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I was born in Galati, Romania in 1954 as Iulian Rubin. On 28 January 1962, at age 8, my family immigrated to Israel. In Romania I finished 1st grade and a part of the 2nd. Nevertheless, I posses a relatively good Romanian and have a lot of sympathy for this country, maybe because my childhood memories from Galati are of a happy child. (I know that not all Jews born in Romania feel the same for personal hardships and the Holocaust there). In 2009 I was granted the Romanian Citizenship and in 2010 my son Udi.
From early childhood I was told by my parents about my grandparents from Galati.
My grandfather, Joseph Rubin, perished in the Holocaust. His family origins were from Spain. After arriving to Galati, Romania, in the first half of the 20th century he opened a fashion hat business and owned two retail shops. Around 1944, when Axis forces were driven out by the Red Army, he went on a business trip to Chernivtsi (Czernowitz, now Ukraine) and never returned. According to the period, he was probably kidnapped and murdered by the retreating Nazis or local collaborators, imprisoned by the arriving Red Army, or any other unknown reason.
One of my two Jewish given names are after him – Joseph (Hebrew: Yosef; יוסף) – the other one is Tzvi (Hebrew: צבי). Our family surname Rubin is probably derived from the widespread Sephardic Jewish name Reuben (Hebrew: Re'uven; ראובן).
My grandmother Amalia Rubin died and was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Galati in 1947. My cousin Amalia is called after her. See below.
Galati is a city in Moldavia, eastern Romania, on the banks of the Danube River, not far away from the Black Sea. The Port of Galați is the largest port (sea port) on the Danube. Population: 298,861; the seventh most populous city in Romania.
Jews were first mentioned in Galati in the 16th century. Pogroms were perpetrated against the Jews through the 18th and 19th centuries in which synagogues were looted and Jewish homes and shops were destroyed and in some occasions Jews were also killed.
The Jewish population was 7,000 in 1841 and 20,000 in 1930 (20% of total population). Jewish artisans and merchants contributed considerably to the city's economic and commercial life and development. Before World War II the community owned synagogues, schools, a hospital, an orphanage and an old-age home.
Till 1920 Galati was the center of the Zionist movement in Romania. In 1926, the Zionist Revisionist Organization of Romania was founded here.
The Galati Jews were persecuted by the pro-Nazi Romanian government during WWII. The Jewish population was not totally destroyed during the Holocaust, but diminished through emigration. Today (2010), 250 Jews live in Galati, with a synagogue, a kosher restaurant and a neglected cemetery.
So, we (my sons Udi, Ron and me) decided to make the trip to Galati to visit my grandmother, Amalia Rubin's grave, and also my two childhood homes.
First of all, I phoned the Jewish community of Galati (+40236413662) and got immediately (bravo!) the exact cemetery location of Amalia's grave: sector 5, group3, line5, grave 21.
When we arrived at the Jewish cemetery's gate, an old woman welcomed us and after we paid a fee of 10 lei we were allowed inside and faced an neglected cemetery but promptly we were led to line 5.
To reach grave 21 was a mission almost impossible since a very thick vegetation engulfed the grave and its surroundings and we barely floundered our way crawling - stung and scratched all over our bodies.
The grave was in a very bad shape, almost destroyed, and the gravestone inscription was barely seen. After a little cleaning emerged, to our excitement, the Latin letters AMALIA but in Hebrew letters the name was transliterated as MALI (מאלי). We also learned that the first name of AMALIA's father was SHLOMO (שלמה) - regretfully, besides the burial date, no more details were mentioned.
We paid for the grave restoration 500 lei and an additional 200 as tip, and emphasized our will that the grave should remain as much as possible close to the original. The shabby old inscription letters were cleaned and painted anew, but since the background was cracked and crumbling, we asked for a new marble plaque that will be placed along the old one (not instead) with more missing details inscribed like Amalia's birth date and her mother's name - if those pieces of information would be discovered. The nice results could be seen below.
The inscription reads as follows with some clarifications because of non-standard Hebrew and number writing on the headstone:
A remark for Hebrew Speakers:
.קוריוז קטן: שימו לב שהאות "ז" של שנת הפטירה תש"ז בכיתוב במצבה נוצלה גם ל-ז"ל מטעמי חסכון בעבודה