Romania Table of Contents
Romania's Jewish community in the late 1980s numbered between 20,000 and 25,000, of whom half were more than sixty-five years old. Jews enjoyed considerably more autonomy than any other religious denomination. In 1983 there were 120 synagogues, all of which had been relatively recently restored. For twenty-five years the Jewish Federation in Romania had been allowed to publish a biweekly magazine in four languages. There were three ordained rabbis, and religious education was widely available to Jewish children. In addition the government permitted the Jewish Federation to operate old-age homes and kosher restaurants. On the other hand, there were repeated anti-Semitic outbursts in the official press and elsewhere that were condoned by the regime.
Romania also has a Moslem community, which in the late 1980s numbered about 41,000. Two ethnic groups--Turks and Tatars-- concentrated in the Dobruja region make up this religious community.
In the 1980s there were a number of Protestant and neoProtestant denominations that were formally recognized and ostensibly protected by the Constitution. The Reformed (Calvinist) Church, an entirely Hungarian congregation, had a membership of between 700,000 and 800,000. The Unitarian Church, also largely Hungarian, had between 50,000 and 75,000 members. The Lutheran Church had a membership of about 166,000--mainly Transylvanian Saxons. Most of the neo-Protestant followers were converts from the Romanian Orthodox Church. Of these, the Baptists were the largest denomination with 200,000 members, followed by the Pentacostalists (75,000 members), Seventh Day Adventists (70,000 members), and a few other smaller groups.
The neo-Protestant religions attracted an increasing number of followers in later years. The rapid growth, especially among Baptists and Pentacostalists, continued throughout the 1970s, and many young converts from the established churches were gained. This trend was troublesome to the regime, because many neo-Protestants-- especially Baptist clergymen--called on churches to resist state interference in their affairs and suggested that the state should respect Christians' rights and renounce atheism. In the late 1970s and in the 1980s, the regime responded to this quasi-political movement with a press campaign attacking the credibility of the denominations and with police repression. Many congregations were fined heavily, and their most effective leaders and activists were arrested or forced to emigrate, whereas others were threatened with dismissal from their jobs and the loss of social benefits. Propaganda, media attacks, and police repression against Jehovah's Witnesses were especially harsh. Because the sect remained unregistered, its mere existence was illegal. The regime claimed that the religious beliefs espoused by the sect were "dangerous, antihumanistic, antidemocratic, and antiprogressive."
Data as of July 1989