Comunita Israelitica

  • Jewish Community Split
  • Židovska općina Split

History

A former temple for the Split community, it holds a few of the relevant archival holdings relevant for the Split Jewish community. According to some sources it is the third oldest synagogue in Europe, after the one in Prague, and Dubrovnik.

Geographical and Cultural Context

Split developed within the great palace of the third-century Roman emperor Diocletian, which was located not far from the Roman town of Salona, Diocletian’s birthplace. Salona was destroyed by Avar invaders in the early seventh century, and the Jews of Salona are presumed to have sought refuge in the neighboring palace, forming a focus for settlement that survives to this day. The old Jewish quarter occupies the northwestern part of the former palace and is still known as the ghetto. Archeologists have also found inscribed menorot on the limestone blocks of the basement walls of the southwest part of the former palace.

Salona (now a suburb of Split called Solin, where there is an archeological park) was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia and one of the most important commercial seaports on the Adriatic. Archaeological finds dating to the second and third centuries CE suggest a well-established Jewish community. Traces of a third-century Jewish cemetery were excavated, and finds included several objects decorated with menorahs, including a pendant, ceramic oil lamps, a fragment of a sarcophagus and the tombstone of a Syrian Jew named Malhos. These are now in the Split Archaeological Museum.

The Split Jewish community web site includes information and pictures about the history of Jews in Dalmatia, the Split synagogue (originally built in the 16th century, renovated many times, with current appearance dating to about 1728) and the Old Jewish cemetery established in 1573 on Marjan Hill above the city.

The synagogue is in a residential building (Zidovski Prilaz 1) in the northwestern corner of the former palace. In 1942 Italian fascists ravaged the tiny sanctuary, throwing most of the ritual objects, archives, Torah scrolls, and books onto a bonfire in the main town square. The synagogue was restored after World War II and again renovated and reopened in 1996. It now shares a building with the Jewish community headquarters. The sanctuary is in a rectangular room with arched windows. The stone Ark is flanked by columns set under a decorative arch.

The oldest remaining gravestone in the Old Cemetery dates from 1717. The rectangular plot includes some 700 tombstones from the 18th to 20th centuries; it remained in use until World War II. The tombstones are of the horizontal Sephardi type; some are shaped like a sarcophagus roof, and the others are flat, slightly inclined slabs. The tombstones have inscriptions in Hebrew, with additional epitaphs in Italian or Croatian on the newer monuments. The cemetery is surrounded by a gated wall. The entrance is beside a house that once functioned as a mikveh, and is now a café. The new Jewish cemetery is a section of the Lovrinac municipal cemetery, where there is also a Holocaust memorial.

In the 16th century, Jews were organized in the association "Universita degli Ebre" (1533), sometimes referred to as the "Scuola degli Ebre," "Societa di Spalato Ebraica" and "Comunità Israelitica di Spalato". They had the General Assembly or Kahal Gadol, with the chief (7 'capo' or Gastaldi) that formed Vaada Cato (Council), which represented the community (procurators). They were charitable societies, religious school, etc. In the XIX century, Jews have a number of charitable funds ("Babait," "Reba Meir", "Eretz Jisrael", "Horim," "The Maori" and so on). 1817 saw the establishment of the Jewish secular school as well as a religious school Talmud Torah. Rabbi Jacob Mussafia wrote "Talmudic dictionary," and his son Abraham Adolfo Mussafia was one of the more famous European philologists of the time (he lived in Vienna). During the mediaeval times, more liberal rules on dressing were applied to Jews, while in other countries they were forced to wear special yellow caps, or other signs of recognition. Split did not implement measures of separate life in the ghetto, which is why in 1638 the count Pietro Basadonna complains to the Venetian government that "Jews are scattered throughout the city and have the nicest and most comfortable flats. Their children are mixed regularly with Christian and go with them at public squares and sacred places, and nobody cares which of them are Christians, and which Jews".

In 1940 there were 284 Jews in Split, around 150 survived the Holocaust.
Jews were killed in Split after the capitulation of Italy: according to some sources, 22 children, 52 men and 47 women - were taken in 1943 to the Banjica camp, then 11/03/1943 to the Jasenovac camp. Jews of Split significantly participated in the Anti-Fascist uprising, 29 of them fallen as resistance soldiers. Split was shelter to a large numbers of refugees from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, and then after the strengthening of the NDH, many were able to escape to the so-called Italian Zone. It is assumed that in Split at one point were 3,000 refugees, who were aided with the help of Dellasema (Italy). Children from Split were evacuated to Nonantola, and then onto Palestine.

Sources

  • YV