Separatist Upheval in Yugoslavia Not Threatening Jewish Community

Yugoslavia’s Jewish population has so far not been affected by the week-old separatist fighting between the Slovenian republic and the Yugoslav army, according to reports from Jewish organizations monitoring the region.

The majority of the country’s estimated 6,500 Jews are located in Zagreb, Belgrade and Sarajevo. Until Tuesday, Jews were far from the conflict that is intermittently raging in Slovenia.

But on Tuesday, Yugoslav troops fired into a crowd in Zagreb, the Croatian capital.

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said that there was currently no reason to believe Jews might be picked out as targets.

The main danger is that they could be caught in one of the armed melees that have started breaking out in and around Zagreb.

“Our people have been in touch with European Community authorities. in the event that they need their assistance, should some kind of threat to Jews develop,” added Steinberg.

Although an estimated 30 Jewish families live in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, there have been no reports of anti-Semitic outbreaks, according to the Paris-based European Jewish Congress.

Apparently three families have left for Israel, but there are no signs that a mass and sudden exodus is about to begin, reported the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which is also monitoring events.

Even before the conflict had spread to Zagreb, the newly elected president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia reported that the military situation there was worsening and the airport had been closed.

JEWS CAREFUL NOT TO GET INVOLVED

“Actually, despite pressure from Slovene and Croatian elements, the Jews have been extremely cautious not to become involved in the conflict,” said David Albahari, who was just chosen to replace longtime President Lavoslav Kadelburg.

Both the Croatian and Slovenian parliaments last week issued declarations of independence. Although the central government denounced the moves as illegal, army units have so far only been sent to Slovenia. A cease-fire negotiated last weekend has reportedly been broken by Slovenian militia harassment of Yugoslav army units.

Croatia and Slovenia, the two most northern republics and the wealthiest regions in Yugoslavia, are run by strongly nationalist leaders who were elected following the demise of Soviet hegemony in the region.

The leadership has run into difficulties with Serbia, the largest republic and the one most strongly opposed to the independence movements. Yugoslavia, with six republics and two autonomous provinces, has a population of about 24 million.

Yugoslavia was once home to 80,000 Jews, 80 percent of whom were killed in the Holocaust. Although the remaining community is small, it is a fairly vibrant one, with a summer camp for children, an old-age home and close ties to international Jewish organizations.

Miriam Feldman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Distribution Committee, said the community is considered stable and “really has been strengthening its communal life.”

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