Community in Albania - World Jewish Congress
Albania

Between 40 and 50 Jews live in Albania out of an overall population of 2.76 million in 2023. The World Jewish Congress affiliate is the Albanian Jewish Community.

WJC Affiliate
Albanian Jewish Community

Tel: +355 69 20 78 790
Email: info@ajc.alalbaniajewishcommunity@gmail.com

President of the community: Amos Dojaka
History

According to one Albania historian, Jews first arrived in Albania as early as the year 70 of the Common Era. Jewish communities were established in Albania by refugees from Spain, Portugal and Sicily at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th. Some settled along the coast, especially in the port city of Durres (Durazzo), but most Jews made their homes in Berat, in central Albania.

The Albanian struggle for independence in 1911 and 1912 saw Albanian Jews accused of collaborating with Turkish authorities against the nationalist uprising, even though for the most part Jewish sympathies lay with the nationalists. The 1930 census recorded 204 Jews in the country, mainly in Tirana and Vlore (Valora). In 1937, the Jewish community was granted official recognition by the Albanian government.

Until the collapse of Communism in 1990, the community was completely cut off from the Jewish world. All religions had been strictly outlawed, and consequently, there was no Jewish communal life. In 1991, nearly the entire Jewish community, numbering some 300 people, was airlifted to Israel.

The years of Holocaust

In 1939, a small number of German and Austrian Jewish refugees seeking refuge from Nazi persecution found sanctuary in the country and were later joined by Jews fleeing Croatia and Serbia. Before World War II, approximately 600 Jews were living in Albania, most of them refugees from Nazi persecution.

Albania was occupied by Italy in April of 1939, and the Italian authorities tended not to enforce the anti-Jewish racial laws. Many Albanians helped and protected their country’s Jews during the Holocaust years, although after Germany seized the country from Italy in 1943, substantial numbers of Albanian Jews were imprisoned, and some 600 were sent to various Nazi concentration camps. Only around 100 of the 600 Albanian Jews who were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp survived. 

The Albanian population, as well as the Italian forces occupying the country from 1939, was, for the most part, sympathetic to the Jews. As a result, nearly the entire Jewish community survived intact and there were 2,000 Jews in Albania, making it the only Nazi-occupied territory and the only country occupied by the Axis powers, whose Jewish population increased during the Holocaust.

Demography

The religious affiliation of the population is 56.7% Muslims, 13.79% undeclared, 10.03% Catholics, 6.75% Orthodox believers, 5.49% other, 2.5% Atheists, 2.09% Bektashis and 0.14% other Christians.  The Jewish population of Albania is estimated to be in the range of 40 to 50 people.

Religious, Community and Cultural life

With the departure of almost the entire Jewish community, there is virtually no organized Jewish life in Albania today. Most of the few remaining Jews live in the capital, Tirana. A Greek based Chabad rabbi operates the Hechal Shlomo Synagogue in Tirana.

Relations with Israel

Albania recognized Israel as the Jewish State in 1945. Israel and Albania have maintained diplomatic relations since 1991 and there is an Israeli embassy in Tirana. In 2020, Albania became the first Muslim-majority country to formally adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism and commitment to fight anti-Jewish prejudice.

Israeli Embassy
Rruga Abdyl Frasheri EGT Tower
14th floor
Tirana, Albania

Tel: +355 44 508 502
Fax: +355 44 508 532
Email: info@tirana.mfa.gov.il

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