Synagogue Flag, Bucharest
This flag is designed in blue, yellow, and red. In the centre are the two tablets of stone with Roman letters representing the Ten Commandments. Above the tablets some words are embroidered in Hebrew. They are not clear but might be עזרה בצרה, meaning, help when in need. Below the tablets are two clasped hands and some Romanian text. The flag was originally found in the Great Synagogue in Bucharest, Romania and is currently located in the Jewish Museum of Bucharest. It is unclear exactly where the flag would have hung, but it was clearly intended as a sign of the community’s close connection with their country since the colours are those of the Romanian flag.
The Great Synagogue in Bucharest was built in 1845 by the Polish-Jewish community of the city. It is one of the only synagogues active in Romania today. Jews have lived in the geographic region of Romania since the second century CE As with other Jewish European communities, the Jewish community of Romania grew over the years, creating its own culture and traditions. Jewish Klezmer music was greatly influenced by Romanian music. Likewise, many Hasidic dynasties, such as Satmar, Spink, and Klausenburg, originated in Romania, and many famous Jewish artists, scientist, scholars, and leaders are of Romanian origin, such as the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Aaronsohn family, Eli Wiesel, Marcel Yanko and many more. In Romania too, like elsewhere in Europe, the Jews faced anti-Semitism, persecution, blood libels, and massacres.
After World War I, the Jews of Romania were granted equal rights, together with other minorities in the country. Despite ongoing anti-Semitism, the community grew in number and influence and enjoyed a rich communal life. Prior to World War II, more than 850,000 Jews lived in Romania, totalling 4.5% of the population. During the Holocaust, many Romanian Jews were murdered, a large number at the hands of the fascist Romanian forces who collaborated with the Nazis. Nevertheless, many Romania Jews survived the war, with the community numbering close to 300,000, two-thirds of whom immigrated to Israel at the end of the war. During the years of communist rule, Jewish society and culture in Romania was strictly controlled, immigration was prohibited, and Zionists were persecuted, with some even dying in prison. From the 1960s, the Israeli government paid the Romanian authorities in return for exit visas for Romanian Jews. According to a local census, in 2011 there were only 3,271 Jews left in Romania.
This image can be shown by Jewish Studies teachers when discussing Jewish communities in Europe, synagogues, and Jewish flags.
Jewish History teachers can use the photograph to discuss the history of flags being placed in synagogues and the affiliation of Jewish communities to their countries.
What is this image?
What colours appear on the flag?
What Jewish symbol appears on the flag? What is the image beneath the tablets?
What languages are embroidered on the flag?
Reading Between the Lines
This flag was originally placed in a synagogue in Bucharest, Romania.
Compare this flag to the Romanian flag.
Why did the community hang a Romanian flag in the synagogue?
What do you think is the significance of the clasped hands and the Ten Commandments on the flag?
Today, the Jewish community of Romania is very small. Has it always been this small?
Search for information about the Jews of Romania and write about the history of this community.
Compare the history of the Romanian Jews to the history of your community.
What are the similarities and what are the differences?
Are there any flags in your synagogue?
Are flags a positive addition to a synagogue? Explain your answer.
Design a flag for your synagogue that incorporates all the unique aspects of the community and of your country.