A young rabbi, Eliyahu Marciano, now studying in Israel, is being sent by the Joint Distribution Committee to Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, to conduct the Passover seders, it was reported this week by Edward Ginsberg, JDC chairman. “The major difficulty in keeping Jewish tradition alive in Yugoslavia is the almost total absence of religious leaders,” Ginsberg said. “One of the most tragic consequences of the holocaust was the virtual destruction of an entire generation of communal and religious leaders.”
Almost 60,000 of Yugoslavia’s pre-war Jewish population of about 75,000 perished in the concentration camps, Ginsberg said. About half of the survivors emigrated to Israel, leaving a remnant of about 7000 Jews. Most of the few religious leaders who survived emigrated to Israel. There has been no rabbi in Yugoslavia since the death of Rabbi Menahem Romano in 1968.
In 1970, in response to a request by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia, JDC sent a young graduate from one of its subsidized yeshivoth in Israel to Sarajevo to conduct High Holy Day services, Ginsberg said. Last year three young rabbis were sent to conduct community seders in the three largest Yugoslav communities.
Rabbi Marciano, who is studying at Mach on Harry Fischel under a JDC scholarship, was born in Morocco, lived in Algiers, and studied in France and England before emigrating to Israel, Ginsberg said. Arrangements have been made by the JDC Geneva office to ship kosher Passover food to Sarajevo for the seders, he said. The costs of the project are being shared by JDC and the Rothschild Foundation.