The Jewish presence in Macedonia dates back to the end of the Second Temple period. In the list of Jewish communities quoted from the correspondence of Agrippa I to Caligula, Philo refers to the Jews of Macedonia. Ruins of a third-century synagogue in Stobei are evidence of a once-sizeable community situated on an important commercial crossroads between Turkey and Western Europe. Until the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the 16th century, the community followed the Romaniot (Byzantine) customs. Later, the Sephardi nusach prevailed, and the Jews adopted Ladino.
On the eve of the Shoah, when Macedonia was a part of Yugoslavia, there were nearly 8,000 Jews and five synagogues in Bitola (Monastir), and some 3,000 Jews in Skopje, the capital. In 1943, the Bulgarian occupation authorities stripped the Jews of their property and deported them to Treblinka. Less than 10% of the community survived, most in hiding or with the partisans. Proportionately, that was the highest loss of any Jewish community during the Shoah. Since the succession of Macedonia, the Jewish communityhas operated independently. The Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia was established in 2002 by a Resolution of the government based on the Law on Denationalization. Macedonia is one of the few countries that was fully committed to the protection of the property rights of deported Jews without living heirs. Apart from the Memorial Center (see Information for Visitors) other goals of the Fund include fostering Jewish culture and tradition, researching Jewish history (including publishing books of Jewish interest, some in English), and preserving and revitalizing Jewish monuments.
The Jewish community now numbers some 200. Most Jews live in Skopje, but there are also a handful in Stip. Although since the end of World War II many of the surviving Jews have intermarried, Jewish identity, even among mixed-faith families, is very strong.
The Beth Yaakov Synagogue in Skopje is the only functioning Jewish house of worship in the country. It was consecrated in the building of the Jewish Community in 2000 with the assistance of the Macedonian government, the JOINT, and the Jewish community of Pasadena, California. The country’s Macedonian-born chief rabbi resides in Israel but travels to Skopje to officiate on Jewish holy days. Macedonian Jews maintain close contacts with the Jewish communities of Belgrade and Salonika.
Much of the money that accrued to the community from the restoration of heirless property was used for construction of the Memorial Holocaust Center and the Jewish Museum that was dedicated in 2011. The museum is among the most impressive institutions of its kinds in Europe and is situated in the government quarter, which was built on the ruins of what was once the city’s Jewish neighborhood, which was devastated in a deadly 1963 earthquake that destroyed much of the capital.
The Anachnu club caters to the community’s young adults aged 18–26, who also have a youth magazine called Ani Ve Ata.
Evrejska zaednica vo Republika Makedonija (EZRM)
Jewish Community in the Republic of Macedonia
Borka Taleski 24,
Tel: +389 2 3214 799, +389 2 3237 543
Fax: +389 2 3214 880
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