WJC stands with Bulgarian Jewish community in condemning desecration of cemetery in Shoumen

17 Jan 2020

The World Jewish Congress stands with our affiliate, the Organization of Jews in Bulgaria (Shalom), in condemning the desecration of Jewish tombstones in the county’s northeastern town of Shoumen. 

The Jewish community has engaged in dialogue about the incident with the Regional Prosecutor’s Office and is calling for the proper institutions to “find the perpetrators and ensure that such actions will not be repeated.” The incident is the latest desecration of the Shoumen cemetery. In 2008, perpetrators vandalized the cemetery and were forced to attend court-mandated educational training against antisemitism, according to The Sofia Globe.

In January of 2019, unidentified assailants threw stones at the Great Prayer Hall of the Central Synagogue in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, according to The Jerusalem Post. The incident came after several other incidents including the vandalizing of a monument meant to memorialize those who fell victim to the ruling Communist regime in Bulgaria during World War II with swastikas.

Despite the string of antisemitic incidents, there have been signs of optimism for the Jewish community in Bulgaria. Last March, in response to the annual neo-Nazi Lukov March, the World Jewish Congress and the Organization of Jews in Bulgaria-Shalom organized the March of Tolerance. WJC President Ronald Lauder, and several Bulgarian officials, including Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva, and Speaker of Parliament Tsveta Karayancheva, as well as ambassadors from the United States, Israel, Germany, and the United Kingdom led the march. President Lauder thanked the Bulgarian community for coming to rally and said that the world should follow Bulgaria’s model of standing up to hatred. Following the march, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev awarded Lauder with the Stara Planina Order 1st Degree, the highest honor given to non-Bulgarian citizens.  

In September, President Lauder joined the Bulgarian community to inaugurate the country’s first Jewish school in decades. The school, which is sponsored by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, will initially serve 88 children in early elementary school and will later be open to students through 12th grade.