Sarajevo Project for Jewish Day School Communities

The Bosnian-Serb siege of Sarajevo, from spring 1993 until winter 1996, was the longest in modern history. With electricity, water and food supplies cut off and only sporadically supplied, with 11,541 citizens shot by snipers or killed by mortars, Sarajevans had to depend on each other.

In a faded, turn-of-the-century synagogue, a group of Holocaust survivors and their offspring created La Benevolencija, the Jewish humanitarian aid agency. Who worked there? Jews and Muslims, Serbian Orthodox and Catholic Croats--all those who never believed one ethnic group was superior to another.

After all, Jews had lived alongside all their neighbors since they were welcomed in Sarajevo in the 16th century.

This story of how they paid their neighbors back provides an opportunity for your community to discuss the nature of community and Jewish values exemplified in the holiness code in Leviticas 19, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.”

Middle or high school students will study the story, explore issues surrounding community, as well as Jewish values found in the story, and with this background become exhibit docents for a community evening at the exhibit for your school or religious community. Part of their preparation will include creating QR codes that their parents and siblings will scan as they walk through the exhibit – connecting them to Ladino songs or short definitions that will enhance their understanding of the story.

These pages describe the project leading up to and including the community evening.  The lessons are designed for 60 minute classes, but they are adaptable for shorter classes.