Moses Rosen, Romanian rabbi

DEATHS ELSEWHERE

May 07, 1994

Romania's Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen, 81, who helped hundreds of thousands of Jews flee communist tyranny and settle in Israel, died yesterday of heart failure after a stroke, the Romanian Federation of Jewish Communities said.

Rabbi Rosen, one of the most colorful religious leaders in Eastern Europe, came to notice most recently for his outspoken resistance to a rising wave of anti-Semitism since the 1989 collapse of communist rule and the execution of Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Critics sometimes accused him of colluding with the Ceausescu regime, and the money it was paid for the freedom of the Jewish emigrants was always a controversial issue. Critics said the deal, which gave Jews exit visas and a measure of religious freedom, also provided Ceausescu with a fig leaf of humanitarian respectability to impress the West.

When Rabbi Rosen was elected by a congress of 600 Romanian rabbis 52 years ago, the Jewish community had been more than halved from 850,000 to 400,000 by the Nazi Holocaust. Now, only 14,000 Jews are left in Romania and more than 60 percent of them are over 60 years old.

"It will be very difficult to re-ensure the leadership and life of our community under the circumstances, when the Jewish population in Romania is so elderly," said Rabbi Rosen's deputy, Sorin Iulian.

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