R O J E C T S
F E A T U R E S
L a s t u p d a t e d: A p r i l 2 5, 2 0 0 6
January - April
Concerning the Proposed Jewish Museum and Family Learning Center in Oradea
Some time after our October, 2005, meetings (see below), we received from FEDROM a draft of a contract outlining terms under which we could renovate the Teleki St. Synagogue and establish a Jewish Museum and Family Learning Center in it.
Reviewed by our Board and Academic Steering Committee (both in formation), the terms were deemed unacceptable on 3 main counts: (1) the proposal established a renter-lessee relationship with our foundation and not a true partnership; (2) it required us to pay FEDROM rent on top of the significant capital costs of renovation and the ongoing costs of creating and maintaining a vital institution; and (3) it put constraints on the kinds of activities that could take place in the building that would make it impossible for the Museum to fulfill its mission.
We responded to the proposal with a formal letter addressed to Aurel Vainer (president of FEDROM), Alex Sivan (executive working for FEDROM and the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)) on matters having to do with FEDROM-owned buildings) and Felix Koppelman (President of Oradea's Jewish Community). The letter explained our concerns regarding the proposed contract and asked for a reexamination of the matter.
Five months later, we have received no response.
Peter (Ephraim) Lorincz has met with Mr. Sivan on a couple of occasions in Tel Aviv and in Bucharest, and Rafi Vago met with all three leaders in April in Bucharest and Oradea. While both Mr. Lorincz and Professor Vago were reassured that the project has merit and is feasible, they were provided with no direction or suggested next steps; the meetings did not succeed in breaking through the impasse.
Norbert Lempert met in Connecticut with Zvi Feine, Director-General of the American Joint Distribution Committee, Israel, and Country Director of Romania. While Dr. Feine agreed with the concept and its importance, he said that he could not intervene on the Foundation's behalf. Lempert also met in New York City with Mihail Ionescu, director of the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, and agreed to provide creative and technical support for the Institute's Web site. He met twice with Pietro Pavoni, Romania's Consul General, to discuss the project and solicit the Romanian Government's continued support. Mr. Pavoni suggested that the backing of major U.S. Jewish organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee, and B'nai B'rith International, would be useful in drawing attention to the importance of the project. He believed that their formal support might result in discussions with Romania's Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, and yield a breakthrough with Romania's Jewish leadership.
As of this writing, Radu Ioanid is scheduling meetings with the American Jewish Committee and B'nai B'rith International, for early May.
August - November
Developments Concerning the Proposed
Jewish Museum and Learning Center in Oradea: In mid-October we held
a series of meetings in Bucharest, Cluj and Oradea for the purpose of
advancing our plan, with leaders of key organizations and institutions.
Representing our interests were Norbert Lempert, Bernadette Roberts,
and Peter (Ephraim) Lorincz. Radu Ioanid was instrumental in arranging
the Bucharest meetings, and Rafi Vago made possible certain key meetings
Recent additions to our Web site
Dr. Karolyi Mozes, in Memoriam:
An Honorary Citizen of Oradea, Dr. Mozes was a prominent physician,
educator, author, and intellectual, and a great source of inspiration
for many with ties to the city. Click here.
May - July
Prospective Partnerships: Pursuing informal partnerships to create a new Family Learning Center / Museum in Oradea, we held meetings in Washington DC, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Oradea with leaders and representatives of a wide range of insititutions and organizations. Our goal was to solicit ideas, suggestions, questions and support. Click below for a brief summary of these meetings.
Next Steps in Developing the New Learning Center: We are developing a plan to provide the institutions above with modest grants to make it possible for them to dedicate time and energy to helping us in the early stages of the work needed to proceed with this ambitious undertaking. Click here for the Learning Center Proposal.
Next Steps in Developing the New Memorial: We have submitted a formal request to the Cultural Council of Oradea for the location proposed by the Mayor and agreed to by the Jewish Community of Oradea and the Lempert Family Foundation. And we have begun negotiating an agreement with a team of professionals to finalize and submit the design plan to the city and to produce the memorial. The team consists of a well-known Israeli sculptor (born in Romania); an Oradean architect; a Romanian construction company; Peter Lorincz, an Oradean émigré living in Israel; and Norbert Lempert. The project steering committee includes Susan Geroe, Anna Hercz and Bernadette Roberts. Click here for the New Memorial Proposal.
New Fence for the Old Monument is Completed: With the completion of the fence, the set of projects surrounding the monument is closed. This includes: the restoration of the monument, the placement of explanatory plaques in Romanian, Hungarian, Hebrew and English, the formal rededication (which took place in 2003), and the enhanced security and esthetics provided by the new fence.
March - April
Meetings in Oradea's City Hall Scheduled for May: Oradea's Mayor Filip has invited us to discuss next steps on our projects. The concept for the new memorial has been accepted in principle and the location under consideration is Sucevei Street, near Balcescu Park. We will also discuss the possibility of creating a learning center in the Teleki Street Synagogue, once Oradea's third largest, currently rented to a working vegetable market operation. Click here to see Mayor Filip's letter.
Urgent Need to Hear Your Views about our Projects: As we prepare for these meetings, our need to hear from you regarding priorities and possible projects is more urgent than ever. Please take our survey now if you haven't already.
List of Names of Oradea's Deportees: Our web site now features the list that appears in the city's Yizkor book. About 5,200 names are listed of the estimated 25,000 - 38,000 people deported from Oradea in May and June of 1944.
New Registry is Now Online: Because the list is far from complete, we have created a new registry for you to add names and information about people you know (family members, friends and others) who were deported from Oradea.
Recent Additions to our Website: the following sections have recently been posted to this Website:
January - February
OradeaJC.com: In response to a number of suggestions from members of our farflung community, this new Web site has been established to house and present the efforts, activities, planning, and results associated with our work directed to helping preserve the memory of the Jewish Community of Oradea.
Memorial Design and Location are Approved: Viorel Lascu, our project manager in Oradea, reports that Oradea's Mayor, Petru Filip, and the president of the Jewish Community, Teodor Koppelman, have concluded that the proposed design for the new memorial is acceptable and that one of the two locations under consideration will be made available for it. Meetings scheduled for May 23-26 will be held to formalize the plan.
New Fence for the Old Monument: The new fence for the Monument erected by survivors in 1946 has been fabricated and will be installed in the coming weeks [more]
Yad Vashem Event Planned for May 15, 2005 in Stamford, Ct.: The American Association for Yad Vashem will be teaming with the Lempert Family Foundation to host a reception for the benefit of the Yad Vashem. It will be the first such event in Ct., and will feature a presentation by Israeli dignitaries. If you're in the area and would like to attend, please contact us.
September - December
Survey Results: An email sent to about 140 people on our email list elicited 25 responses to our survey. Results appear here.
Kristallnacht Commemoration in Oradea: Photos from this event can be viewed here.
International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania: Established in October of 2003, the Commission was created "to research the facts and to determine the truth about the Holocaust in Romania during World War II, and the events preceding this tragedy." On November 11, the Final Report of the Commission was presented to the President of Romania. According to Radu Ioanid, member of the commission and an advisor of our project, the report is to be published toward the end of 2005. We've received a pre-publication draft of the report; excerpts can be found here.
Contracts for New Fence Approved: the Lempert Family Foundation approved the design and budget proposed by the leadership of Oradea's Jewish Community and work has started.
May - August
Mailing to Oradea's Survivors: Thanks to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we completed a mailing to the 390 survivors from Oradea in the Museum's database. The mailing included updates about our projects and the survey also available online.
Our Proposal is Approved by FEDROM: The proposal to build a new memorial, as presented here, was approved by the Jewish Federation in Bucharest. The Federation's leadership writes: "We welcome this initiative and firmly support it." They outline additional suggestions concerning its placement and provide other ideas for programs and projects.
New Fence for Rededicated Memorial: A proposal to build a new fence around the Memorial erected in 1946 was submitted to the Lempert Family Foundation by one of Oradea's established construction companies. We are evaluating the proposal and plan to initiate work on the fence in October.
Proposal to Build a New Memorial: We've formed a team of six people to design, develop and install a new memorial honoring the lives and fate of the 30,000 Jewish people deported from Oradea in the spring of 1944. A proposal for the People of the City of Oradea, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania and sons and daughters of Oradea all over the world is available here. The proposal has been delivered to the Federation in Bucharest and to the leadership of Oradea's Jewish community as well as to for their comments, at which time we will deliver it to the Mayor for his approval.
January - April
Priorities and approaches: Following our meetings (see meeting report) in Oradea in November and extensive discussions with our steering committee and advisors and other Oradean emigres in the US, Canada and Israel, we reevaluated and reprioritized our projects.
A New Proposal: In early January we submitted a new proposal outlining our revised priorities and plans. The proposal went to the Mayor's office, the Jewish community of Oradea, and the leadership of the Jewish Federation in Bucharest.
Elections: Oradea city officials are presently campaigning for elections to be held in June; we're experiencing some delays in progressing with our projects as a result.
New Memorial Design: A basic working design for the new memorial was developed. The structure and certain features of the memorial are established, but vital details and are still to be worked out. A separate team has formed around the project.
New Memorial Location: The Jewish community of Oradea has expressed concerns about the location approved by the city last summer; we plan to discuss these concerns with our partners in the city, including the Mayor, the Director of the Museum and religious leaders. Our plan is to meet with officials (some of whom may be newly-elected) in late summer or early fall.
Fellowships: The Foundation has proposed creating four new fellowships in partnership with the University of Oradea, to study the history of the Jewish community in the region and to disseminate the findings. We are in communication with the University, working to define a curriculum, eligibility requirements, etc.
Learning Center and Museum: Initial discussions have been held with officials and representatives of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum centering on the possibility of creating a new museum and learning center in one of Oradea's synagogues (Teleki Utca). The institution would focus on the history of the Jewish community in Oradea and in Transylvania as a whole.
April: We submitted the Foundation's memorial project proposal to the Jewish Community of Oradea and the Jewish Federation in Bucharest. It described ideas under consideration since June of 2002, concerning the restoration of the existing Monument in the courtyard of the Orthodox Synagogue, and the creation of a new memorial in the vicinity of Balcescu Park.
June: We received a letter from the President and Secretary General of the Jewish Federation in Bucharest supporting our proposals. The 59th anniversary of the deportations from the ghettos in Oradea was commemorated in a ceremony in the Orthodox Synagogue. A slideshow of images taken from the video footage appears in 59th Anniversary Commemoration.
We came to a contractual agreement with the Jewish Community of Oradea to finance improving the condition and appearance of the existing Monument to Oradea's Jewish deportees. This monument was erected in 1946 by survivors who returned to Oradea following liberation. Information about this impressive monument appears in Monument to Oradea's Deported Jews. The restoring of the monument has begun, is being filmed, and is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.
July: Working with our contacts in Oradea, the leaders of the Jewish Federation in Bucharest, and a renowned historian on the Holocaust in Hungary and Romania, we developed explanatory plaques, in Romanian, Hungarian, Hebrew and English.
We formally submitted the Foundation's memorial project proposal to Oradea's Mayor and its Chief Architect. A letter from the President of the Jewish Community of Oradea covered our proposal. Also submitted (see below) was a letter of support from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
September: We received formal notification from the city that our proposal has been approved, both the concept and the particular location. "Regarding the approval in principle of a notice to place a Jewish commemorative monument in Oradea, on Matei Basarab Street, on the entrance route to the Youth Stadium." This spacious area, originally suggested by Oradea's chief architect, is adjacent to Balcescu Park. Train tracks used for the deportations can be seen from there.
November: With the restoration work completed, the Monument to Oradea's Jewish deportees erected by survivors in 1946 was rededicated in a ceremony on November 9, 2003, attended by over 150 people, including Oradea's Mayor, representatives from the Federation of Jewish Communities in Oradea, church leaders and local and national media. Monument Renovation and Rededication
Planning meetings for the new memorial in the approved area outside Balcescu (Rhedey) Park were held in Oradea on November 10, 2003, with Mayor Petru Filip, Chief Architect Adrian Luncan and Director of the Museum Aurel Chiriac. Meeting notes
In a public event and press conference attended by about 50 people and members of the press and hosted by the Foundation, the plans for the new memorial and the concept of a new learning center in one of Oradea's synagogues were discussed and debated.
links with the
We have been exploring the possibility of working with the Museum (USHMM) the largest and most well established such institution in the U.S., on certain aspects of the project. USHMM has sent a letter in support of the goals and plans set forward in the Foundation's memorial project proposal, the one submitted to the Mayor and Chief Architect of Oradea.
The Museum hosted a tribute to Holocaust Survivors on November 1-2, 2003 . Members of our steering committee attended with a camera crew, materials from Oradea and additional information about our projects.
We received a letter from the Museum in support of the concept of creating a learning center in the once-important synagogue on Independentei Str. (Teleki Utca).
The Museum mailed a letter on our behalf to the 600 Oradean survivors and families in their database.
At the Museum's request we collected the names and wartime locations of 105 Holocaust survivors living in Oradea. They have agreed to register with USHMM. We translated USHMM's detailed form into Romanian and are working with Oradea's survivors, through the Jewish Community's leadership, to get everyone registered.
to people everywhere
We are very interested in communicating with people who have direct ties to the city and its Jewish community, to let them know about this work, to understand their views and to gain their support.
Since most people with ties to the city are in Israel, we are working to find ways to reach out to people there.
Please share your views in our Forum section.
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