German President Steinmeier visits Romanian Jewish community

German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with leading representatives of Romania’s Jewish community.

In Bucharest’s Choral Temple, the country’s largest synagogue, Steinmeier spoke with Silviu Vexler, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania (FCER), and his deputy Ovidiu Banescu, as well as Chief Rabbi Rafael Shaffer, FCER social director Mona Bejan and the Federation’s executive director Eduard Kupferberg.

The FCER representatives told Steinmeier how the country’s Jewish community is supporting war refugees from Ukraine. More than 600,000 have arrived in Romania in the past two months or travelled through the country on their flight from Ukraine – among them around 14,000 Jewish refugees.

At the Ukrainian border, the community runs an emergency shelter together with international Jewish aid organisations. FCER Vice President Ovidiu Banescu stressed that they help both Jewish and non-Jewish war refugees. “We make absolutely no distinction!”

The country’s Jewish community is aging, Banescu told the Jüdische Allgemeine, with membership declining for decades. “We would be happy if some refugees stayed with us – but for most of them Romania is just a transit country, and they move on to the West after a few days or weeks.” Many went to Austria, Germany or France, Banescu said.

The synagogue in the centre of Bucharest capital was built in the 1860s on the model of the Leopoldstadt Temple in Vienna and is considered one of the most beautiful synagogues in Europe.

The FCER is Romania’s EJC affiliate.

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