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Bulgarian Jewish Community Population Dwindling Because They Are Free to Emigrate

The Bulgarian Jewish community which numbered 7,000 ten years ago has dwindled to 5,000 and will probably stay at that figure since Jews are free to emigrate and all those who wanted to leave have already done so, according to Itzhak Mosskuna, the 67-year-old president of the Jewish community in Sofia. Mosskuna discussed the stagnation of Jewish life in that Balkan Communist country in a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Copenhagen correspondent who visited Sofia last week. He said that some 3,000 Jews live in the capital but no more than 200 attended services on Rosh Hashanah.

Bulgaria’s chief rabbi died eight years ago and has not been replaced. Most Bulgarian Jews have no organized links either with Judaism or with Israel, said Mosskuna who has two brothers in Israel and is a distant relative of the Israeli Minister of Health. Victor Shemtov. He told the JTA that the salaries of Jewish communal functionaries are paid by the State which also pays for the upkeep of the synagogue and for publication of a bi-weekly Jewish community bulletin in Bulgarian with an English supplement.

The functionaries include Mosskuna, a cantor and the community’s secretary. A year book is published which deals with community affairs and Bulgarian national problems. The JTA correspondent found the Central Synagogue at No. I Washington St, in the heart of Sofia in a state of near decay. The roof is leaking and the walls are badly in need of painting. The roof is being repaired at government expense, according to Mosskuna. The Jewish community’s lack of interest in Jewish matters was symbolized he said by the fact that only one or two minyanim (quorums for worship) were held daily in the small synagogue annex.

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