Town in the Moldavian region of Romania. Jewish settlement dates from the middle of the eighteenth century, with numbers increasing in the nineteenth century due to immigration from Galicia and Russia and occasional periods of decrease during times such as the cholera epidemic of 1848.
There were 64 Jews in Vaslui in 1803, a total that rose to 133 in 1832 and to 892 in 1838. Numbers decreased to 801 in 1845 and to 662 in 1851, but rose again to 1,202 in 1859, to 2,283 in 1889, and to 3,747 in 1899. In 1910, emigration brought the number of Jews down to 3,296 persons. In the interwar years, the numbers increased at first to 3,729 in 1930, but then fell to 2,904 in 1941. Jews were employed in crafts, commerce, and agricultural production.
In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, conflicts erupted between traditionalists including Hasidim (the majority of the craftsmen) and modernists (merchants and some of the craftsmen). Each group claimed to represent the legitimate Jewish community with institutions, synagogue, rabbi, and kosher slaughterers. The traditionalist group, called the ‘Aseh Tov community, founded a modern Talmud Torah in which secular subjects were taught; in 1875 it became a school for boys. The community (led by modernists) also founded a hospital, in 1881. A burial society, formed in 1806, functioned independently. In 1904, an attempt was made to unite the community, but the new organization lasted only two years. The community was reorganized as an association that was meant to include all Jews in Vaslui in 1919, and was recognized by the state authorities in 1932. The boys’ school eventually became coeducational and opened secondary school classes in 1907. It functioned in this form until 1948, when schools were nationalized.
There were eight synagogues in Vaslui in 1940. Among the rabbis were Yeḥi’el Mikhl Taubes (in Vaslui 1848–1878); his son-in-law, Aleksander Sender Taubes (in Vaslui 1878–1913); Binyamin Rabinovici (in Vaslui 1885–1913), author of the book Imre Binyamin (1907); his son Dov Ber Rabinovici (in Vaslui 1915–1936); Menaḥem Mendel ben Ḥayim Mordekhai Roller (in Vaslui before and during World War I); and Leib Aryeh Ber Halpert, a leader of Agudas Yisroel in Romania (in Vaslui 1938–1949). Rebbe Shalom Halpern (1848–1939), son-in-law of Yitsḥak ben Shalom Yosef Friedman of Buhuşi, established his court in Vaslui in 1909. His son, Ḥayim Halpern (1876–1957), transferred the court to Haifa in 1950.
Jews with ties to Vaslui include the Hebrew writers Menaḥem Mendel Braunstein and Tsevi Eli‘ezer Teller; Ana Pauker, who was Romania’s foreign minister (1948–1952), born in Codăieşti (near Vaslui); the Israeli politician Shmuel Halpert (son of Rabbi Leib Aryeh Ber Halpert); and the historians of Romanian Jewry Jacob Geller and Silviu Sanie.
Between the wars and after the emancipation of Jews in 1919, Jews participated in municipal life. In 1932, five Jews were members of the municipal council. In 1933 there were six, five of them members of Romanian political parties and one a member of the Jewish Party.
In 1880, a committee of the Yishuv Erets Yisra’el association functioned, followed in 1894 by a committee of Ḥoveve Tsiyon. In 1920, the Zionist Organization founded a training farm for those interested in immigrating to Palestine. A Jewish credit cooperative functioned in Vaslui.
In September 1940, the leaders of Vaslui’s Jewish community were arrested, and hundreds of Jews were sent into forced labor. Jewish properties—private and communal—were confiscated. In October 1940, several Jews were arrested and accused of being Communists. On 1 July 1941, all Jewish men under 60 years of age were arrested and incarcerated in a synagogue; some were then sent into forced labor. Jews of Bessarabian origin were deported to Transnistria; simultaneously, Jews from neighboring villages (Căueşti, Pungeşti, Țibana, Negreşti) were deported to Vaslui. As a result, the number of Jews increased: in 1942 they totaled 3,824. After World War II, some remained in Vaslui; in 1947, there were 3,200 Jews. Many subsequently emigrated, chiefly to Israel. In 2005, Vaslui had 19 Jews in its population, with a functioning synagogue.
Jacob Geller, Tsemiḥatah u-sheki‘atah shel kehilah: Ha-Yehudim ha-ashkenazim veha-sefaradim be-Romanyah, 1919–1941 (Tel Aviv, 1985); Dan Dumitru Iacob, “Comunitatea evreiasca din Vaslui la 1851: Aspecte legislative, demografice şi socio-economice reflectate într-o condică a Comisiei pentru cercetarea vagabonzilor,” Studia et acta historiae iudaeorum romaniae 6 (2001): 133–172; Theodor Lavi, “Vaslui (Vaslui),” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 120–123 (Jerusalem, 1969); Liviu Rotman, Ha-Ḥevrah bi-re’i ha-ḥinukh: Bet ha-sefer ha-yehudi ha-romani, 1851–1914 (Tel Aviv, 1999); Cătălin Şelaru and Mihai Şelaru, “Şcoala particulară israelito-română Assey-Tow din Vaslui, 1875–1948,” Studia et acta historiae iudaeorum romaniae 9 (2005): 156–187.