About half of the Jews live in Sarajevo and the balance in Mostar, Zenica, Tuzla, Doboj, and Banja Luka. Two-thirds of the community have left since the outbreak of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, but recently the tendency toward emigration has slackened. Some 90% of the community is Sephardi. However, only older people still speak Ladino.
On the eve of the Shoah, the Jewish population numbered some 14,000. In 1941 Bosnia was incorporated into the Croat state. When the Germans entered Sarajevo, together with a local Bosnian Muslim mob, they destroyed the Sephardi synagogue. Bosnian Jewry was decimated by a combination of German, Ustashe (Croat Fascist), and Bosnian Muslim forces. The Mufti of Jerusalem (Haj Amin-al Husseini) was active in enlisting recruits to a Bosnian Muslim S.S. unit and in encouraging local authorities to organize the deportation and extermination of Bosnian Jewry.
After the war, the Jewish community was reconstituted, and many of the survivors returned. As was the case elsewhere in Yugoslavia, the rate of intermarriage was high, but most Jews retained a sense of Jewish identity. After the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1990, Jews in Bosnia shared the fate of their non-Jewish neighbors, and many elected to flee the country.
Since 1945 there has been a united Jewish community (Sephardi and Ashkenazi). The Federation of Jewish Communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina is responsible for both religious and secular life. La Benevolencija, a Jewish humanitarian association formed 100 years ago, is active in promoting the general welfare of the population, irrespective of religion or nationality.
Religious and Cultural Life
There is only one functioning synagogue, which was rebuilt after World War II, and it is the center of Bosnian Jewish communal life. Four other synagogue buildings exist, one of which serves as the Jewish Museum.
The Sephardi Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo is one of the most important Jewish burial grounds in Europe because of the shape of the tombstones and the ancient Ladino inscriptions on them. The famous 14th century "Sarajevo Haggada" was hidden for safekeeping by the government during the conflict. The Jewish Museum chronicles the history of Sarajevan Jewry. In the Sarajevo synagogue, there is a valuable collection of Ladino and other Jewish books, some printed 200 to 300 years ago. The tomb of the Tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Danon in Stolac is venerated by Jews and non-Jews. On the anniversary of his death (the first Sunday in July), pilgrimages are made there.
Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina
PRESIDENT : Jakob FINCI
Hamdije Kresevljakovica 83
Tel : 387 71 663 472
Fax : 387 71 663 473
Email : email@example.com