Sarajevo was always considered a center of Sephardic Jewry in theBalkans and it was only second in this respect to Salonica. It wasthe capital city of Bosnia. Some centuries ago, Bosnia was an independent state, and it was the Turkish armies that put an end to its independence, which it has only recently reclaimed. The first Jews seem to have already settled in Sarajevo in 1565 and both the local Muslims and the Turkish authorities welcomed their presence, as they did everywhere else in the Turkish Empire. Siavus Pasa, who was the local representative of the Sultan in Sarajevo, was sympathetic to the Jewish people and built them a special quarter in one of the districts of the town, making it possible for them to acquire good residences at fair prices. The Sephardic exiles first came to Sarajevo through Salonica. In 1818, the Austrians occupied Bosnia, and with the Austrian army came some Ashkenazi Jews. They founded the Ashkenazi community of Sarajevo, which had its own synagogue. (Today, this is the only remaining synagogue in which prayers are held every Shabbat in Sarajevo.) The Sarajevo community was able to develop very quickly because it had great spiritual leaders. Among them were Rabbi Shemuel ben Barulch of the seventeenth century and also Haham Zvi Ashkenazi, a Hungarian Jew who had been educated in Salonica and adopted the name of Haham instead of Rabbi. Other famous rabbis were David Pardo, born in 1719, and Moshe Danon, a nineteenth century figure whose name is connected with the Meggila of Sarajevo. Rabbi Eliezer Papo, author of the Pde Yoets, lived and taught in Sarajevo, and among his students was Rabbi Yehuda Alcalay, famous for his endeavors on behalf of a Jewish settlement in Palestine. Many call him the predecessor of Theodore Herzl, and some claim that Herzl was indirectly influenced by him This paper was originally presented as a lecture at Congregation Shearith Israel in 1984.
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