Opening of Orhei Jewish Museum

31 January 2023

30 January 2023 was a historic date for the Jewish community in Moldova. The country’s first museum dedicated to Jewish history opened in Orhei.

The museum is located in the premises of a former Jewish praying house, which was renovated and turned into a museum through the efforts of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova.

Orhei has a rich Jewish history. At the start of the twentieth century, 65% of the population of Orhei was Jewish and many played a central role in the development of the city and the region.

However, with the dark days of the Holocaust, thousands of Jews were killed by firing squads and forced into ghettos from which they were later deported to camps in Transnistria.

The inauguration of the museum included speeches that drew on the importance of historical commemoration and Jewish contribution to the region by HE Kent Logsdon, the US Ambassador to Moldova, Mr Sergiu Prodan, Minister of culture, Dmitri Moruz, Director of the Agency for Interethnic Relations, Mark Dovev, regional director of “NATIV” in Ukraine, Moldova and Eastern Europe, and Mr Alexander Bilinkis, the President of the Jewish Community of Moldova.

Mr Bilinkis spoke of his pride in the museum which would stand as a record of the history and achievements of Orhei’s Jewish population. As in Jewish traditions, the event also saw Mr Bilinkis install a mezuzah at the entrance.

Orhei Jewish Museum’s opening coincided with the official visit of Ellen Germain, the US Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues (SEHI). Ms Germain cut the opening ribbon of the museum with Mr Bilinkis and paid tribute to the Jewish Community’s initiative in putting the museum together in her speech.

Ms Germain also spoke of the importance in educating the general public about Jewish history that existed before the pogroms and Holocaust that tried to decimate centuries worth of culture, civilization and interfaith coexistence.

The opening concluded with a laying of flowers at Orhei Holocaust Memorial, also opened by the Jewish Committee last summer, by the guests which included ambassadors and representatives from a number of diplomatic missions, members of civil society organisations and cultural institutions.

As Mr Floris van Eijk, the Charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands recorded in the guest book. ‘It is important to remember the tragedy of the pogroms and the Holocaust. It is important to honour the lives of those who were brutally killed […] It is also crucial to celebrate Jewish life and culture and to make sure that Jewish people can thrive, along with other minorities, in the modern state that is the Republic of Moldova’.