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Sarajevo’s Jews Assist with Relief As Negotiators Push for Bosnian Peace

With U.N. negotiators feverishly working toward a peace settlement in Bosnia, the president of the Jewish community in Sarajevo recently attended an unoffical peace conference here.

In an interview, Ivica Ceresnjes described how he travels through Sarajevo in a car that has a sign with a menorah prominently displayed, enabling him to pass all checkpoints.

“We show the world that Jews are not always victime, but can also help those of other religions,” Ceresnjes said.

Ceresnjes said that some 520 Jews still live in the Bosnian capital, and an additional 300 live elsewhere in the former Yugoslav republic.

He said that the Jewish community in Sarajevo is getting assistance from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and from France, Holland and Belgium.

Funds donated to Sarajevo’s Jewish community are also being used to help non-Jews living there, Ceresnjes said.

For his humanitarian work, last month Ceresnjes was named to the French Legion of Honor, the highest honor the French bestow.

Ceresnjes described the situation in war-torn Sarajevo as ” frighteningly calm.”

While the shelling of the city has stopped, he said, every day at least one person is killed and five others wounded by sniper fire.

Ceresnjes said that food prices in Sarajevo have dropped, but that hunger is on the increase because people have no money and because humanitarian help has recently decreased by a third.

The conference he attended was held under the auspices of UNESCO and the Swiss canton of Geneva.

U.N. negotiators in Geneva are currently attempting to get Bosnia’s Serbs, Muslims and Croats to accept by July 19 a plan that will divide Bosnia along ethnic lines.

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