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RN-RZ Archives | Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia
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ROBINSON, EDWARD G.

See Stage and Screen.

ROME.

See Music, Jews in.

Jewish history in Romania goes back to the 4th century. It is believed that Jews settled there in earliest times, even before the Roman conquest of Dacia, now Transylvania. In 397 C.E., the Roman emperor issued a decree granting protection to Jewish settlers and their synagogues in Dacia. Thereafter, the fate of the Jews in the region is unknown until the early Middle Ages, when, in the 8th and 9th centuries the khazars conquered the region. Some 300 years later, the famous traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, told of a Jewish colony in Wallachia. During the Middle Ages, the country was divided into small principalities. In most of them, Jews suffered bitter persecution. Yet they were pioneers in commerce and industry and were among the first to settle in the city of Bucharest. Some of the local rulers recognized the contribution of Jews to the welfare of the country, and occasionally even encouraged them to settle in their territories. Usually, however, treatment of Jews was inhuman and cruel. The Cossack uprising in 1648 spread from the Ukraine to Moldavia, causing suffering along the way. Nevertheless, the following century saw a rise in the Jewish population in both Romanian provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia.

After the tumultuous Turkish rule, the two provinces were united to form an independent state in 1859. This independence was recognized by the Congress of Berlin in 1878. According to the treaty signed at the Congress, Romania was obligated to grant full civil and political fights to all nationalities, including Jews. The government, however, failed to live up to the treaty. Economic as well as educational restrictions and attacks against Jews were frequent. At the end of the 19th century, constant persecution forced many to emigrate to the U.S. Some also settled in Palestine where they founded the colonies of Rosh Pinah and Zikhron Yaakov.

Following World War I, discrimination and antisemitic riots continued and spread to large Jewish communities in Bessarabia and Bukovina, which had been annexed by Romania. A strong antisemitic campaign was carried on by the Iron Guard party. During World War II, the anti-Jewish groups cooperated with the Nazis in the extermination of Jews. Only about half of Romanian Jewry survived the slaughter; some succeeded in fleeing the country and settled in Palestine. More than 200,000 Jews remained. In 2007, the Jewish population was estimated at fewer than 7,000. The community has produced outstanding people, such as scholars Moses Gaster and Solomon Schechter and the contemporary Yiddish poet Itzik Manger. Jews were permitted to emigrate to Israel in 1958-59, but Arab political pressure has slowed down the process.

The Jewish community of Rome is the oldest in Europe, dating back at least to 180 B.C.E., and is also the one in which Jews have lived most continuously (with minor interruptions) to this day. Their numbers, fairly large in Maccabean times, were increased in 70 C.E., when Titus and his Roman Legions defeated Judea and burned the Second Temple. He brought many Jewish captives to Rome, and in his train were King Agrippa II, Princess Berenice, and the historian Josephus. After the defeat of the Bar Kokhba rebellion in 135 C.E., captives and refugees again increased the Jewish population of Rome.

Judea may have been defeated, but Judaism was not. Conversions of Romans to Judaism must have been fairly widespread, because in 204 such conversions were prohibited by law. On the whole, Jews were persecuted less in Rome than elsewhere. About 212 to 217 C.E., Judaism was recognized as a religio licita, a legal religion. In 590, the Pope confirmed the Jewish rights. In 855, all Jews were ordered to leave Italy, but evidently this order was not strictly enforced, because three years later, special clothing was introduced to identify Jews. The ebb and flow of alternate persecution and protection of Jews continued through the centuries. In 1021, Jews were persecuted; but between 1058 and 1061, the Pope opposed their compulsory baptism. In 1215, Jews had to wear a special badge; only two decades later, a Papal decree gave Jews protection. In this same 13th century, the power of the Inquisition was extended, but within a few years, another Papal decree denounced blood accusations as false. During the first half of the 16th century, popes and cardinals befriended Jews, yet in 1555, forced them to live in a ghetto and wear the “Jewish badge” to distinguish them from non-Jews. Jews were also barred from many trades.

Through it all, Jewish life went on, and Roman Jewry produced its share of great scholars. In the 11th century, Nathan Ben Yechiel compiled the Arukh, an encyclopedic work on Talmud vocabulary. Immanuel of Rome (ca. 1270-1330), writing under the influence of Dante, left a colorful picture of Jewish life in 14th-century Italy. A Jewish printing press established in 1545 flourished. In 1581, the Inquisition was still active, and in 1784, a compulsory baptism ordinance was enforced.

In the 19th century, the Jews no longer submitted passively to persecution. When their rights as citizens, proclaimed in 1809, were later denied them again, they revolted and tore down the ghetto walls in 1829. Finally, in 1849, the Assembly granted them full civic rights. From then on, anti-Jewish manifestations diminished and the Jewish Ernesto Nathan became mayor of the city in 1907.

After World War I, when Mussolini’s Fascist regime came to power, Jews remained undisturbed. However, under Nazi pressure, racist doctrines were adopted. When German troops occupied the country toward the end of World War II, Rome’s Jewish community suffered, although they found some protection among their neighbors. In 2006, there were about 15,000 Jews in Rome. A new community center and school building show a renewed civic and educational effort, while an active Zionist organization is in close contact with the Jews of Israel.

ROSENFELD, FANNY.

See Sports.

ROSENHEIM, JACOB.

See Agudath Israel.

ROSENWALD.

American Jewish family of philanthropists. Born of immigrant parents in Springfield, Illinois, Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) began as a clothing merchant and came to head Sears, Roebuck, the world’s largest mail-order firm. At his death it was estimated that he had distributed more than $70 million for philanthropic purposes. Black education and housing headed a list of causes to which he contributed. Other interests of Rosenwald

ROSENZWEIG, FRANZ (1886-1929).

German philosopher. He was born to an assimilated family and was about to convert to Christianity when, stopping at a synagogue on Yom Kippur, he had a change of heart and returned to Judaism. In his book Star of Redemption he expounds his philosophy of Judaism. With Martin Buber, he translated the Bible into German. He remains an influential Jewish thinker.

ROSH HA-SHANAH.

Literally, the New Year. The cycle of the High Holidays begins with Rosh Ha-Shanah. Falling on the first and second days of the month of Tishri, it introduces the Ten Days of Penitence, when Jews examine their souls and take stock of their actions. The season, beginning with the New Year on the first day of Tishri and ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on the tenth, is known as “Days of Awe.” The tradition is that on Rosh Ha-Shanah God sits in judgment on humanity. Then the fate of every living creature is inscribed in the Book of Life or Death. These decisions may be revoked by prayer and repentance before the sealing of the books on Yom Kippur.

Also known as Yom Teruah (the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar), Yom ha-Din (the Day of Judgment), and Yom ha-Zikkaron (the Day of Remembrance), the holiday is highlighted by the blowing of the ram’s horn (See Shofar). Sounded in the Temple on solemn occasions, on this day the shofar reminds the congregation of the gravity of the day and calls them to repent. It also brings to mind the sacrifice of Isaac, the story of whose rescue from death is an example of God’s mercy.

On the eve of the holiday, Jews greet each other with the words L’shanah tovah tikatevu, May you be inscribed for a good year. Bread or apples are dipped in honey on the eve of the holiday to express hope for sweetness in the year ahead. To symbolize purity of heart, some men wear white robes in synagogue; these are the shrouds in which observant Jews are buried. On the afternoon of the first day, Jews go to a river or other body of water for the Tashlikh, or Casting Off, ceremony, in which each person symbolically casts his sins into the water.

ROSH HODESH.

See New Moon.

ROSS, BARNEY.

See Sports.

ROSSI, AZARIAH BEN MOSES DEI (1511-1578).

Physician, linguist, scholar. Born in Mantua to an ancient Italian-Jewish family at the height of the Renaissance, Rossi was one of the first to apply scientific methods to the study of Jewish history. This he did in Me’or Enayim (Light of the Eyes), a scholarly work telling the history of the Jewish people from the destruction of the Temple onward. Jews and non-Jews thought it important, and parts of it were translated into Latin.

ROTH, CECIL (1899-1970).

Jewish historian who taught at Oxford University in England. He wrote extensively on many subjects of Jewish history and culture, and was editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Judaica.

ROTH, PHILIP (1933-2018).

American novelist. Growing up in New Jersey, the scene of many of his fiction, his stories and novels are often provocative and controversial, featuring Jewish characters. His first literary success was the short story collection Goodbye¬†Columbus in 1959. He drew much attention and criticism with Portnoy’s Complaint, a satirical novel about a young Jew looking for his manhood in Gentile America. While he never achieved quite the same attention with his later novels, he has been quite prolific with over thirty novels to his name and has won numerous national and international awards including two National Book Awards for fiction.

ROTHSCHILD, HOUSE OF.

Family of bankers and philanthropists. Meyer Amschel Rothschild (1743-1812) was the son of a German Jewish merchant. Meyer entered banking when he agreed to invest the fortune of an Austrian nobleman. He was so successful that he soon found himself in charge of the finances of several royal families. At his death, he bequeathed to his five sons a banking establishment with enormous assets and branches in several financial centers. The eldest son, Anselm Mayer (1773-1855), became the head of the Frankfort bank; Solomon Mayer (1774-1855) headed the Vienna establishment; Nathan Mayer (1777-1836), the London bank; Carl Mayer (1788-1855), the Naples Bank; Jacob (James) Mayer (1792-1868) founded and headed the Paris bank. Because of the extent of the Rothschild family enterprises, they came to be known as the financial kings of Europe. Their influence was enormous. By refusing loans to warlike governments they could help to prevent the outbreak of war; by extending credit, they helped launch educational systems in France and Germany and accelerated the industrial development of many European countries.

Later generations of the Rothschild family gained prominence as patrons of the arts and philanthropists. Outstanding among them was Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934), one of the chief builders of modern Palestine. Anonymously at first, he poured millions into the support of the early agricultural settlements. In fact, from the early 1890’s until 1905, most Jewish settlers were directly dependent on “the Baron” or “the well-known benefactor,” as he was known.

RUBINSTEIN, ARTUR (1899-1982).

This distinguished pianist was born in Lodz, the seventh child of a textile manufacturer. He began to play the piano at the age of three and made his debut in a Mozart concert at the age of seven. The promising child prodigy developed into a brilliant interpreter of classical and modern music. Rubinstein achieved great success on the European concert stage, coming to the U.S. for the first time in 1906. The recognition accorded him all over the world included many awards. He was elected to the French Legion of Honor and to the Brazil Academy of Music. His love of music and his prodigious energy often led him to give more than 100 concerts a year.

RUBINSTEIN, HELENA (1871-1965).

One of the leaders of the American cosmetics industry in the 20th century. She was born in Poland and came to the U.S. in 1914 where she developed a major beauty industry.

RUDOLF, MAX.

See Music, Jews in.

RUSSIA.

The earliest Jewish settlers in Russia were probably merchants from Byzantium, who arrived sometime during the 6th century C.E. In the course of the 8th century Jews arrived from the land of the Khazars, south of Russia, where Judaism had become the national religion. Jewish fugitives from the Crusades sought haven in Russia during the 12th century. Most of these immigrants hoped to reach Kiev, a large trading center that linked the Black Sea zone and Asia with western Europe. In the 13th century the Tatars conquered Russia, stunting the growth of its Jewish communities.

Since Christianity did not take hold of the Russian people until late in the history of Europe (about the 10th century), the clergy and the ruling classes remained highly suspicious of Jews and classed them with unbelievers and considered them a threat to the young Church. At the end of the 15th century, a strong movement of conversion to Judaism arose in Novgorod, from where it spread to some of the nobility in Moscow. This movement was ruthlessly suppressed in 1504. Thereafter, Jews became an even greater object of suspicion among the people of Russia, who saw them as enemies of Christianity.

From the time of Ivan the Terrible (1553-1584) the Tsars were in general fanatically antisemitic and either limited or prohibited the Jews’ right to live in Russia (See Pale of Settlement). Toward the end of the 17th century, there were many Jews in Muscovy who practiced their religion in secret.

With the first partition of Poland during the reign of Catherine II (r. 1762-1796), 100,000 Jews from Poland and what is now White Russia came under Russian rule. Their numbers and importance in commerce necessitated a revision of the official policy. When Alexander I (r. 1801-1825) came to the throne, the Jewish community, or Kahal, had received official recognition. However, Jews were still subject to much discrimination, including excessive taxation and restricted living areas. During the Napoleonic wars, Jews gained in prestige by their opposition to Napoleon, whom they regarded as an enemy of religion.

With the accession to the throne of Nicholas I (r. 1825-1855), a reaction set in. He was responsible for the ordinance under which Jewish children were recruited for the army, sent to the most-distant regions of Russia, and forcibly converted to Christianity in the course of their military training (See Cantonists). This form of persecution ended with the rule of the new Tsar, the liberal Alexander II (r. 1855-1881), when the condition of the Jews generally improved. Together with the rest of the Russian population, they prospered culturally and economically, gained new privileges, and witnessed the abolition of abuses such as serfdom.

However, a new wave of anti-Jewish antagonism and suspicion developed during the end of the 19th century. One of numerous ritual murder trials on record in Russian-Jewish history occurred in 1878 (See Blood Accusation). In 1881, Alexander II was assassinated, and the highly antisemitic Alexander III came to the throne. He encouraged the popular notion that Jews had been responsible for his predecessor’s death. A long series of pogroms began, fostered by court circles to divert the people from the developing revolutionary movement. In the winter of 1891, all Jews were expelled from Moscow. Numerous new discriminatory regulations were passed.

In 1906, as a result of a revolution in 1905, the Tsar convened the first Duma, or representative assembly, in Russian history. Jewish delegates were present, and Jewish problems discussed, but on the whole, the Duma was dominated by reactionary, antisemitic groups. The Russian government continued to follow a policy of social and economic restrictions against Jews. Continued persecution caused an increase in Jewish emigration. Close to one million Jews left Russia during the decade preceding World War I, most of them heading for the U.S. Despite its hardships, the Russian Jewish community before World War I was the most active and numerous in the world. In the 18th and 19th centuries, such highly important movements in Jewish history as Hasidism, Haskalah, and Zionism, and Jewish socialist bodies took root and flourished in Russia. World-renowned yeshivot existed in many towns. Russia was the center of Hebrew and Yiddish literary activity. Mendele Mocher Sefarim, Sholom Aleichem, Peretz, Ahad Ha-am, Bialik, and Tschernichowsky are a few of the great writers of the pre-Revolutionary period.

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was followed by the most terrible pogroms since the Cossack uprising of 1648. Various opponents of the Bolsheviks

RUTH, BOOK OF.

Second of the five scrolls in the Bible. It is read in the synagogue on Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. It tells of Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem in Judah, who in a time of famine take their two sons, Mahlon and Kilyon, and migrate to Moab. There Mahlon marries Ruth, and Kilyon marries Orpah. Elimelech dies, as do Mahlon and Kilyon, ten years later. The grieving Naomi prepares to return home to Bethlehem and tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their parents. Orpah obeys sadly, but Ruth refuses, saying, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth clings to Naomi and follows her loyally to Judah. Eventually, she marries Boaz, a rich farmer of Bethlehem, and they become the ancestors of King David. This charming idyll has been loved by countless generations.

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