holocaust, authorities of the Antonescu government deported Jews from communities located along the frontline to Craiova and several other towns and villages in the province of Oltenia. After 1945, when Bucovina was once again annexed to the USSR, several hundred Jews left that province and moved to Craiova. Currently, approximately 40 Jews live in the town.
Leon Eskenasy, Istoricul Comunității Spaniole din Craiova (Craiova, 1946); Te’odor Lavi’ (Theodor Lavi), “Kra’iovah (Craiova),” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 236–240 (Jerusalem, 1969).
Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea