CHIEF Rabbi Moses Rosen of Romania, who died last Friday, was a pivotal figure in relations between Romania, Israel, and the United States. When he became chief rabbi in 1948, Romania had the largest surviving Jewish community in Eastern Europe outside the Soviet Union: Of the 800,000 to 1 million Jews in the country at the outset of World War II, about half were murdered by the Nazis.
Rabbi Rosen spent his entire career ensuring the survival of Jewish life in Romania while at the same time keeping the door open for more than 400,000 Romanian Jews to emigrate to Israel; today less than 20,000 Jews remain in Romania. Rosen was reviled by some for collaborating with the Communists, but maintained good relations with the Israeli government and Jewish organizations in the United States. A visit to the rabbi was a must for high-ranking US officials passing through Bucharest.
Rosen's maneuvering was a factor in Romania's refusal to break diplomatic relations with Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Moscow and all other Warsaw Pact capitals severed ties with the Jewish state. He also assisted Jewish functionaries who were jailed and could not get jobs after Soviet dictator Stalin began an anti-Jewish policy in the early 1950s that was implemented in other Eastern European countries as well.
Reuters reported Saturday that Romanian newspapers paid front-page tributes to the rabbi and President Ion Iliescu sent a message to Jewish leaders pledging official support in fighting anti-Semitism.