Dumbrăveni was established as a Jewish agricultural colony in 1836, the first of Jewish colonies in Bessarabia. It developed the most advanced level of farm economy in the Jewish colonies in the region, planting tobacco and growing sheeps. In 1897, 1726 (95% of population) lived here; 371 families (1.874 persons) in 1899. In early 20th century, Dumbrăveni had 4 synagogues, cheders, a talmud-torah, a vocational school. In 1930 there were 1.198 Jews (87.3% of the total population of 1.373).

In 1940-41 and then in 1949 the Soviets imprizoned or exiled all Rabbis, zionists and wealthy people (13 names known). When German and Romanian troops came, Dumbrăveni was plundered by the inhabitants of the nearby villages, and the Jews fled to the outlying fields. When they were caught by the Romanian troops they were all concentrated in the school courtyard, robbed of their money and jewelry, and ordered to leave the place. Those who turned west were murdered by the Germans they met en route; others turned east and reached the Dniester, where some succeeded in crossing the river with the help of the remaining Soviet authorities and took refuge in the Soviet Union. Still others were caught by Romanians and dispatched to Transnistria, where they were either killed or died of starvation and disease. The settlement itself was leased out and all the property seized and distributed among local peasants.

In Dumbrăveni we would visit the melting remains of once large Jewish cemetery, two synagogues: one abandoned and one rededicated – and formerly Jewish households.


© Jewish Heritage Moldova (Maghid NGO) Research, Education, Guiding