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JEWISH Sarajevo

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Sarajevo: A Jewel of Jewish History The Jewish community of Sarajevo is one of the best examples of Jewish success in the diaspora. The history that remains today is both a testament to a golden era of acceptance and a reminder of the evils of antisemitic persecution. sarajevo city landscape Sarajevo as “Little Jerusalem” Jewish life in Sarajevo began sometime during the 16th century. While most historians debate the exact date, the first documents from the community date to 1565. The Jews that arrived during this time were Sepharidic Jews from Spain. The horror and persecution of the inquisition forced out a large number of Jews, who resettled in Eastern and Western Europe. Life for the Jewish community of Sarajevo was one of relative peace and prosperity. During this time, Bosnia was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The majority of the city was Muslim but they welcomed the Jewish community with open arms. Sephardic Jews came with a range of skills making them indispensable assets for the city. Jews held positions as merchants, artisans, tailors, blacksmiths and were renowned for being exceptional doctors. The Jewish community had a great deal of independence as well. They were allowed to govern themselves according to Rabbinic law and established their own religious and community institutions.  In 1577 the city erected a substantial Jewish quarter with its own synagogue near the main market of Sarajevo. The quarter was known as El Cortijo, “the courtyard”. While the Jewish community inhabited the quarter for many years they eventually moved to other parts of the city. Their relationship with the government and the civilian Muslim population was so good there were no religious or legal restrictions on their movement. The wealth and tolerance for the community grew to be legendary. Sarajevo even earned itself the nickname of Little Jerusalem. In 1697, Austro-Hungarian forces occupied the city and destroyed the synagogue and quarter.  During the 17th century, Ashkenazi Jews from Western Europe also immigrated to Bosnia and established a community in Sarajevo. By the end of the 18th century the overall Jewish population numbered around 10,000. However, after hundreds of years of peace and prosperity their world would soon come crashing down. Holocaust: The Devastation of the Jewish Community in Bosnia  Like most Jewish communities across Europe the Jews of Sarajevo underwent severe persecution at the hands of the Nazis. The day after Germany took the city they burned the Sephardi synagogue. The Jewish community was first deported to work camps in Croatia. Those that survived were eventually sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. By the time the war ended nearly 9,000 Jew from Bosnia had been murdered.  Sephardic Synagogue in Sarajevo There is still an active community in Sarajevo today, but it's a faint reflection of the community that once was. Most Jews from Sarajevo that survived the war immigrated to Israel. By 1971, the Jewish population of Sarajevo was only 1,000 persons. However, there is some hope for the continued growth of the community. Over the last few years there has been an increasing baby boom. Most of these new mothers and fathers returned to their homeland after being sent away as children during the Bosian War in the 1990s. The challenge now for the community is keeping up with the demands of raising Jewish children. The community wants to ensure that future generations have access and outlets for their lives as cultural and religious Jews.        An Undeniable and Immortal Heritage Luckily for the Jewish community, many of their historic sites survived the numerous wars. One of the oldest historic Jewish sites in Sarajevo is the Old Jewish Cemetery. For nearly 400 years this cemetery was utilized by both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities. The grounds cover over 30,000 square meters with nearly 4000 graves. The cemetery was severely damaged during the Bosnian War and while the cemetery is no longer in use, it serves as a historic and cultural reminder of the community's glory days. The only thing that is buried there now are holy books. The cemetery has its very own Geniza, where Jewish holy texts are laid to rest when they are no longer in use. One of the other most iconic pieces of Sarajevo Jewish heritage is the Sarajevo Haggadah. This is one of the oldest haggadahs in the world, dating to 1350. This traditional text used during a Passover seder includes illustrations and is illuminated with both copper and gold. There are also signs that this haggadah was in use for many years, given the amount of wine stains on the pages. It is most likely that this haggadah made its way from the passover seder table in Barcelona to one in Sarajevo. The estimated worth of the haggadah is unknown but it is insured for almost $7 million dollars.  The Sarajevo Haggada, the oldest Sephardic Haggadah in the world located at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo Sarajevo’s Jews as War Heroes and Politicians In addition to its amazing historic sites and literature, Sarajevo is also the origin city of some of the most famous Jewish names in the world. One of the most well known Bosnian Jewish immigrants to Israel was David “Dado” Elazar. The staunch Zionist that he was David migrated to Israel in 1940 just one year before the Nazis arrived. Serving as an integral part of the Palmach, David eventually became one of the most decorated war chiefs in the history of the IDF. He moved up through the ranks eventually becoming Israel’s ninth Chief of Staff. David Elazar, the ninth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Another famous Bosnian Jew, Sven Alkalaj, earned himself a less controversial title as the Permanent Representative of Bosnia to the UN. He also served as Bosnia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in the mid 2000s. In addition to his prestigious career Sven also hails from one of the oldest and most prominent Jewish families in Bosnian history. The Alkalaj clan were among the first wave of Sephardi Jewry from Spain.  A Community that Will Never Fade Despite all that has been won and lost, what remains today is a community that strives to continue its legacy. Sarajevo Jewry is growing and will continue to rebuild its tradition of Jewish excellence and acceptance.       

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SITES TO SEE

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Old Jewish cemetery of Sarajevo

The OId Jewish Cemetery in Sarajevon is located on the slopes of Trebević mountain, in the south-western part of the city. It's the largest Jewish cemetery in Southeast Europe and was in use for approximately four hundred years from the beginning of the 16th or 17th century until 1966. Though it was established by Sephardic Jews during the Ottoman period, it also became the burial ground for Ashkenazi Jews after they arrived in Sarajevo with the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century. It contains more than 3850 tombstones and covers an area of 31,160 square meters. It has four monuments dedicated to the victims of fascism: a Sephardi one designed by Jahiel Finci and erected in 1952, two Ashkenazi ones, and one dedicated to the victims of Ustasha militants. The Jewish Cemetery was on the front line during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was used as an artillery position by Bosnian Serbs. It was thus severely damaged by bullets and fire caused by explosions. It was also heavily mined but was completely cleared in 1996. Notable people buried in the cemetery include Rabbi Samuel Baruh (first rabbi of Sarajevo from 1630 to 1650; his grave is believed to be the oldest in the cemetery), Rabbi Isak Pardo (rabbi from 1781 to 1810), Rabbi Avraham Abinun (Grand Rabbi from 1856 to 1858), Moshe ben Rafael Attias (1845 – 1916), Laura Levi Papo LaBohoreta (writer of the early 20th century), and Isak Samokovlija. Separate vault or "grave" for damaged books known as a Genizah, is located in the southeastern part of the cemetery, with the first burial taking place on 3 July 1916. It is assumed that some 14 chests of holy books were buried in the second burial ceremony, so currently exhumation of Geniza is under way to determine its content. Image attribution: Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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TOURS OF Sarajevo

Tours

Bosnia Jewish Tour

Are you looking for an intellectually rich, carefully crafted Jewish tour of Bosnia? We may be able to help. Our Jewish heritage tour of Bosnia serves as the grand opening of our unforgettable journey through the rich Jewish heritage of the Western Balkans. Our 12-day Jewish heritage travel itinerary offers a comprehensive exploration of the rich Sephardic and Ashkenazi culture, history, and traditions of the Jews of former Yugoslavia. The undisputed star, however, of our Sarajevo Jewish tour — and of our whole Bosnia Jewish tour — has to be the magnificent Sarajevo Haggadah. The gorgeous 14th-century illuminated manuscript is housed at Bosnia’s National Museum and was only recently put on display. You will learn how it was courageously saved from the Nazis by Dervis Korkut, the museum’s Muslim curator. During WWII, Korkut and his wife also saved the life of Mira Papo, a young Sarajevo Jew, and were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. During the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, as Sarajevo was shelled by Serb forces, Enver Imamovic, the museum director, saved the manuscript by transporting it to the vaults of the national bank. No less fascinating are the splendid Ashkenazi Synagogue (1902) — doubling as the Jewish community center — and the Old Sarajevo Jewish Cemetery (established in the early 1600s), one of the oldest Sephardic cemeteries in Europe. The rounded shape of the tombstones is one of the unique features of Bosnian Jewish cemeteries. Our Sarajevo Jewish tour also makes stops at the 1930 Sephardic Great Temple (Il Kal Grande), the Sarajevo Menorah monument, and the Jewish high school. As we leave Sarajevo, our Bosnia Jewish tour follows the route of an annual local Jewish pilgrimage to the grave of Moshe Danon, Bosnia’s celebrated 19th century rabbi, who was at the center of a notable series of events known as the Sarajevo Purim. On our way to rabbi’s Danon’s grave in Stolac, we will also make a stop in beautiful Mostar. The Old Bridge over the Neretva river is one of the most iconic symbols of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Email us at [email protected] to request a detailed day-by-day itinerary of our Bosnia Jewish tour or send a message through our contact form.

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World Jewish Travel Official May 31, 2022

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Four Centuries of Jewish Success and Survival

Sarajevo: A Jewel of Jewish History The Jewish community of Sarajevo is one of the best examples of Jewish success in the diaspora. The history that remains today is both a testament to a golden era of acceptance and a reminder of the evils of antisemitic persecution. Sarajevo as “Little Jerusalem” Jewish life in Sarajevo began sometime during the 16th century. While most historians debate the exact date, the first documents from the community date to 1565. The Jews that arrived during this time were Sepharidic Jews from Spain. The horror and persecution of the inquisition forced out a large number of Jews, who resettled in Eastern and Western Europe. Life for the Jewish community of Sarajevo was one of relative peace and prosperity. During this time, Bosnia was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The majority of the city was Muslim but they welcomed the Jewish community with open arms. Sephardic Jews came with a range of skills making them indispensable assets for the city. Jews held positions as merchants, artisans, tailors, blacksmiths and were renowned for being exceptional doctors. The Jewish community had a great deal of independence as well. They were allowed to govern themselves according to Rabbinic law and established their own religious and community institutions.  In 1577 the city erected a substantial Jewish quarter with its own synagogue near the main market of Sarajevo. The quarter was known as El Cortijo, “the courtyard”. While the Jewish community inhabited the quarter for many years they eventually moved to other parts of the city. Their relationship with the government and the civilian Muslim population was so good there were no religious or legal restrictions on their movement. The wealth and tolerance for the community grew to be legendary. Sarajevo even earned itself the nickname of Little Jerusalem. In 1697, Austro-Hungarian forces occupied the city and destroyed the synagogue and quarter.  During the 17th century, Ashkenazi Jews from Western Europe also immigrated to Bosnia and established a community in Sarajevo. By the end of the 18th century the overall Jewish population numbered around 10,000. However, after hundreds of years of peace and prosperity their world would soon come crashing down. Holocaust: The Devastation of the Jewish Community in Bosnia  Like most Jewish communities across Europe the Jews of Sarajevo underwent severe persecution at the hands of the Nazis. The day after Germany took the city they burned the Sephardi synagogue. The Jewish community was first deported to work camps in Croatia. Those that survived were eventually sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. By the time the war ended nearly 9,000 Jew from Bosnia had been murdered.  [caption id="attachment_37957" align="alignnone" width="1639"] Sephardic Synagogue in Sarajevo[/caption] There is still an active community in Sarajevo today, but it's a faint reflection of the community that once was. Most Jews from Sarajevo that survived the war immigrated to Israel. By 1971, the Jewish population of Sarajevo was only 1,000 persons. However, there is some hope for the continued growth of the community. Over the last few years there has been an increasing baby boom. Most of these new mothers and fathers returned to their homeland after being sent away as children during the Bosian War in the 1990s. The challenge now for the community is keeping up with the demands of raising Jewish children. The community wants to ensure that future generations have access and outlets for their lives as cultural and religious Jews.        An Undeniable and Immortal Heritage Luckily for the Jewish community, many of their historic sites survived the numerous wars. One of the oldest historic Jewish sites in Sarajevo is the Old Jewish Cemetery. For nearly 400 years this cemetery was utilized by both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities. The grounds cover over 30,000 square meters with nearly 4000 graves. The cemetery was severely damaged during the Bosnian War and while the cemetery is no longer in use, it serves as a historic and cultural reminder of the community's glory days. The only thing that is buried there now are holy books. The cemetery has its very own Geniza, where Jewish holy texts are laid to rest when they are no longer in use. One of the other most iconic pieces of Sarajevo Jewish heritage is the Sarajevo Haggadah. This is one of the oldest haggadahs in the world, dating to 1350. This traditional text used during a Passover seder includes illustrations and is illuminated with both copper and gold. There are also signs that this haggadah was in use for many years, given the amount of wine stains on the pages. It is most likely that this haggadah made its way from the passover seder table in Barcelona to one in Sarajevo. The estimated worth of the haggadah is unknown but it is insured for almost $7 million dollars.  [caption id="attachment_37910" align="alignnone" width="1600"] The Sarajevo Haggada, the oldest Sephardic Haggadah in the world located at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo[/caption] Sarajevo’s Jews as War Heroes and Politicians In addition to its amazing historic sites and literature, Sarajevo is also the origin city of some of the most famous Jewish names in the world. One of the most well known Bosnian Jewish immigrants to Israel was David “Dado” Elazar. The staunch Zionist that he was David migrated to Israel in 1940 just one year before the Nazis arrived. Serving as an integral part of the Palmach, David eventually became one of the most decorated war chiefs in the history of the IDF. He moved up through the ranks eventually becoming Israel’s ninth Chief of Staff. [caption id="attachment_37958" align="alignnone" width="946"] David Elazar, the ninth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces[/caption] Another famous Bosnian Jew, Sven Alkalaj, earned himself a less controversial title as the Permanent Representative of Bosnia to the UN. He also served as Bosnia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in the mid 2000s. In addition to his prestigious career Sven also hails from one of the oldest and most prominent Jewish families in Bosnian history. The Alkalaj clan were among the first wave of Sephardi Jewry from Spain.  A Community that Will Never Fade Despite all that has been won and lost, what remains today is a community that strives to continue its legacy. Sarajevo Jewry is growing and will continue to rebuild its tradition of Jewish excellence and acceptance.       

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HOTELS IN Sarajevo

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#JEWISHSARAJEVO

Do you know the famous Hanukkah song "Ocho Kandelikas"?

I know what you are thinking. It's February. Hanukkah is long over. Why are you asking this now?

A few days ago, on January 29, a champion of Ladino and Sephardic music passed away at the age of 97. And, while I have been a fan of her music since I was a little kid in my synagogue's choir, I only just learned the name of the musician in 2020.

Flory Jagoda, pictured here, wrote the Ladino song "Ocho Kandelikas" (Eight Little Candles) in 1983 at the age of 60, and the song became known worldwide and covered by many artists.

Jagoda was a Bosnian Jew. Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1923, she grew up speaking Ladino, the primary language of medieval Spanish Jewry. A Holocaust survivor, her family fled Bosnia during World War II and made their way to Italy where Jagoda met and married her American husband. In 1946 they moved to the United States where she became a concert performer and lecturer, and hosted a monthly gathering of Ladino speaking Jews who shared traditional food and music.

Why did it take so many years for me to learn that her Hanukkah song was written in Ladino, or to learn who wrote the song and what the musician's story was?

Often, we miss out on great opportunities to learn about global Jewish history and life. We learn only part of a story, for instance, I learned how to sing this song as a kid, but no one taught the history behind the song or it's meaning.

In honor of Flory Jagoda, let's strive to expand the horizons of those in our lives. That is what we are trying to do at the Global Jewish Pen Pal Program--but we can all do it. When you hear a song at your synagogue, or eat a dish for Shabbat dinner, pause and ask where it came from. Then, teach your friends, your family, and your children what you learned.

#jewishbosnia #jewishsarajevo #floryjagoda #jewishartists #jewishmusicians #jewishpeople #ladino #sephardicmusic #ochokandelikas
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Me and Sarajevo Menorah ❤️✡️❤️🇧🇦

#bosnia #bosnian #city #bosnia_and_herzegovina #bosnia-herzegovina #bosnian #sarajevo #jew #jewish #jews #jewishsarajevo #synagogue #menorahsculpture #menorah #sculpture #art #jewishculture
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What an absolutely gorgeous Priestly Blessing!
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If you are interested in this stunning design, please contact Anna directly.
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Photo: Courtesy of kozemjakin.anna_art
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#OrthodoxJudaism #ConservativeJudaism #ReformJudaism #JewishCommunity #Judaism #Judaica #JudaicaArt #Jewish #JewishArt #HebrewCalligraphy #Calligraphy #Hebrew #Watercolour #Watercolour #WatercolorArt #WatercolourArt #JewishBlessing #HebrewBlessing #JewishWallArt #JewishBosnia #JewishSarajevo #Sephardic #Ashkenazi #PriestlyBlessing #FloralArt #FlowerArt #BotanicArt #BotanicalArt #Wildflowers #ShavuaTov
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Are you looking for a truly special present to give to someone you love dearly? Anna has something waiting for you in her wonderful collection! An absolutely magnificent design of hers is the one you can admire above. Such a beautiful Home Blessing!
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If you are interested in this stunning design, please contact Anna directly.
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Photo: Courtesy of kozemjakin.anna_art
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#OrthodoxJudaism #ConservativeJudaism #ReformJudaism #JewishCommunity #Judaism #Judaica #JudaicaArt #Jewish #JewishArt #HebrewCalligraphy #Calligraphy #Hebrew #Watercolour #Watercolour #WatercolorArt #WatercolourArt #JewishBlessing #HebrewBlessing #JewishWallArt #JewishBosnia #JewishSarajevo #Sephardic #Ashkenazi #Hamsa #HamsaHand #HamsaArt #HamsaWallArt #HomeBlessing #BirkatHabyit #FloralArt
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The first Jews arrived in Sarajevo (a city in today's Bosnia and Herzegovina) as early as 1541 and built their own quarter called El Cortijo, the courtyard, in 1577, (pictured here).

The oldest Sephardic synagogue in the city was completed and dedicated in 1581 in the El Cortijo.

Today the Sephardic synagogue still stands and houses the Museum of Bosnian Jewish History, but it also remains an active synagogue, because it hosts Rosh Hashana services every year.

There are between 700-1,000 Jews living in Sarajevo today, a mix of Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews who together use the Ashkenazic synagogue called The Sarajevo Synagogue, as their place of prayer. Yet, much of the service is conducted in Ladino, the historic language of the Spanish Jews. It is the only full time functioning synagogue in the entire country today.

This Ashkenazic synagogue is known for possibly being the synagogue with the least amount of security in Europe, because they don't face much anti-semitism and the Jewish community feels very safe. The gate to the synagogue is unlocked, there are no security cameras or metal detectors, no police vehicles, and no one takes your name as you walk in.

#jewishsarajevo #jewishbosnia #elcortijo #courtyard #sephardicsynagogue #ashkenazisynagogue #bosniaandherzegovina #synagoguesoftheworld
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Home Blessing + Priestly Blessing + Floral Art = Perfection!
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If you are interested in this stunning design, please contact Anna directly.
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Photo: Courtesy of kozemjakin.anna_art
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#OrthodoxJudaism #ConservativeJudaism #ReformJudaism #JewishCommunity #Judaism #Judaica #JudaicaArt #Jewish #JewishArt #HebrewCalligraphy #Calligraphy #Hebrew #Watercolour #Watercolour #WatercolorArt #WatercolourArt #JewishBlessing #HebrewBlessing #JewishWallArt #JewishBosnia #JewishSarajevo #Sephardic #Ashkenazi #Hamsa #HamsaHand #HamsaArt #HamsaWallArt #HomeBlessing #PriestlyBlessing #FloralArt
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