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The Coming of the Jews

Look carefully in Sarajevo and sometimes you can see a reminder of its Jewish past. These are the doors to a dentist's surgery Zelenih beretki street in Bascarsija. When closed you can see that they say, in Italian, from where some Bosnian Sephardi families came from:

In 1992, soon after the beginning of the siege of Sarajevo, a long planned conference began in the city celebrating 500 years since the first Jews, expelled from Spain began to arrive in Bosnia.

Jews were already living in Sarajevo as early as 1565, adding a fourth religious group to the city's already diverse population of Muslims, Orthodox, and Catholics. Expelled from Spain by the religiously intolerant monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, many Sephardim subsequently made their way to the more hospitable Ottoman Empire and took up residence in its cities. Speaking Ladino, a language closely related to Spanish, Sephardim established a Jewish mahala with a small synagogue in 1580-1. But unlike the Catholics and Orthodox, the Separdim established residences outside the Jewish mahala as well. The first Ashkenazim arrived from Buda over a century later, after the Ottomans had lost much of their Hungarian territory. Most Ashkenazim spoke German or Hungarian as a first language. After their arrival the Ashkenazim and Sephardim existed as distinct communities, each with its own house of worship and preferred language. The number of Ashkenazim remained relatively small until the onset of Austro-Hungarian rule in 1878.


Sarajevo: A Biography. 2005. Robert Donia [C. Hurst & Co]

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