The story of how an old synagogue in the Bosnian war zone became a beacon of hope for everyone. During the Bosnian war (1992-1995), the Jewish community of Sarajevo refused to take sides, opened their own humanitarian aid agency inside the city's synagogue, and were soon joined by their Muslim, Croat and Serbian friends. While outside of the besieged Bosnian capital, nationalist politicians swore these ethnic groups could not get along, here's a group of people who never got the memo. In this European war, Jews were not the victims. In this war, Jews were saving Muslims and Christians. An inspiring story of friendship and commitment.
BREAKUP OF YUGOSLAVIA
During the 1990s, a series of conflicts and political upheavals resulted in the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or simply Yugoslavia. The country was first formed as a kingdom in 1918 and then reorganized as a communist state under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito after World War II.
JEWS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The history of Jews in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be traced back more than 500 years, when, in the late 15th century, many Sephardic Jews arrived after their expulsion from Spain as stipulated by the Expulsion Decree from King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile.
Today, Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and has about 300,000 inhabitants.
La Benevolencija was established in Sarajevo in 1892. This Jewish cultural, educational and humanitarian society gained international attention for the nonsectarian humanitarian aid that it provided for the people of Sarajevo during the infamous siege of 1992-1995. Here you can find more information about Bohoreta, the women’s club of La Benevolencija.
A Sephardic Jew is a Jew descended from, or who follows the customs and traditions of, Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) before their expulsion in the late 15th century. The are referred to as Sephardim, as “Sepharad” means Spain in Hebrew. For religious purposes, the term Sephardim also means all Jews who use a Sephardic style of liturgy and therefore includes most Jews of Middle Eastern background, whether or not they have any historical connection to the Iberian Peninsula.
After the First World War, Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the newly founded "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes", which stretched from the Western Balkans to Central Europe. This territory was ethnically very diverse.