Romanian Jewry (illustration)
Romanian Jewry (illustration)Flash90

One of Europe's oldest Yiddish theaters, the State Jewish Theatre of Bucharest, has been forced to close down after its roof was damaged by the snowstorms sweeping Romania, AFP reports Wednesday. 

"This is a disaster. About 30 percent of the theater roof has been destroyed. The stage is covered with water from the melting snow as well as the underground deposits where we keep the sets," the director of the theatre, actress Maia Morgenstern stated. 

"I am very worried because this theatre is a historical monument but also a very important element to preserve the Yiddish culture in Europe", added the actress.

The State Jewish Theatre is one of the few living remains of the once vibrant Yiddish culture in Eastern Europe. Located in the centre of Bucharest, in a district that was home to more than 300,000 Jews before the Holocaust and the Communist dictatorship, it features plays in the Yiddish language.

The theatre opened in 1940 and was allowed to continue its activities during the Second World War, sheltering Jewish actors and playwrights banned from other cultural institutions.

Romanian authorities said they would provide assistance in getting the building repaired.

"The building of the State Jewish Theatre is not administered by the ministry but as it hosts a very important cultural institution, I will not hesitate to be involved to find a solution," Culture Minister Gigel Stirbu told Mediafax news agency.

Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed in Romania and the territories under its control during pro-Nazi marshal Ion Antonescu's regime, according to an international historians' commission headed by Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel. 

Romania's Jewish community today counts just over 3,300 people, according to the official census.

The first professional Yiddish theater troupe in the world was founded in Romania in 1876 by Abraham Goldfaden.

Romania has been hit with heavy snowfall in recent days, forcing the closure of schools and highways in the southeast of the country and disrupting train services on Wednesday.