About half of the 1,000 Jews in Bosnia live in Sarajevo and the balance in Mostar, Zenica, Tuzla, Doboj and Banja Luka (in the Republika Srpska). Two-thirds of the community left after the outbreak of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, but the tendency toward emigration has slackened. Some 90% of the community is Sephardi. However, only older people still speak Ladino.
Sephardi Jews established a community in Sarajevo as early as the second half of the 16th century. They were later joined by Ashkenazi Jews from Central Europe. A special Jewish quarter was established in the second half of the 16th century and Jews resided there until the Austrian conquest in 1878. A succession of Ottoman laws in the 19th century emancipated the Jews of Turkey and the various territories under its rule, including Bosnia-Herzegovina. After World War I, when Bosnia and Herzegovina became a constituent part of Yugoslavia, the Jewish Community joined the all-Yugoslav Federation of Jewish Religious Communities. For the most part, Bosnian Jewry retained its unique Sephardi customs along with the Ladino language
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 of the offspring of such unions retained a strong sense of Jewish identity. When civil war erupted in 1991, Sarejevo was besieged. The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) provided the Jewish communities with much-needed food, medicine and other supplies, which the community, in turn, shared with the non-Jewish population. Some 2,000 Bosnian Jews were airlifted to safety in Israel, where many remained.
Since 1945 there has been a united Jewish community (Sephardi and Ashkenazi), La Benevolencija, which is responsible for both religious and cultural life. There are no branches of international Jewish organizations, but the JDC has been especially active in revitalizing Jewish life. There is a Jewish Sunday school in Sarajevo
The only regularly functioning synagogue in the country is in Sarejevo. Consecrated in 1902 by the city’s Ashkenazi Jews, the Moorish Revival building was designed by Karel Pařík. Today the sanctuary is confined to the former women’s galleries on the upper floor. At the entrance, a stone menorah commemorates the 400-year anniversary of the Jews in Bosnia and Herzegovina
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.
Hamdije Kreševljakovi?a 59
Tel: +387 33 663 472
Fax: +387 33 663 473
There are no kosher dining facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
Jewish Community Center Sarajevo
Hamdije Kreševljakovića 59
Bosnia & Herzegovina