Dubrovnik Synagogue Damaged in Continued Shelling of City

The medieval synagogue in Dubrovnik reportedly sustained war damage of unknown severity as the Serbian-led Yugoslav federal army continued to lay siege this week to the historic Croatian resort city on the Adriatic Sea.

Jewish community officials, telephoning from the Croatian capital of Zagreb, said they could not immediately confirm the extent of damage or the report itself, broadcast by Zagreb radio and television, because there are no direct communications with Dubrovnik.

Both the synagogue, said to date from the 14th century, and the historic Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Dubrovnik, were damaged in the fighting earlier this month. Both rank among Europe’s major Jewish monuments.

Shells or grenades hit the building next door to the synagogue two weeks ago, shattering windows in the sanctuary and the Jewish community headquarters.

They also aggravated damage suffered by the building in a major earthquake in 1979. Last week, Zagreb television showed films of shell damage to the Jewish cemetery, which lies just outside Dubrovnik.

The city, often compared to the French Riviera and left unscathed by both sides in World War II, is regarded as one of Europe’s architectural gems. The fierce fighting in and around it has spurred Europe into its most vigorous efforts to end the Yugoslav civil war.

The European Community has been trying to mediate the conflict since it began when Croatia declared its independence on June 25. Twelve cease-fires have been negotiated so far but have failed to hold, and at least 2,000 people have been killed.

WJC PEACE INITIATIVE LAUNCHED

The World Jewish Congress, meanwhile, has taken an initiative aimed at ending the war.

The WJC said Wednesday that leaders of Yugoslavia’s warring republics have agreed to attend a peace conference sponsored by a group of Christian, Jewish and Moslem leaders organized by the WJC.

It will probably be held in Paris but no date has been set, according to Elan Steinberg, executive director of the WJC in New York.

He said the conference was proposed this week by an interdenominational delegation that met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia in Zagreb.

The heads of the Orthodox Church in Serbia and the Catholic Church in Croatia have agreed to attend the conference.

The Dubrovnik synagogue, which remains an active house of worship and contains a museum, is the oldest preserved synagogue in Yugoslavia and one of only a handful of medieval synagogues still standing in Europe.

It is located in the center of Dubrovnik’s historic Old Town on a narrow alley of steeply rising steps called Zudioska Ulica (Jew Street). At either end is a gate dating from the 16th century, when Jews were locked in the ghetto every night.

The synagogue’s present appearance dates from about 1652. It includes a rich baroque interior and a very ornate Ark.

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