The Situation of Yugoslav Jewry

The tiny Jewish community of Yugoslavia enjoys religious and cultural freedom and its 6,000 members are free to leave the country and emigrate to Israel. But the Jews of Yugoslavia are challenged by a growing rate of intermarriage and lack of interest on the part of the young generation in Judaism.

This assessment of the current state of Yugoslavian Jewry was given by Dr. Lavoslav Kadelburg, president of the Jewish community, at a meeting of members of the World Jewish Congress here last Thursday.

According to Kadelburg, the central body of Yugoslav Jewry is the Federation of Jewish Communities, an umbrella organization of the 33 Jewish communities in Yugoslavia, Kadelburg said that the Federation provides for all religious and cultural needs of the communities.

“We have very good ties with world Jewry,” Kadelburg said, noting that there are special ties with the Organization of Yugoslavian Jews in Israel. He said there are about 11,000 Yugoslavian Jews living in Israel today. The number of Jews in Yugoslavia before World War II was about 80,000, he said, noting that some 80 percent of them perished in the Holocaust. Another Jewish community with very close ties to the Yugoslavian Jewish community is Hungarian Jewry, Kadelburg said.

Kadelburg said that his community is sending every year groups of young people to seminars in Israel. Some of the groups stay in kibbutzim established by Yugoslavian Jews, he said. Every year the Jewish community of Yugoslavia holds summer camps for its youth, with emphasis on Jewish culture and tradition. Israeli emissaries take part in these camps as “madrichim” (youth guides), Kadelburg said.

Despite the fact that Yugoslavia has had no diplomatic ties with Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War, “there is sympathy” among the Yugoslavian people toward Israel because they are seen as “freedom fighters,” Kadelburg asserted.

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