Museum housing Sarajevo Haggadah to close


(JTA) – The museum keeping the centuries-old Sarajevo Haggadah is set to close due to a lack of funds.

Jakob Finci, the longtime leader of the Jewish community in Sarajevo, told JTA that Sarajevo’s 125-year-old National Museum will close Oct. 4 due to a  “lack of money, financing and support from the state.” He called the decision “tragic,” but said he did not fear for the Sarajevo Haggadah, which he said would be kept in a safe place.

The museum has owned the Haggadah, handwritten in Spain in the 14th century and brought to Sarajevo following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, since 1894.

During the Bosnian war in the 1990s, the lavishly illustrated 109-page book became a symbol of the shattered dream of multiethnic harmony in Bosnia.

When the war ended in 1995, the U.N. Mission, along with the Bosnian Jewish community, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Yad Hanadiv and Wolfenson Foundations facilitated a $150,000 project to restore the Haggadah and prepare a secure, climate-controlled room in which to put it on display. The room was opened with a ceremony in December 2002.

Finci told JTA that in recent years, the actual Haggadah was displayed only four days a year — the rest of the time a facsimile was shown.

The Bosnian central government no longer provides state funding for culture, and several other major cultural institutions also have been forced to close.

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