Community in Slovenia - World Jewish Congress

Slovenia

According to the estimates of Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola’s “World Jewish Population, 2016,” Slovenia is home at between 100 and 300 Jews, of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi descent. Slovenian Jewry is well organized and participates in numerous facets of Slovenian society, including political and cultural life. Since the year 2000, there has been a noticeable revival of Jewish culture in Slovenia with several public events organized by the Slovenian Jewish community and well-received by the general public. Moreover, there has recently been a growing public interest in the Jewish historical legacy in Slovenia. The Jewish community in Slovenia is represented by the Jewish Community of Slovenia (JCS) – the Slovenian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate

Jewish Community of Slovenia

Telephone: +386 (0) 31 376 468
Email: office@jewish-community.si  
Website: https://jewish-community.si/

President: Boris Čerin-Levi
Vice-President: Igor Vojtic



History

The history of Jews in Slovenia pre-dates the 6th century, with the first Jews arriving in present-day Slovenia in Roman times. A lasting Slovenian Jewish community did not take root until the 12th century, when Jews fleeing the violence of the crusades in central Europe and economic depression in western Europe immigrated to the area. Relations between the Slovenian Jewish community and local Christians were good, and Jews in Slovenia lived in relative peace for a couple of centuries.

In the 15th century, tensions between the Jewish community in Slovenia and the region’s aristocracy, evoked by a resentfulness of Jewish wealth, with the nobility generally refusing to pay back Jewish moneylenders and gradually expelling Jews from individual territories until the last Jews were expelled in 1718. The region was devoid of a Jewish presence until the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI allowed Jews to return to the region in 1809. However, his successor, Francis I almost immediately countered this decree in 1817.

It was not until the Austrian Constitution of 1867 that Jews were granted full civil and political rights, and even with this development, the Jewish population in Slovenia was practically desolate at the turn of the 20thcentury. Widespread and rampant antisemitism was a contributing factor to this demographic trend, and even with the formation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918 and the absorption of Slovenia’s Jewish community into the Zagreb Jewish community, the Slovenian Jewish community was tiny.

The 1930’s saw an increase in the Slovenian Jewish population, as an influx of Jewish immigrants fleeing Austria and Nazi Germany for the more tolerant Kingdom of Yugoslavia settled in Slovenia.

World War II and the Holocaust devastated Slovenia’s Jewish population, with only about 200 Slovenian Jews surviving. Many of them subsequently emigrated, and there was a large period of inactivity in the Slovenian Jewish community in the years following the war.

The eruption of tensions in Yugoslavia in 1991 saw many Jews caught in the crossfires of a civil war that gripped all five major republics. Widespread and rampant violence forced many Yugoslav Jews to leave their homes and saw the destruction of many Jewish landmarks.

The international recognition of Slovenia as an independent state in 1992 saw the resumption of normal life for Slovenian Jews. They immediately set about rebuilding a Jewish community center and reorganizing the community to be better connected throughout the country.  Such efforts have continued into the present, as Slovenian Jewry finds itself well organized with a strong presence in the country’s affairs. Lev Kreft served as the Vice President of Parliament in 1992 and Katja Boh, who was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II, served as the first Slovenian Ambassador from 1991 to 1997.

The years of the Holocaust

The Jewish community, very small even before World War II and the Shoah, was further reduced by the Nazis occupation between 1941 and 1945. The Jews in northern and eastern Slovenia (the Slovenian Styria, Upper Carniola, Slovenian Carinthia, and Posavje), which was annexed to the Third Reich, were deported to concentration camps as early as in the late spring of 1941. Very few survived. In Ljubljana and in Lower Carniola, which came under Italian occupation, the Jews were relatively safe until September 1943, when most of the zone was occupied by the Nazi German forces. In late 1943, most of them were deported to concentration camps, although some managed to escape, especially by fleeing to the zones freed by the partisan resistance.

The Jews of Prekmurje, where the majority of Slovenian Jewry lived prior to World War II, suffered the same fate as the Jews of Hungary. Following the German occupation of Hungary, almost the entire Jewish population of the Prekmurje region was deported to Auschwitz. Very few survived.

Demography

Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated that there were between 100 and 300 Jews in Slovenia as of 2003. Most Jews in Slovenia live in the capital of Ljubljana.

Community Life

The Jewish Cultural Center (JCC) in Ljubljana serves the social life of the city's Jews and international visitors by presenting innovative, entertaining, and educational topics through theater and puppet performances, concerts, lectures, Jewish holidays, and other social gatherings. In close partnership with Mini Theater, the JCC is the epicenter for critical events and festivals promoting tolerance, inclusion, history, and education from western Slovenia to northeastern Italy.
In terms of communal representative organizations, the Jewish Community of Slovenia serves as a religious umbrella organization for all Jews in Slovenia, officially recognized by the Slovenia government.

The Association Isserlein was founded in 2008 to promote the legacy of Jewish culture in Slovenia. It has organized several public events that have received positive responses from the media, such as the public lighting of the Chanukiah in Ljubljana in 2009.

Additionally, the European Days of Jewish Culture is an annual Europe-wide program supporting the preservation, appreciation and promotion of Jewish culture and Jewish heritage organized by The European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ). Since 2013, the JCC and Mini Theater have hosted this exciting event in the heart of Ljubljana.

Religious and Cultural life

Jewish religious identification experienced a revival in the aftermath of Slovenian independence in 1992 with the rebuilding of the Jewish Cultural Center in Ljubljana. Many Slovenian Jews began to reaffiliate themselves with other Slovenian Jews and take an active part in the country’s Jewish community. As a result, the Jewish community in Slovenia has prospered in the last couple of decades.

In 1999, the first Chief Rabbi for Slovenia was appointed since 1941. Before that, religious services were provided with help from the Jewish community of Zagreb. The present chief rabbi for Slovenia, Ariel Haddad, resides in Trieste. A synagogue was opened in Ljubljana in 2003.

Youth

The Jewish Community of Slovenia is affiliated with the European Union of Jewish Students, offering Jewish youth in Slovenia an opportunity to connect with other Jewish students in Europe.

Information for visitors

Slovenian Jewry has a deep and rich history, which is reflected in a diverse number of Jewish sites of interest in the country. There are historic cemeteries in many cities and towns, including Ljubljana and Lendava. The burial ground at Rozna Dolina (Nova Gorica) is preserved as a historic monument. In January 2012, to commemorate the life and death of several Jewish families in Maribor, Stolpersteine were installed in the streets of the city near the old Jewish Ghetto.

One of the oldest preserved synagogues in Central Europe, dating back to 1429, is in Maribor. In the second quarter of the 15th century, the synagogue was the seat of the rabbinate of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, but after the Jews were expelled from Maribor in 1496, the building was transformed into a Catholic church. From the end of the 18th century until the end of the 20th, the former synagogue was used as a warehouse and later as dwellings. Since April 2001, and after undergoing extensive renovations, it became the Maribor Synagogue Cultural Center, which is dedicated to the presentation of Jewish history, tradition and cultural heritage.

The JCC Museum in Ljubljana offers a detailed insight into Jewish life in Slovenia throughout the centuries. This includes numerous artifacts and a library. In 2008, the complex of the Jewish Cemetery in Rožna Dolina near Nova Gorica was restored due to the efforts of the local Democratic Party politicians, and pressure from the neighboring Jewish Community of Gorizia and the American Embassy in Slovenia. In January 2010, the first monument to the victims of the Shoah in Slovenia was unveiled in Murska Sobota.

Israel

Israel and Slovenia enjoy full diplomatic relations. Israel is represented by its ambassador in Vienna, and has a consulate in Ljubljana. Slovenia has an embassy in Tel Aviv.

Embassy of the State of Israel
Anton Frank Gasse 20 1180 Vienna
Austria

Telephone: (+) 43 1 476 46 542
Fax: (+) 43 1 476 46 564
Email: ambassador-slovenia-assistant@vienna.mfa.gov.il
            dcm-assist2@vienna.mfa.gov.il
            dcm-assist@vienna.mfa.gov.il

Consulate of the State of Israel
Dunajska cesta 7
Sl-1000 Ljubljana
Slovenia

Telephone: (+) 386 8205 43 20
Email: honorary@consulate-israel.si

Updated

August 2018

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