Romania -- Romanian Jewish Heritage Event in London

Close up of the Ark, synagogue in Roman, Romania, 2006. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Readers in London can get a taste of the wonderful architecture of Romanian synagogues by attending a little festival of Romanian Jewish culture June 11-17 at the Romanian Culture Institute. The opening event takes place June 10.

Centerpiece is the exhibit of Christian Binder's photographs of synagogues of Romania, organized by Julie Dawson (who will speak at the London events).

The Romanian Cultural Institute London, in partnership with Mihai Eminescu Trust (MET) and with the support of Spiro Ark organises an event highlighting Romania's rich Jewish cultural heritage: Synagogues of Romania, an exhibition of photographs of synagogues in southern Transylvania, accompanied by presentations from Andrei Oisteanu, Julie Dawson and Letitia Cosnean and klezmer music live concert with Kosmos Ensemble.

"In the wake of the Holocaust and subsequent mass migration of the vast majority of Romania's Jewish population, countless synagogues fell into various stages of disrepair and decay. This photo exhibition aims to capture the transitional stage in which Romania now finds itself. With the entrance of foreign investors and NGOs, some synagogues are being restored, turned into cultural centers or finding alternative uses. Others remain abandoned, assuming a central location in the town's center and representing an evocative, stubborn reminder of the recent and troubled past."
Julie Dawson, curator
Photography: Christian Binder |

The event brings together:

  • the photographic exhibition;
  • presentations: Julie Dawson and Letitia Cosnean will lecture about "The Plight of Romanian Synagogues" and the "Restoration of the Medias Synagogue" respectively, Andrei Oisteanu will talk about "Jewish Culture in Romania".
    Mr Oisteanu will also present his recent book Inventing the Jew. Antisemitic Stereotypes in Romanian and Other Central-East European Cultures, published by University of Nebraska Press, USA.
  • klezmer music live concert given by the Kosmos Ensemble.
The event will take place in the presence of HE Dr Ion Jinga, the Ambassador of Romania in the UK.

Julie Dawson works in Romania and has traveled extensively throughout Eastern Europe visiting both shtetls and former centers of Yiddish culture. She has been instrumental in organizing regional Yiddish/Jewish cultural events including klezmer and Yiddish song concert tours, photo-documentary exhibitions and community education programs.

Letitia Cosnean is MET's architect in Sighisoara and her lecture will shed light on the restoration process of the Medias Synagogue.

Andrei Oisteanu is a Romanian historian whose research fields include: ethnology, cultural anthropology, history of religions and mentalities. His writings are seen as a considerable contribution to researching magical and ritual practices as well as mythical and religious symbols. He is also noted for his work in Jewish studies and the history of anti-Semitism; Oisteanu has been the first researcher to have developed a complete study in image ideology focusing on the way in which Jewish people were represented within the Romanian mentality and folklore.

Kosmos is an innovative ensemble that composes original music in which there is space for improvisation. Offering a unique sound free from borders or labels, the ensemble aims to explore the boundaries of Western Classical music with Eastern European, Gypsy, Balkan, Klezmer and Tango with contemporary influences. Since their debut in 2005, Kosmos has been enthusiastically acclaimed by audiences at festivals and music societies across Europe.

When: Opening: 10 June 2009, 6 - 8 pm
Photography exhibition: 11-17 June, 10 am - 6 pm
Where: Romanian Cultural Institute, 1 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PH
Admission: free for the exhibition. Opening: by invitation. We have a limited number of seats - please get in touch if you want to attend.