Architecture / Jewish Heritage / Landmarks

Former Bootmaker Synagogue and Dr. Leon Ghelerter Hospital

The Synagogue of Cismari was a Jewish religious house, in a building from the 19thcentury. In that time, many synagogues and houses of prayer were placed in normal buildings, due to the rapid growth of the Jewish community.

The Jewish community was organized in guilds and they were advised to take care of their own synagogues. This building belonged to the members of the guild which dealt with shoe making, until the Second World War. Afterwards, a maintenance and repair shop for medical apparatus was moved here, as well as the Police archive.

The building’s architecture presents a tall entrance, flanked by two curved windows, at the end of a set of semi-circular stairs. The gable has a flower decoration, and under the cornice, adorned with small consoles, we can notice round little windows for the attic’s lighting. Nowadays, the building of the former Synagogue of Cismari is severely damaged and requires extensive restoration works.

Near the synagogue, the renowned Jewish doctor Leon Ghelerter founded a children’s hospital and a clinic in 1937. The building has a lower ground floor and a wooden balcony on the side. Leon Ghelerter has founded charitable organizations, hospitals and clinics, both in Iași, and in Bucharest. His clinic on Ghica Vodă Street, across the tower of the Barnovschi church, offered free consultations to all locals, no matter the religion, especially for lung diseases. He was so-called “the doctor of all people” and has fought all his life against tuberculosis and alcoholism. Dr. Ghelerter was also a strong supporter of socialist ideals, member of different parties and a fervent journalist of socialist magazines in the interwar period. Now, the rehabilitated building hosts the “Dr. Ghelerter” Section of the Psychiatry-Neurology Hospital.

The objective cannot be visited.

Trade and Jewish Guilds

The first Jewish immigrants in Moldavia arrived in the 14th century, most of them being Ashkenazi from Central Europe, but some being Sephardic Jews of Spanish origin. Throughout time they organized in Iași one of the most significant communities in Europe. Because Jews didn’t have access to public positions, they oriented towards trade, commerce, small industry or credit. The Jews have been resourceful tradesmen, who used to sell alcohol, tobacco, cotton or salt since the 17th century. Later on, they worked as gifted artisans – tailors, blacksmiths, shoemakers, watchmakers, furriers, trap makers, coopers etc. Medicine was a favorite occupation for those with studies, as in the case of doctor Shmil, who served at the court of Stephen the Great. The doctors’ guild extended a lot towards the 20th century.

The fashion change of the Romanians from the traditional clothes to the European ones was also made with the help of the Jewish artisans who brought merchandise from all over Europe. They were organized in professional associations called guild, each having its own religious house. In Iași here were synagogues of Shoemakers, Tailors, Musicians, Old-clothesmen, Butchers, Apple tradesmen etc. Only the “Merarilor” Synagogue still exists today, near the Grand Synagogue in Târgu Cucu. Some Jews were into the transportation business of merchandise or people, with their wagons called “Haraba” (rack wagons), which went even all the way to Leipzig. The Jewish economic activity contributed decisively to the development of the urban environment of Moldavia in the 19th century.

Strada Grigore Ghica Vodă 19, Iași 700400
Photo by Cezar Suceveanu – Wikipedia

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