City of Rumania. Jassy contains the oldest and most important Jewish community of Moldavia, of which principality it was formerly the capital. Psantir has found in the old cemetery there stones with inscriptions dating back to 1467 and 1549. Jews were living at Jassy before it became the capital of Moldavia (1565), and their numbers certainly increased after that, for Jassy; on the commercial highway between Poland and Turkey, was frequented by Jewish merchants. The numerical importance of the Jews of Jassy after the second half of the sixteenth century explains their having among them at that time the distinguished Rabbi Jacob (or Solomon) b. Arvi, who officiated there for forty years, whom Joseph Solomon Delmedigo cites as an able physician and cabalist, and who migrated to Palestine in his old age.The Cossack Revolt.
When Prince Aaron rose against Turkey, Nov., 1594, and killed all the Turks at Jassy, nineteen Jews were also victims; and when the Cossacks rose against Poland, 1648-52, killing indiscriminately Christians and Jews, a number of the latter fled to Jassy, while the community ransomed others from the Tatars. Others were sent to Jassy by the Jews of Constantinople, who had bought them in the slave-market of that city. Some of these redeemed Jews remained at Jassy. Soon after, the Jews of Jassy themselves were harried by the Cossacks. When Timush, the son of Chmielnicki, went to Jassy, Aug., 1652, to marry the daughter of Vasilje Lupul, the soldiers of his large escort fell upon the Jews, who were forced to hide while the Cossacks remained in the city; about sixty Jews who were caught were maltreated and compelled to pay a high ransom for their lives. When Vasilje Lupul, dethroned by Stephen George, calledupon his son-in-law for aid, the Cossacks returned and the Jews suffered more cruel tortures at their hands; all would have perished had not the Patriarch of Antioch intervened in their behalf on his passage through the city.
The insurrection was propitious, however, for the intellectual life of the Jews of Jassy, for among the Polish Jews that sought refuge in Moldavia was Rabbi Nathan Nata Hanover, author of the "Yewen Meẓulah." Called to Jassy from the rabbinate of Focsani, he directed its community for several years. Since that time many learned rabbis have occupied the rabbinate of Jassy, and the inscriptions on tombstones preserve the names of a number of Biblical and Talmudic scholars who dwelt in the community. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the rabbinate was filled by Pethahiah Lida, son of David Lida, who fled to Jassy when Lemberg was sacked by the Swedes. His successor was Bezaleel ha-Kohen, subsequently ḥakam basha, whose son and grandson held in turn the same office. In fact, about the beginning of the eighteenth century Jassy became the seat of the ḥakam bashas, who exercised authority over the Jews of the entire country.In the Eighteenth Century.
During the troublous times of the first war between Russia and Turkey the community of Jassy suffered greatly, especially under the kaimakam Lupul (1711). After a period of quiet under Nicholas Mavrocordato (1711-1715) the Jews were again harassed under the terrible Michael Racovitza (1716-26), the last year of whose reign was marked by an accusation of ritual murder at Onitzeani. The case, on being appealed, was tried at Jassy, where the populace, incited by the prince, plundered the ghetto and set fire to the synagogue, while Racovitza had a number of Jews tortured in order to extract money from them. During the periodic wars between Russia and Turkey in this century the Jews of Jassy suffered equally with their Christian fellow citizens, being despoiled and pillaged by both sides. The community was, moreover, torn by internal dissensions. The Frankists also caused trouble by their propaganda, and the ḥakam basha of Jassy was forced to appeal to the pasha of Chotin to prevent them from seeking refuge in Moldavia after the death of Archbishop Dembowsky.
On the death of Isaac ha-Kohen, Dec., 1776, or Jan., 1777, the community split into two hostile parties, one of which chose Isaac's son Naphtali as his successor, while the other elected Mordecai b. Moses Ḥayyim. A violent conflict arose, during which both sides spent enormous sums, and the prestige of the Jews of Jassy suffered greatly. The quarrel was finally compromised in 1782, when Naphtali ha-Kohen was recognized as titulary ḥakam basha, though he ceded certain of his rights to his less successful rival. After foreign consulates were established at Jassy, in 1780, there were incessant contentions between the native Jews and the foreign or protected Jews in regard to the gabel, which the latter refused to pay. Agreements were made but soon broken, and the dissensions between the two parties finally led to the suspension of the office of ḥakam basha (1832).During the Nineteenth Century.
In 1803, during the reign of Prince Alexander Murusi, the Jews of Jassy were threatened with a general massacre, and were saved only through the intervention of the metropolitan, who sheltered them in the court of the archbishop's residence, declaring that the mob would have to pass over his body before reaching the Jews. Calimah (1812-19), although favorably disposed toward them, could not prevent the annoyances and extortions to which they were subjected by his rapacious officials. The plague that raged in Moldavia in 1815 was made a pretext for subjecting the Jews to oppressive regulations, enacted ostensibly for the protection of the city. The assessments of the community were considerably increased, and the Jewish money-lenders were restricted in their business. The most calamitous days fell upon the community in 1821-22, at the time of the Greek revolution. This uprising, known as the "Hetæria," first broke out at Jassy, where Turks and Jews were slain indiscriminately. There were continual conflicts between Jews and Hetærists; Jewish tailors were compelled to furnish gratuitously the uniforms of the revolutionists; the shops of the Jews were plundered, their horses were carried off, and they were generally oppressed and harassed. The well-to-do Jews left the city and country. When the Turks took possession of Jassy, they in turn pillaged and oppressed the Jews as well as the rest of the people; many Jews were imprisoned in order to extort money from them, and women and children were violated. There were frequent fires in the Jewish quarters; the largest of these occurred on July 29, 1822, when three-fourths of the entire city was reduced to ashes. Many Jews perished in the flames, and those that succeeded in saving anything were despoiled by the soldiers. Five synagogues and hundreds of Jewish houses were burned.Under the Sturzas and Dynasty Ghika.
During the reign of the easy-going prince Ioan Sandu Sturza (1822-28), the Jews were forbidden to make or sell candles or bread to Christians. Much suffering followed the fire of Aug., 1827, when the main and the neighboring streets were destroyed; the merchants lost not only their goods but their books, and were thus deprived of the legal means of holding their debtors, many families being completely ruined. The provisional government of Russia (1828-34) imposed such heavy taxes that the Jews felt the consequences even after the departure of the army. They suffered still more during the plague of 1829 and the cholera of 1831-34. All business was interrupted; the wealthy Jews left the city, while the poor ones were driven out and forced to live miserably in tents on the outskirts.
On the accession of Prince Michael Sturza (1834-1848) the community of Jassy had to pay heavily in order to set aside the decree relating to vagabondage, deliberately intended as an excuse for despoiling the Jews. The people of Jassy were several times induced by the prince to bring complaints against the Jews in order to justify the revival of restrictive measures against them, which measures were ignored as soon as the Jews had paid a sufficient sum. Ordinancesforbidding the Jews of Jassy to live in certain streets, hire Christian servants, engage in money-lending or in selling old clothes, were in turn promulgated and then quietly disregarded. Gregory Ghika (1849-56) reorganized the community and admitted Jewish children to the public schools. During his reign a modern Jewish school was established at Jassy, this being the first step toward the civilization and progress that steadily continued under the first Cuza (1859-66).Organization.
In addition to the ḥakam basha the affairs of the community were originally managed by three starosts, who exercised also a certain judicial power; they represented the community before the authorities and supervised the collection of taxes. After 1832 the starosts were replaced by "epitropes," officials who were recognized by the authorities down to 1866. For a long time there was only one official synagogue, in the upper part of the city, and rebuilt after a fire in 1764; but there has always been a number of ḥebrot. No new synagogues were built before the beginning of the nineteenth century. The community now possesses a modern temple, several large synagogues, and about one hundred smaller places of worship. All its educational and philanthropic institutions are managed by special committees or societies and supported by voluntary contributions. The meat-tax, which as late as 1866 yielded 200,000 francs annually, has not been reestablished.
The religious affairs of the community are in the hands of one preacher at the temple (Rabbi Niemirover, 1903), two rabbis of the old school, and five dayyanim. Among the older rabbis at Jassy who contributed to Jewish literature, Aaron Moses Taubes (d. 1852) should be mentioned. The society Cultura supports two primary schools; the society Junimea and a ladies' society support a school for girls; other educational institutions include a gymnasium, a business school, a trade-school for girls, a Talmud Torah (where Rumanian is taught), a large number of ḥadarim, and some private schools for Jewish boys and girls. The philanthropic institutions include a hospital with 120 beds, a home for the aged, an orphan asylum, a B'nai B'rith lodge, the society Fraterna Pacurar (furnishing medicine and monetary relief to its members), and a women's benevolent society. Certain committees distribute bread and wood to the poor at Passover, and clothing and shoes to needy school children. Of the many Zionist societies formed at Jassy only three survive. The cemetery is in charge of the ḥebra ḳaddisha.Statistics.
According to partial statistics, published in 1901, there are at Jassy 1,014 Jewish master workmen in a total of 1,493; 1,038 Jewish journeymen in a total of 1,620; and 511 Jewish apprentices in a total of 717. In consequence of the restrictive measures enacted against the Rumanian Jews since 1880 many have left Jassy; since 1899 more than 5,000 Jews have gone elsewhere. In 1803 there were 563 Jewish taxpayers at Jassy in a Jewish population of more than 3,000. Their numbers increased considerably as the city became more important. In 1820 there were 1,099 Jewish taxpayers; in 1827 they had increased to 1,256; in 1831, to 1,700 in a total Jewish population of 17,032; in 1839, to 4,528 in a total of more than 30,000. The census of 1859 showed a Jewish population of 31,000; that of 1894, 33,253; and that of 1899, 39,441.
The city and district of Jassy have, according to the census of Dec., 1899, a Jewish population of 46,696 in a total of 191,828. The Jews in the district are divided among the following communities: Tîrgu-Formoss (2,107), Podul Iloei (1,692), Bivolari (1,005), Sculeni (410), Caminareschti (Tziganash, 170), Tzibana (122), Poieni (100), Socola (71), and Dimache (57). About 1,520 live in villages.