Town in the Romanian region of Moldavia (known in Yiddish as Peshkan). In 1845, there were 17 Jewish families living in Paşcani. Numbering 85 persons, they were among the founders of the town and were involved in timber, cereal, and the cattle business. Many Jews from neighboring towns attended fairs in Paşcani; and the extension of roads and the building of railways contributed to its economic development. Jews built a synagogue and a ritual bathhouse, as well as a cemetery.
In 1882, there were 250 Jewish families living in Paşcani, and in 1899 the town had 1,862 Jewish inhabitants (representing 14.7% of the population). In 1910, the number had fallen to 1,543, and in 1930 to 1,481 (13.1%), the result of diminishing business opportunities and of emigration. In 1916, the town had 16 synagogues. Among the rabbis were Yitsḥak Taubes, David Tsevi Rispler, and Ya‘akov Hager. In 1904, Mosheh Yehudah Leib Friedman (1855–1947; the Peshkaner rebbe) established a Hasidic court; his dynasty came to be the main Hasidic center of the old kingdom of Romania. Friedman’s father Yitsḥak, of the Ruzhin-Sadagora dynasty, was rebbe of Buhuşi.
In 1895, a local committee of the Ḥibat Tsiyon organization was set up. In the interwar period, various Zionist organizations were active, and in 1913 a committee of the Union of Native Jews was set up (after 1923, it was known as the Union of Romanian Jews). Among Jewish personalities in the town were the Yiddish folk poet Moishe Raf and the Zionist activist Kiva Orenstein. Jewish life in Paşcani was depicted by the Romanian writer Mihail Sadoveanu in several of his novels and short stories.
Relations between Jews and Christians were not always smooth. In 1907, insurgent peasants incited against Jews, and during World War I, some Jews were arrested, unjustified taxes were levied, and several shops were forced to close. In 1931, the mayor’s office discriminated against Jewish tradesmen.
In 1941, several community notables and leaders were taken hostage. Twelve Jews were deported to Transnistria, while Jews from neighboring villages were forcibly moved to Paşcani. The same year, 240 Jews were forced to perform hard labor in Bessarabia, in road construction and the stone quarries of Bendery (Tighina); another 40 were sent to Măcin (Dobrudja) for the same purpose. In March 1944, bombings destroyed the local railway station, killing 100 Jews. In April 1944, Jews were allowed to flee, and headed for the towns of Fălticeni, Dorohoi, and Botoşani.
After World War II, 870 Jews returned to Paşcani. The Jewish Democratic Committee led the community, and schools were nationalized (1948). The number of Jewish inhabitants then fell as Jews moved to larger cities or emigrated. By 1998, no Jews remained in the city. In 2002, however, an association of Jews originally from Paşcani was established in Petaḥ Tikvah (Israel), and in Bene Berak, the Hasidic court of Paşcani joined with the court from Buhuşi, continuing to be active.
Dorian Brisler and Rumelia Koren Brisler, Istoria unui şteitl românesc: Paşcani (Petaḥ Tikvah, Isr., 2002); Theodor Lavi, “Pa’shka’n (Paşcani),” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 195–197 (Jerusalem, 1969); Baruch Tercatin, Din înțelepciunea Torei şi a hasidismului (Bucharest, 2003).
Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea