A new promotional video highlights the campaign to restore the old Neolog Jewish cemetery in Arad, in western Romania near the border with Hungary — a vast but neglected site where some 10,000 people are buried, a number of whom played leading roles in the development of the city.
Instead of focusing on the state of the cemetery itself — which only appears in the last few minutes of the video, the film focuses on the important role that Jews played in the history of the city: from architecture to entrepreneurship to soccer, not to mention the impact on the development of progressive Jewish religious observance.
Members of the Neuman industrial dynasty lie here, for example, as does Rabbi Aaron Chorin, a pioneer in religious reform, who is buried in a grand mausoleum. Chorin became rabbi in Arad in 1789 and served there until his death in 1844. He advocated changes in the synagogue ritual, including the use of the German language and organ music during services, and also urged changes in other practices, including the dietary laws and Sabbath travel restrictions.
The video is the latest step in the fund-raising campaign, coordinated by the tiny local Jewish community. It also includes a web page that tells the history of the community and the cemetery, posts other videos, and where donations can be made.
Plans for the renovation and development of the cemetery include installing signage and information material and developing a visitors’ route as well as repairing mausolea and gravestones.
The location of burials and other archival material is also being digitized, in order to help family historians find graves.
Arad has three Jewish cemeteries — including a “new” Neolog cemetery and an Orthodox cemetery. The grand Neolog synagogue at which Aaron Chorin officiated is still used. Built in 1828-1834, it is entered through a grand arched portal in a courtyard, leading into a majestic sanctuary under a high, richly decorated dome.