Tzigania Tours
Tzigania Tours
Tzigania Store
Tzigania Store
Tzigania Project
Community Development through Trade
Learning Center Link
Learning Center


 Rich, Colorful Mosaic of Laeshi, Lingurari, Romanian and Jewish Histories

Stefanesti, a Jewish “shtetl”

    Stefanesti was a Jewish “shtetl” (town with large Jewish population) well known among Romanian Jewry for the Hasidic “court” – with rich history and vestiges collecting dust and yet should be shared and therefore not forgotten

    Stefanesti’s large Ashkenazi LINK Jewish population lived alongside Gypsy minority and they benefited one another. Many still remember the days they shared the streets. Stories here – a plenty…

    They first came from the Jews and no one spoke up. They then came for the Gypsies…  This unforgivable- unforgettable part of history remains in the hearts and minds of the people of Stefanesti… Few survivors remain able to share this hell-on-earth period of their lives.  Tzigania Project encourages one-on-one meeting with survivors and hear the story from their lips.

Introduction to the Jewish History in Stefanesti

                Ashkenazi Jews of Russia and Poland suffering waves of anti-Semite persecutions found an open door policy in Moldova. The Moldovan authority of the newly liberated country saw their value and welcomed the wandering Jew. Their mercantile skills were seen as the impetus needed to stimulate a sagging agricultural economy.

     They came in waves until by the early 20th century there were almost 800,000 Jews living in enlarged Romania (5% of the population) while in Moldova, where the Jews were most heavily concentrated, they formed a majority in several town forming cities like Iasi where they made up 50.8% of the population and the city Botosani with a 51.8% Jewish population.

     Moldovan economy began prospering as a link between east and west. The Jews developed a budding economy through trade with their eastern contacts. They built factories – until villages and towns previously based on an agricultural economy grew into bustling commercial centers exporting glass products, leather goods, and construction materials. Soon banks were being developed managing better investments and increased development.

   Stefanesti with a thriving Jewish owned commercial center at its core. Main Street was a row of Jewish owned homes and factories, exporters, merchants and craftsman – including the little town’s first bank. Surrounding the lively center lived the Romanian landowners controlling the farming interests. In a separate area of town known as mahali, (village NAME) resided the Gypsies. Particularly interesting about this mahali was that it was shared between two separated Gypsy groups: the long standing sedentary, non-Romani speaking Lingurari (Khashtale) and the newly arrived Romani speaking Laieshi. 

     In the summer of 1941, the Romanian authority finally gave in to Nazi pressures to begin deportations of its Jewish population into the German occupied territories of the former USSR (Transnistria). Many were immediately executed, others perished from starvation and the elements. The following year they came for the Gypsies.

     It would not be till the summer of 1944, after Romania had successfully switched sides and joined the Allied Powers, that the surviving Jewish and Gypsy deportees were finally able to return home. Of the official 208,700 Roma in Romania, 25,000 were deported, 11,000 never returned. The Jewish population suffered far worse. Of the once robust Moldovan Jewish population, only 57% were to return from the deportations, and those that did, most stayed only long enough to organize their belongings before heading out to Palestine or allied nations in the west.

  Stefanesti today

            The Consequences

     Since that horrific period the once thriving town of Stefanesti is a shell of its once boomtown period that has slipped back into a one-horse-town status. 



   The  Lingurari belong to the extensive Khashtalo nation along with Rudari, and Boyash. Their history in Romania began as slaves of the monasteries where Romani language and traditions were forbidden. They immediately lost the Gypsy spirit and today preserve an archaic Romanian culture. Few still preserve the old Lingurari woodworker trades: carving wooden spoons, brooms, and other objects. Today most survive on agriculture.



     The Laieshi – belong to the “cortarari” (tent Gypsies ) category of Roma, formerly nomadic Gypsies during the 500 years of slavery. They were metalworkers (blacksmith) that traveled around the country servicing the agricultural majority with making and repairing metal tools and other objects. That tradition continues even though the demand has dwindled. Few Laieshi still put food on the table through the physical blacksmith trade making horseshoes, tools, and building needs. Yet not all Laiesi could be blacksmiths. Many used their middle-man minority traits into mercantilism. They went on the prowl looking for new businesses they could break into. Many picked up on their musical talents becoming the valuable entertainment performing both Romanian folk and Jewish Klezmer music.


Popular surnames amongst Stefanesti Laieshi include: Ferariu (blacksmith) and Scripcaru (fiddler)


     Others studied the successful businesses of the Jews, noted the materials he required and then found supplies at lower costs.  They were natural travelers and scavengers that would scour the countryside in their wagons and purchase fish and animal skins or collect old bottles from the peasant villagers and then re-sell these goods back to the Jewish exporters or manufactories. They became the little known grease of the wheel that kept the businesses supplied and functioning.


              The Blacksmiths gypsy blacksmith

    The blacksmith trade was one of the most traditional and widely accepted means for Roma to earn a living. Metalworking trade brought the Gypsy family shelter, sustenance and in some cases protection. It would be Gypsy blacksmith, along with the musicians, that were highly respected by the majority. The popular Balkan saying “every village needs a Gypsy and a church” is a reference to the blacksmith. 



   Until the Gypsy came around many rural Romanian communities managed without metalworkers. The main method of construction was wood. Wooden nails, dado joints and other refined woodworking skills created the necessary bonds in place of useful metal. They managed without not because of a lack of demand yet rather a minimal supply. The Gypsy made these simple, common products available to the rural farmers and then affordable through bartering and other payment plans until reliance set in turning the commodity into a necessity – and the Gypsies etched their place in society.



Wagon Ridepass thru former Jewish “shtetl”“mahala” - the Gypsy sectionBlacksmithCemetery Visit

Package Program

 Visit includes guided tour with Host Pinky Ferariu (of Laeshi tribe) and Mihaela Ichim ( Lingurari) …  Both educated women from either Gypsy group offering two valuable and sometimes differing points of views.

Horse and Wagon Ride through village center formerly Jewish neighborhood passing former Jewish homes with its unique architectural style that combined family life and business

Into “Mahala” the Gypsy community and it's differing architecture.  Next stop home and workshop of local Gypsy  Blacksmith (Laiesi) for demonstration of the trade: making a horseshoe from start to finish – Return back through center and to other side of town to the beautiful and emotional visit to the Jewish cemetery.

Duration 1.5 – 2 hours


Please Note

Unfortunately our community organizers do not speak English.  Additional translator available. Fee 30 lei…..

Excluding horse and wagon. Subtract 30 lei 

Make the most of your time and double the experience with ADDITIONAL OPTIONS

Blacksmith WorkshopTransnistria SurvivorInterior Jewish homeMusic and Dance Historic Church



Make the most of your time and place. 
Double the experience with additional options….


Blacksmith Workshop

Our blacksmith will show you “how” to make a horseshoe. With hammer you will make the form and go home with a self-made lucky horseshoe

Duration  Rate


Visit with Transnistria survivor

In 1942 they deported the Jews across the Prut into Transnitria (East Modova) where the horror began. After the Jews - they came for the Gypsies. Gypsy families were promised a better life in another location with houses and jobs. That got them to Iasi where they were met by soldiers with guns and as one survivor recalls, “that’s where the holocaust began”. They called the trains deporting them to Transnistra “death trains”.  Many were killed once in Transnistria while others slowly died from the elements. Liberation by Russian troops three years later brought the survivors back home….

We encourage guest to the home of one of these elderly survivors for a chat and hear the story from the source in his/her own words. Payment going to elderly survivor

 Duration ... Rate


 Jewish Architecture

Visit  inside one of few remaining Jewish homes that once lines the city center to experience pragmatic Jewish architecture that  combined home life and business

Duration.. Rate


 Visit Historic Church

Continue the Horse and wagon ride to Paraschiva Church in Stefanesti. Built in 1649 over the foundation of 15th century church by Stephen the Great.

 The church is rich with legends and stories of network of underground tunnels. Potrivit legendelor locale, pe sub actuala Biserică "Cuvioasa Parascheva" se afla o poartă de acces Óntr-un tunel subteran, suficient de larg și de Ónalt ca să poate fi străbătut călare, iar celălalt capăt al său se afla la Lehnești, unde erau adăpostite hergheliile domnești. According to local legends a gateway into a tunnel underneath the church leads underneath the Prut. Legend has it that Stephen escaped an invasion of Turks by following the tunnel into safe haven on the opposite side of the river

 Duration... Rate


Music and Dancer Performance

 A performance of local Gypsy accordionist and our school dance troupe demonstrating the uniquely different regional Gypsy dance with its very oriental flavor

Duration: 30 minutes… Rate


 Homestay with Gypsy family

Includes dinner and breakfast. 
Lunch available + 15 lei per person

E-Mail ANY questions                                                                                                                                     Phone: +(40) 758 55 66 70

BlacksmithCemeteryMarcella SurvivorcemeteryJewish homes
BlacksmithCemeteryMarcella: SurvivorCemeteryFormer Jewish Homes