History of the Jews in Serbia – Wikipedia, the free …

Posted By on August 9, 2015

The history of Jewish community of Serbia goes back about two thousand years. Jews first arrived in what is now Serbia in Roman times. The Jewish communities of the Balkans remained small until the late 15th century, when Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions found refuge in Ottoman-ruled areas, including Serbia. Jewish communities flourished in the Balkans until the turmoil of World War I. The surviving communities, including that of Serbia, were almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust during World War II.

Jews first arrived on the territory of present-day Serbia in Roman times, although there is little documentation prior to the 10th century.

The Jewish communities of the Balkans were boosted in the 15th and 16th centuries by the arrival of Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire welcomed the Jewish refugees into his Empire. Jews became involved in trade between the various provinces in the Ottoman Empire, becoming especially important in the salt trade.[3]

Many Jews were involved in the struggle of Serbs for independence from the Ottoman Empire, by supplying arms to the local Serbs, and the Jewish communities faced brutal reprisal attacks from the Ottoman Turks.[3] The independence struggle lasted until 1830, when Serbia gained its independence.

The new Serbian government was not friendly toward the Jewish community, and by 1831 there were prohibitions against Jews entering some professions. The situation for the Jews briefly improved under the rule of Prince Mihailo Obrenovi III (18391842), but anti-Jewish provisions were reinstated under Prince Alexander Karaorevi (18421858).[citation needed]

With the reclamation of the Serbian throne by the Royal House of Obrenovi under Milo Obrenovi in 1858, restrictions on Jewish merchants were again relaxed, but three years later, in 1861 Mihailo III inherited the throne and reinstated anti-Jewish restrictions.[3] In 1877 a Jewish candidate was elected to the National Assembly for the first time, after receiving the backing of all parties.[4][5]

The waxing and waning of the fortunes of the Jewish community according to the ruler continued to the end of the 19th century, when the Serbian parliament lifted all anti-Jewish restrictions in 1889.[3]

In 1879, the "Serbian-Jewish Singer Society" was founded in Belgrade as a part of the Serbian-Jewish friendship. Renamed "Baruch Brothers Choir" in 1950, it is one of the oldest Jewish choirs in the world still in existence.[6] By 1912, the Jewish community of Kingdom of Serbia stood at 5,000.[3] Serbian-Jewish relations reached a high degree of cooperation during World War I, when Jews and Serbs fought side by side against the Central Powers.[7]

While the rest of Serbia was still ruled by the Ottoman Empire, territory of present-day Vojvodina was part of the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1782, Emperor Joseph II issued the Edict of Tolerance, giving Jews some measure of religious freedom. The Edict attracted Jews to many parts of the Monarchy. The Jewish communities of Vojvodina flourished, and by the end of the 19th century the region had nearly 40 Jewish communities.[8]

In the aftermath of World War I, Montenegro, Banat, Baka, Syrmia, and Baranja joined Serbia through popular vote in those regions, and this Greater Serbia then united with State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (from which Syrmia had seceded to join Serbia) to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which was soon renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Serbia's relatively small Jewish community of 13,000 (including 500 in Kosovo),[9] combined with the large Jewish communities of the other Yugoslav territories, numbering some 51,700. In the inter-war years (19191939), the Jewish communities of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia flourished.

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