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BOSNIA:

Province of the Balkan peninsula, on the frontier of Austria and of Montenegro. Formerly under Turkish rule, it came under the protection of Austria by the Treaty of Berlin, 1878.

According to some historians, the first Jews settled in Bosnia in 1575; Don Joseph Nasi and his aunt, Dona Gracia, using their influence with the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to that effect. The inscriptions on some tombstones at Sarajevo, however, bear the Jewish date of 5311, or 1551 C.E.; hence Jews were living in Bosnia thirty-five years before the date mentioned above.

From a manuscript in the Mohammedan library at Sarajevo, written in Turkish, it is evident that thirty or forty Jews engaged in business at Bosna-Serai (the present Sarajevo) under the governor, Ḥadim-Ali-Bey, in the year 958 of the Hegira (1541 C.E.). These merchants entered the country without their families and lived in a sort of caravansary, the majority being natives of Salonica. During the great religious festivals they returned home. When their number increased, the governor, Ghazi-Hassan-Pasha, ordered them to settle definitely in that region or to leave the country. Fearing the fanaticism of the populace, they sought refuge at Ragusa and in Hungary, which latter was then a Turkish province. Thence they sent representatives to Bosnia, with letters to the governor, in order to collect their outstanding credits. In 1614, when the ex-grand vizier of Constantinople, Baltaji-Mehmed-Pasha, was appointed governor, he brought in his suite Naphtali Mandjor (Maggioro?), a rich Jewish banker of Constantinople. The latter successfully interceded for the return of the Jews. Thirty families returned immediately, but these lived scattered in various streets in Sarajevo.

After much trouble the Jews in 1645 obtained permission from the governor, Siavous Pasha (exgrand vizier), to reside in a special quarter, about 2,000 square meters in extent; and thereupon they erected houses. In the center of this quarter, which was named after the governor, a well was dug. Each Jew received a deed of ownership. A small annual tax of a few aspers (one asper=1/12 of a cent) was imposed upon them, to be paid to a neighboring mosque—a custom that still prevails. At the same time Suleiman the Magnificent granted them by firman the permission to establish a cemetery on a hill named Verbania, the Jews being also required to pay for this privilege a tax for the benefit of another mosque of the city. In this way the Jews definitely established themselves in Bosnia; and in time they settled in other localities besides Sarajevo.

In 1901, in a total population of 1,357,000, there were in the province about 7,500 Jews. Of these, 4,000 lived at Sarajevo, 250 at Bosna-Brod, a similar number at Mostar (Herzegovina), and the remainder in small communities. The Jews of Bosnia, to which those of Herzegovina must be added, have an official representative at Sarajevo. They have also an official organ, "La Alborada," written in Judæo-Spanish and in rabbinic characters, published at Sarajevo since 1901 under the direction of a committee of editors. See Mostar, Sarajevo, Turkey.

Bibliography:
  • Dezobry and Bachelet, Dict. Français d' Histoire et de Géographie;
  • La Alborada, May, 1901, Nos. 16, 17, 18, 20.
D. M. Fr.
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