Sephardi Jews established a community in Sarajevo as early as the second half of the 16th century. They were later joined by the Ashkenazi Jews from Central Europe. A special Jewish quarter was established in the second half of the 16th century and Jews resided there until the Austrian conquest in 1878. A succession of Ottoman laws in the 19th century emancipated the Jews of Turkey and the various territories under its rule, including B&H. After World War I, Bosnia and Herzegovina became a constituent part of Yugoslavia, the Jewish Community joined the all-Yugoslav Federation of Jewish Religious Communities. For the most part, Bosnian Jewry retained its unique Sephardi customs along with the Ladino language.
On the eve of the Shoah, the Jewish population numbered some 14.000. In 1941 Bosnia was incorporated into the Croat state. When the Germans entered Sarajevo they destroyed the Sephardi synagogue. Bosnian Jewry was decimated by a combination of German and Ustashe (Croat Fascist).
After the War, the Jewish community was reconstituted, and many of the survivors returned.
In the early 1990’s, before the Aggression on B&H, the Jewish population of Bosnia and Herzegovina was over 2,000 and relations between Jews and their Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim neighbors were very good.
Today, there are an estimated 1,000 Jews living in B&H. They enjoy excellent relations with their non-Jewish neighbors and with the Bosnian government, as it was throughout history.
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