Moldova (formerly Bessarabia) was settled by people of many different nationalities, including Jews. Prior to 1917, Bessarabia was part of the Imperial Czarist Empire. [Today, northern Bessarabia belongs to Ukraine, southern Bessarabia to Romania.
"Today, three different territories use the name
Moldova/ Moldavia, and they are geographically contiguous. At one
time or another, all had been part of Romania, but only one was part
of Romania from its inception to the present time. The other two
regions, which lie east of Romania and were a single unit until three
years ago, were shunted back and forth between Russian and Romanian
influence for centuries and were for many years called Bessarabia.
Its capital city was Kishinev.
When Bessarabia became part of the
Soviet Empire after World War II, it was known as the Soviet
Socialist Republic of Moldavia. With post-Soviet independence in
1991, it became simply Moldova or the Republic of Moldova (or
Moldavia). Soon after that, a civil war, fought over language and
culture, ended in the breaking away of a section between the Dnieper
and Dniester Rivers, now called the Transdnieper Republic of Moldova
(or Moldavia). Its capital city is Tiraspol. The majority of Romanian
Jews who perished in the Holocaust came from Bessarabia.
destination was within the borders of present-day Romania, the region
of Moldavia (or Moldova), and its historic capital, Iasi (pronounced
Yash and known as Jassy to most of the outside world)."
(From "Romania: The Sudits and Other Jewish Discoveries," by Paul Pascal in Avotaynu vol. 11 (Spring, 1995))
"To set the stage, maps of Romania today
and those between the two world wars and today, show two Moldavias
adjacent to each other. This has been a source of endless confusion
for genealogists in the West. The inner (southwestern) Moldavia is,
and always has been, a province of Romania. The outer (northeastern)
Moldavia has been shunted back and forth between Romania and Russia,
each of which took turns annexing it. Currently, it is an independent
republic. For many years, the outer Moldavia was known as Bessarabia.
Some people have tried to make a distinction between the two regions
by calling one Moldavia and the other Moldova. This does not help,
however, because “Moldova” is simply the Romanian-language
version of “Moldavia.” In this presentation, I will restrict
myself to the expressions “Moldavia” and “Bessarabia” to
refer, respectively, to the inner and outer regions. During the 19th
century, the entire northeast region—inner Moldavia plus
Bessarabia—held the country's highest concentration of Jews by far.
The capital of the inner Moldavia is Iasi and has also been called
Yassy, Jassy, Yosser and Tirgu-Yasski. The Romanian pronunciation is
(From "Romania: the Sudits and Other Jewish Discoveries," by Paul Pascal in Avotaynu, vol. 12, Spring 1996)
"...by 1859–60, of which 124,897
lived in Moldavia and only 9,234 in Wallachia.
In the same period
(1856), the Jewish population of Bessarabia, the eastern part of
Moldavia which became part of the Russian Empire in 1812, amounted to
78,751. Up to the end of the 19th century, according to the 1899
census, the number of Jews in Romania doubled to 269,015 individuals,
which represented 4.5 percent of the total population. Before World
War I, a census taken in 1912 recorded a slight decrease in number
and percentage (239,967 persons for 3.3 percent of the population) as
a result of emigration due to a restrictive anti-Jewish official
policy and refusal to grant civil rights." ... "In Moldavia and Wallachia, united in 1859 under the
name of Romania, the modern unitary system of civil registers was
introduced in 1865." ... "After 1918,
with the establishment of Greater Romania, by the unification of
Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania with Older Romania" ... "in 1940, northern Bukovina and
Bessarabia were given to the Soviet Union."
(From "Genealogy and History Sources of Jewish Genealogical Research in Romania (18th-20th Centuries)," by Ladislav Gyémánt in Avotaynu, vol. 13, Fall 1997)
"Around the beginning of the 16th century, Moldova and
Wallachia became part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. They preserved
their own institutions, their princes and legislation, but had to pay
taxes to the Turks and lost the right to their own foreign
Because it was in the interest of Moldova and Wallachia to
have Jewish merchants and money lenders who contributed to the
independence of these two principalities, Jews enjoyed a relatively
good situation there. They had the right to pursue economic
activities, practice their religion and enjoy freedom of
Things changed in Moldova and Wallachia in the 18th
century when a new great power appeared in the area, the Russian
Empire, whose aim was to conquer this area of eastern and
southeastern Europe. Russia wanted access to the Black Sea and then
to the Mediterranean Sea, and thus to control, with the Russian
fleet, the main maritime routes to the Middle East, India and other
important strategic points. Of course, the western powers England
and France opposed the Russian policy. As a result, in the 18th
and 19th centuries, Moldova and Wallachia became theaters of frequent
wars between the Russians and the Turks. Several times the
principalities were conquered by the Russians who took over some
Moldavian territories. The process culminated in 1812 when the
eastern part of Moldova the territories situated between the Prut
and Dneister Rivers called Bessarabia became part of the Russian
(From "Historical and Demographic Background Of Jewish Family Research in Romania, by Ladislav Gyémánt in Avotaynu, vol. 19, Fall 2003)
"A Jewish cemetery is known to have existed in a village near Kishinev during the 18th century.
In 1774, a hevra kaddisha was founded in the town with a membership of 144.
When Kishinev became the capital of Bessarabia under Russian rule (1818) it developed rapidly, becoming a commercial and industrial center, and many Jews moved there from other places in Russia.
The first rabbi of Kishinev was Zalman b. Mordecai Shargorodski. In 1816, R. Hayyim b. Solomon Tyrer of Czernowitz laid the foundation stone of the Great Synagogue and in 1838, in the wake of the authorities' efforts to hasten the assimilation of the Jews, the first Jewish secular school was opened.
In time two other government schools were opened. The poet J. Eichenbaum and the scholar J. Goldenthal taught there."
(From "Kishinev Old Jewish Cemetery article at worldjewishheritage.com")
Moldova (formerly Bessarabia) is home to nearly 30 thousand Jewish
people, and half of them live in Chisinau (formerly
"According to the 1989 census, Jewish people
constituted 1.5% of populace in Moldova. Since then, however, the
Jewish population has shrunk considerably due to active emigration to
Israel, the United State, and Western Europe. In 2001 alone, 954
ethnic Jews from Moldova officially emigrated to Israel. Last couple
of years, however, one can observe an inverse process: having come to
face difficulties at the 'historic Motherland', many Jews are
returning to Moldova"
(From Moldova Venerates Memory of Jewish Writers Repressed by Stalin's Regime, in Moldova Azi, August 16, 2004)
"Today, Chisinau's Jewish community is witnessing a great
renaissance. With the assistance of Jewish groups outside the
country, Chisinau's Jewish community reopened a "Yeshiva"
or Jewish school, which has been closed since World War II. It has
also begun printing newspapers in Hebrew and started running Jewish
education classes for adults."
(From Moldova: A small country with many delights, in The Washington Times Advertising Department, April 22, 1999)
Towns near Kishinev that also have Jewish communities are Belts, Tiraspol, Bender, and Soroka.
In the 1930 census Bessarabia had a Jewish population of 206,000.