Jews being Jews in contemporary Kishinev

My ancestors were Jews from Kishinev who emigrated to California almost exactly a hundred years ago.  I myself am an artist and a writer who has spent the last twenty years grappling with the complications of Jewish memory in eastern Europe, working mostly in Poland and Ukraine. 

Most of my work has not concerned my own family story specifically, or my ancestral connections to Bessarabia, but for reasons I do not altogether understand, at this point in my path, I am moved to turn toward my own past––”my own” inasmuch as it is fair to say that the souls of my ancestors are bound up in my own soul, and the experience of my ancestors flows into my own experience as one stream. 

I have found being in Kishinev not so easy.  I know a lot about the city’s Jewish history, or more to the point, just enough to make the actual streets and courtyards tremble with Jewish wounds that are, to me, still unhealed.  Childhood visions of the older generations of my family have also come back to me, especially the strange quality I felt as a child in San Francisco that I was surrounded by people who endured more than a person should endure. 

All of this was the background to my accidental encounter with the Lag B’omer procession of the Kishinev Chabad community.  I was out walking and photographing, lost in my meditations, when I came upon the procession on the corner of Str Columna and Str Armeneasca.  I have never seen a Lag B’omer parade specifically, but recognized immediately that it was the Lubavitcher community, and though I am neither a Lubavitcher nor an Orthodox Jew, I was glad to see them.  It made me smile to simply to see Jews being Jews in contemporary Kishinev.  I joined in the walk for awhile, and the people I spoke with were gracious and welcoming.  To have met the Kishinev Chabad community was a small gift, for which I am grateful.

Jason Francisco
Associate Professor
Film and Media Studies
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia