Sarajevo, by Resad Gogalija

On occasion of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Jewish expulsion from Spain The Archives of Bosina-Herzegovina in cooperation with The Jewish Community in Sarajevo prepared and published recently the book of archives documents - REGESTA: "The Jewish cultural and other societies in Bosnia-Herzegovina 1885 - 1945". It was done by an expert and experienced person Mr. Samija Saric, councellor in the Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The REGESTA of wich the documents are dispersed in different collections of The Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina represents a truthworthy review of the social and public life of Jews of that time Sarajevo. The contents show, also, the history of this suffering, but full of pride and admiration worth, people.

For the first time, we have got in front of us a thorough work on documents disclosing the past but enlights the influence of one of the people in the complex diversity under the single name of Bosnia-Herzegovina, said Mr. Ivica Ceresnjes, architect in his review. The Jews have been centuries long in this country, never aside from the events, which have been developping the cultural, socio-political and historical image of Bodnia-Herzegovina. They have, always, been active participants and have given a real contribution, disproportioned to the small number of the members of our Community, he added.

The first traces of the Jewish Community existance in Bosnia-Herzegovina originate from the middle of the 16th century. Probably, there were Jews in this country even earlier. The three sheriats (Moslem Law) dating from the year 1565 prove the existance of the Jewish refugees from Spain, who settled down in Sarajevo.

The civil, legal and social position of Jews in Bosnia was not regulated until the sultan Abdul Medzid's Berat (Decree) in the year 1840, when the supreme rabbi was appointed in Bosnia. According the Decree the Jews were alowed to have sinagogues and schools in Bosnia.

During the Austro-Hungarian occupation the Jews in the civil rights were equel to all other ethnic communities. After the Annexation of Bosnia, in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian parliament constituded then, the Jews had their deputy, while some of them had high positions in the state administration.

Soon after theeir settling down, the Jews founded their separate forms of social organizations - Jewish communities and different societies.

Both communities, the Sephardic consisting of the South European Jews, namely the descendants of the refugees from Spain and Portugal by the end of the 16th century and the ashkenazic of the North and Middle European Jews were well organized. Their activity was expressed by a great deal of cultural, humanitarian and other societies, some of them, like La Benevolencia, La Humanidad, La Lira, La Gloria, Ahdus and so on were playing a very important part in the Jewish life in Sarajevo and some other places in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Prior to the World War 1, the Jews, both the Sephardim an Ashkenazim established some more societies, joint, the Zionist society Bene Zion, Youth society Juda Makabi, Sport society Ber Kohba, etc.

The total number based on the archives documents of The Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina was 70-75 being just a part of the societies, which the author of this publication found during her research work. Probably the number of the societies should have been much brigger if the archival collections from the time between the two world wars were preserved.

Generally speaking of the Jewish societies which came to existance in this country the essential charasteristic is: support, humanism, pious work, later, aducation and culture. The majority were the religious and wellfare societies, which mainly did the wellfare and humanitarian function, helping their believers, but some of them established and supported schools, elementaries. The Jewish Sephardic burial, pious and for patients society Hevra Kadisa, as pointed out in the publication, is one of the oldest societies of Jews in this country.

The oldest document found in The Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina dates from the year 1885 is related to the work of creating the statute of the menagement of this society.

La Benevolencia is the first cultural-educational society consisting of the native people, established by Jews in the year 1892 in Sarajevo. It was established like a wellfare society to organize the aid for the poor people and later for education of youth and the raising of the cultural level of the Jewish people.

In the year 1894 the Spanish Israelian singing society La Lira was established in order to cherish the secular and religious songs. In the same year the Women wellfare Society La Humanidad came to existance, while twelfe years later, 1906, the support and tambouritza society La Gloria. The society cherished the tradition of life in Spain, the old romances and other Spanish songs.

In the coming years there came to existance a series of other, almost supporting and humanitarian societies, then followed the cultural, youth gymnastic and other societies as: Society for sick people Kanfe jona, cultural society Or Hadas, (New Light), Sephardic Israelian religious society Degel Atora, humanitarian society Ahdus (Unity), Spanish religious society Bet Tefila, a society of supporting Jewish orphans Ezrat Jetomim, supporting society Ezrat Becaret and many others. The majority of societies were in Sarajevo, but in other places in Bosnia-Herzegovina were established as well.

About 13.000 Jews, who had lives in Sarajevo prior to the World War 2, survived less than 3.000 on the entire aerea of Bosnia-Herzegovina. A part of them left for Israel in the year 1948 or later.

Prior to the War, 1992, 1.000 old Jews lived in Sarajevo. All of them were gathering in The Jewish Community in Sarajevo, they performed all their political and social duties, that had been done before by the numerous Jewish social organizations.

La Benevolencia, restored close to the war, 1992, short of forces, undertook a very difficult, but at the same time a human task, to be shown particularly during the war. First of all this society is engaged to help people, poor people and the sick ones, thos who need a help.

The publishing of The REGESTA with all the data of the Jewish societies is a valuable document because of the fact, that none of the archives of the Jewish societies are preserved. Because of this reason the publication presents a part of a rich activity of the Jewish social life in Sarajevo and other places in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And for many interested people it is an information for the further research in the archives of our country.


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- Copyright © 1997 Moïse Rahmani <> -