Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Shalom, Croatia: A Jewish Culture Guide

There has been a Jewish presence in what is present-day Croatia since the first centuries of the Common Era

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: April 1st, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

Shalom, Croatia: A Jewish Culture Guide

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Croatia

There has been a Jewish presence in what is present-day Croatia since the first centuries of the Common Era. Archeological excavations have found remains of a Jewish cemetery near Split, and a synagogue in Osijek, both dating to the 3rd century C.E. It is presumed Jews arrived with the Roman legions, in their quest to expand the empire. By the 10th century, Jewish communities had been well established throughout the region. During the 1200 and 1300’s, communities throughout Croatia (especially in Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik) flourished, enjoying economic prosperity, self-governance, and amicable relations with non-Jews.

Unfortunately, in 1456 everything changed. For the previous 150 years or so, Jews had immigrated to the region being drawn to the opportunities it presented. Ergo, the Jewish population in Croatia increased steadily. By 1456, Jews and most non-Catholic Croats were expelled from the region, not to return until the 18th century. It wasn’t until Emperor Joseph II issued his 1782 Edict of Tolerance, that Jews were permitted to settle once again in Croatia. Despite this new law, the Jewish population still faced a numerous restrictions, and didn’t gain full legal equality until 1873. By the turn of the 20th century, the Jewish population had increased to over 20,000, with 21 communities being established throughout the country. After World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Croatia joined other nations to become part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

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