Architecture / Jewish Heritage / Landmarks

“Princess Elena” Hospital

The trusteeship (administration) of the Israeli Hospital, founded in 1827, bought from the headman Mihalache Cantacuzino, in 1841, an abandoned inn on the White street, the current Elena Doamna Street.

The building’s authorisation was given with one condition: to erect a building that will make the city more attractive, and that would resist fires. The building was made of stone, in an area dominated by short wooden and adobe houses.

The hospital, initially called hekdes, became, through donations and good management, one of the most important in the city, serving both Jews, as well as non-Jews. In 1889, the Hospital was visited by King Carol I. In the 1930s it was treating almost 2000 pacients and there were over 650 surgeries made per year.

The Israeli Maternity was also hosted here, founded in 1878, and sponsored by the first Israeli women’s society in Iași. Its financing was made through donations, and the activities were based on the voluntary work of the devoted medical staff, who were attending over 400 women annually.

The Israeli hospital was a separate legal entity from the one of the Jewish Community, being an advantage when the country’s laws became restrictive for the Jews. When the community had difficulties in buying the land for the Cemetery in Păcurari, because it was on the territory of a rural setting where Jews weren’t allowed to own land, the land was bought by the Israeli Hospital.

After 1948, the hospital’s building and annexes were nationalised. Until 1974 it functioned as a children’s hospital, and then it became the “Elena Doamna” Obstetrics-Gynaecology Clinic Hospital of Iași, as it is known to this day, taking the name of the First Lady of Romania, Elena Cuza.

The Neoclassical building has pillars and window frames, typical to the style. The entrance, placed in a second plane, has a triangular gable with an atypical semicircular base. An obelisk situated in front of the hospital reminds us of the past of this former Jewish institution.

The hospital cannot be visited.

The Jewish cemeteries in Iași

The Old Cemetery in Ciurchi, also called “The Wall”, was the first Jewish cemetery in Romania. It was founded in the 15th century (one of the inscriptions dated back to 1467) and closed in 1880 due to the lack of space. In the beginning, the cemetery had five hectares, and it was surrounded by a three metre high thick wall. Here there were thousands of tomb stones with ancient Hebrew writings, typical to the Oriental art, as well as Honour chambers for the Rabbis. In 1943, on the orders of the marshal Ion Antonescu, 21.900 centuries-old graves were ruined, stating that it was a necessity to construct some blocs of flats for the victims of a flood. Young Jews were humiliated and forced to destroy their ancestors’ resting places. The wall was demolished, the wall’s stone and some tomb stones being used for consolidating slopes or paving some streets. After the war, the community members ceded the land to the City Hall, in order to create the Ciurchi Park, which reminds us of the old cemetery through a memorial plaque.

The “new” Cemetery in Păcurari, opened in 1881 and enlarged in 1936, reached 26 hectares, and over 150.000 graves. Towards Păcurari road the monumental entrance and a portico from 1881 are still standing. The cemetery includes the lot of the Jewish heroes of the First World War, the monument of the 311 Jews killed at Sculeni in 1941, the tomb of the 36 Jews massacred in the Vulturi forest in 1941, a part of the bones brought in 1943 from the old cemetery in Ciurchi and the common graves dug during the Iași Pogrom (June 1941) with the a monument shaped as waggons suggesting the “death trains”.

Strada Elena Doamna 49, Iași 700398
Photo by Manole Alexandru – Wikipedia

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