The Australian Jewish News (Sydney) (March 11, 2005)

Roughly a century after tens of thousands of impoverished and persecuted Jews walked across Romania in the hope of reaching more hospitable refuge abroad, a Canadian writer-photographer has chronicled their story.

Jill Culiner's book follows the footsteps of the largely-forgotten Fusgeyers (Yiddish for wayfarers or foot-wanderers).

As Culiner recounts in Finding Home: In the footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers, she became obsessed with the subject after seeing a mention of the Fusgeyers in Irving Howe's World of our Fathers.

Like much Jewish immigration in history, antisemitism prompted the Fusgeyers. When persecution in Romania worsened about 1899, tens of thousands of Jews sold their meager possessions, formed into large groups for protection, and marched hundreds of kilometers.

Most groups consisted of between 40 and 300 migrants. Representatives of Jewish aid organizations met the weary pedestrians at towns along the Austro-Hungarian border and provided them with food and shelter, as well as train and ship tickets to their ultimate destinations.

As many as 70,000 Jews took part in the pedestrian exodus that began in 1900.

Culiner, who learned Yiddish to read Jacob Finkelstein's book Memoir of a Fusgeyer from Romania to America, made his journey a template for her own book.

"Everything that they did, I had to do," she said. "Where Jacob Finkelstein and the Fusgeyers slept in fields, I had to do the same thing, and that's what I did. When they were housed by the Jewish community, then I slept in hotels."

She traveled with a male companion in search of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, taverns, tea houses, and other settings in Romania.

Culiner located several old synagogues, most in derelict condition. The few remaining Jews she encountered greeted her warmly, she said. Many sadly acknowledged that they were part of the closing chapter of Romanian Jewish history.

The publishers, Toronto-based Sumach Press, will soon extend distribution of Finding Home to other countries.