BULGARIA, East Balkan republic located along the Black Sea.
A Jewish settlement is known to have existed in Macedonia in the time of Caligula (37–41 C.E.; Philo, Embassy to Gaius, par. 281). A late-second century Latin inscription found at the
Byzantine and Bulgar Rule
When the Byzantine emperor Leo III (718–41) persecuted the Jews, a number of them may have fled to Bulgaria. There, during the reign of the Bulgar czar Boris I (852–89), the Jews are said to have tried to exploit the religious unrest among the Bulgars, then heathens, by converting them to Judaism, but Christian emissaries were more successful. The faith of the early Bulgarian Christians was, however, a syncretistic mixture of Christian, Jewish, and pagan beliefs. A curious insight of the contemporary religious situation is afforded by the 106 questions submitted by Bulgarian representatives to Pope Nicholas I (858–67). Among the questions on which guidance was requested were the proper regulations for offering the first fruits; the law concerning amulets; which day is the day of rest – Saturday or Sunday; which animals and poultry may be eaten; whether it is wrong to eat the flesh of an animal that has not been slaughtered; should burial rituals be performed for suicides; how many days must a husband abstain from intercourse with his wife after she has given birth; should a fast be observed during a drought; should women cover their heads in houses of prayer; and so on. The names of the Bulgarian princes at this time – David, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel – may also show Jewish influence.
The monks Cyril (Constantine) and Methodius from Salonika, who were sent to Greater Moravia in 863 by the Byzantine emperor Michael III (840–67) to convert the Moravians, had mixed with Jews in their native town and studied with Jewish teachers. Cyril invented a new script called Glagolitic (later Cyrillic) in which to write Slavonic. The script was based on the Greek alphabet, but used the Hebrew alphabet as well in order to represent sounds which did not exist in the Greek alphabet, e.g., Sh and Ts. It is believed that Cyril made his translations of parts of the Bible from the Hebrew original.
There is evidence of Jewish settlement in Nikopol in 967. In the early 12th century Leo Mung, born a Jew and later a pupil of the 11th-century Bulgarian talmudist Tobiah b. Eliezer, became archbishop of the diocese of *Ochrida and Primate of Bulgaria. The Bogomil movement, a Christian sect that spread through Bulgaria in the 11th century, rejected most books of the Old Testament, but awakened interest in Judaism as the source of certain Christian theological doctrines. The Bulgarian attitude to Jews at the time was generally favorable; Jewish
merchants from Italy and Ragusa (*Dubrovnik) who settled in Bulgaria received royal privileges. Also during the Crusades many Jews may have found refuge in Bulgaria. Jacob b. Elijah in his polemical letter to the apostate Pablo *Christiani mentions two Jews who were thrown from a mountaintop for refusing to obey the order of Czar Ivan Asen II (1218–41) to put out the eyes of Theodore I Angelus, Greek ruler of Salonika in 1230. Czar Ivan Alexander (1331–71) married a Jewish woman named Sarah, who took the name Theodora on her baptism (see *Sarah of Turnovo); her influence on state affairs was considerable. The church's struggle with heresy in Bulgaria also affected the Jews. The Church Council of 1352 excommunicated Jews and heretics. Three Jews were condemned to death on a false charge of blaspheming saints. Although the verdict was repealed by the czar, the mob took vengeance on the accused.
The largest part of the Bulgarian Jewish community before the 15th century belonged to the Byzantine (Romaniot) Jewish rite. Only a minority spoke Bulgarian. The *Romaniots had their own special prayer book, which eventually was replaced by the Sephardi prayer book. They regarded the sending of gifts from the groom to the bride as part of the marriage ceremony, and if the bride did not later marry the sender of the gifts, she had, in their opinion, to receive a divorce (get) before she could marry another man (see Kid. 3:2). The bride's dowry was guarded and the husband was forbidden to negotiate with it. Furthermore, according to their custom a husband could not inherit from his wife. The Romaniots did not accept the decree of R. *Gershom b. Judah in the 11th century forbidding bigamy. Among the rabbis of the Romaniot synagogue was Abraham Semo (15th century) who befriended the new Ashkenazi community that settled in Sofia (1470). Another famous rabbi of the Romaniots was Joseph b. Isaac ibn Ezra (late 16th–early 17th centuries), who wrote the book Massa Melekh (1601).
Many Jews went to Bulgaria from Hungary after the expulsion of 1376. These Hungarian Jews kept their own particular customs, but later adopted the customs of the other Ashkenazim, and eventually all of them adopted Sephardi customs and spoke *Ladino. A famous contemporary sage was Rabbi Shalom Ashkenazi of Neustadt, who founded a yeshivah at *Vidin. His pupil Rabbi Dosa the Greek wrote in 1430 Perush ve-Tosafot, a supercommentary to Rashi on the Pentateuch.
At the time of the final Turkish conquest of Bulgaria (1396), Jews were living in Vidin, *Nikopol, Silistra, *Pleven, *Sofia, Yambol, Philippopolis (now *Plovdiv), and *Stara Zagora. Jewish refugees came to Bulgaria from Bavaria, which had banished them in 1470, and, according to various travelers, Judeo-German was heard for a long time in the streets of Sofia. Despite their adoption of Sephardi customs, language, and names, the Ashkenazi Jews maintained separate synagogues for a long time and followed the medieval German rite. The Ashkenazi prayer book was printed in 1548–50 in Salonika by R. Benjamin ha-Levi Ashkenazi of Nuremberg who was also the rabbi of the Sofia Ashkenazi community.
Spanish Jews reached Bulgaria apparently after 1494, settling in the trading towns in which Jews were then living. They came to Bulgaria from Salonika, through Macedonia, and from Italy, through Ragusa and Bosnia. Until 1640 Sofia had three separate Jewish communities – the Romaniots, the Ashkenazim, and the Sephardim. Then a single rabbi was appointed for all three communities. R. *Levi b. Ḥabib lived for a short time in Pleven and R. Joseph *Caro lived in Nikopol for 13 years (1523–36). Caro founded a yeshivah there and continued to write his great work Beit Yosef. In the 17th century Bulgarian Jewry was caught up in the whirlwind of the pseudo-messianic movement of Shabbetai Ẓevi; Samuel *Primo and *Nathan of Gaza, proponents of Shabbateanism, were active in Sofia in 1673.
Jews conducted trade with Turkey, Walachia, Moldavia, Ragusa, and Venice. Jewish traders were granted firmans giving them various privileges. One of the most important trading towns in the 16th century was Tatar-Pazardzhik, to which the Jewish merchants of Salonika turned after the wars with Venice (1571–73). They established commercial relations with Sofia merchants and some of them settled there as well. Merchants from *Skoplje (Turkish Üsküb) bought clothing in Salonika and sold it in Sofia and neighboring towns. In 1593 Sinan Pasha founded an annual fair at Ozundzhovo in the district of Khaskovo, southern Bulgaria. It was attended by Jews from European Turkey and Western Europe. Some Jews also farmed the taxes on European merchandise. The Jewish merchants were able to extend their commercial activities when the Ragusa merchants, who had taken part in the Bulgarian rising of 1688 against the Ottoman rule, had to give up their businesses. In Samokov some Jews owned quarries and leather tanneries. Jewish government officials of that period are also known. In the early 19th century a Jew, Bakish, of Tatar-Pazardzhik, held an important position in the court of the sultan, and proposed the introduction of a uniform system of Turkish coinage.
From Independence to World War II
General rioting, robbery, and arson broke out in Sofia in 1878 when the Turks retreated from the town; the Jews formed their own militia and a fire brigade to prevent the Turks from setting fire to the town; the fire brigade was retained after independence. Among those who welcomed Russian General Gurko were the rabbi of Sofia, Gabriel Mercado Almosnino, and three other Jews. During the war Jewish property was looted and in Vidin, Kazanlik, and Svishtov, where the local population regarded them as supporters of the Turks, Jewish property was plundered, and Jews were expelled in atrocious circumstances; most of them fled to Adrianople and Constantinople. Before the Congress of Berlin in 1878 the major Jewish organizations of Western Europe had tried to secure equal rights for Bulgarian (as well as Serbian and Romanian) Jewry; the Berlin Treaty included a clause obliging the Balkan
In 1885, during the war between Serbia and Bulgaria, Jews were drafted into the Bulgarian Army for the first time. The principle of equality concerning the defense of minority groups was emphasized after World War I in the Treaty of Neuilly (1919). However, despite all declarations, the principle of equal rights had no genuine value for Jews; in practice the various Bulgarian governments discriminated against Jews. Anti-Jewish legislation was introduced indirectly in various memoranda. Jews were not accepted at the military academy, the state bank, or in government or municipal service. The coup against the Stamboliski regime in 1923 prepared the ground for the spread of antisemitism and its intensification. In the difficult years that followed the Bulgarian people's wrath was channeled toward the minority groups, especially the Jews, whom they held responsible for their hardships. Antisemitic nationalist associations sprang up. In 1936 the Ratnik ("Warrior") antisemitic association was founded; it was structured on the lines of Hitlerite organizations, accepting their theory of race and adapting it to its own ideological concepts. Nonetheless, in all this period, and even during the war, the Jews did not experience pogroms.
In the decades preceding World War II, the relative percentage of Jews within the Bulgarian population declined steadily, indicating a lower birth rate than the national average. The 1934 census showed 48,565 Jews, constituting 0.8% of the total population. (The respective percentages for the years 1920 and 1926 were 0.9 and 0.85.) In the mid-1930s more than half of Bulgaria's Jews resided in Sofia. Most Jews were engaged in commerce, and the majority were self-employed. In the prewar years, the number of wage earners showed a certain upward trend. A growing identification with Jewish national ideals characterized the intellectual development of the Bulgarian Jewish community. In the interwar period the Zionist movement completely dominated all Jewish communal organization, including the highest elected body, the Jewish Consistory. The younger generation spoke Bulgarian rather than the Ladino of their fathers.
THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT
Bulgarian Jewry joined the movement for national revival as early as the days of Ḥovevei Zion (founded in 1882). Three Bulgarian delegates attended the First Zionist Congress in 1897 at Basle – Ẓvi *Belkovsky, Karl *Herbst, and Yehoshu'a (Joshua) *Kalef. Before the congress, in 1895, Bulgarian Jews had founded the settlement Har-Tuv in Ereẓ Israel. However, there was also considerable emigration to other countries. In 1900 several Jews settled on the land at Kefken in Turkey, on the shores of the Black Sea. Other Bulgarian Jews took up farming in Adarpazari (in the Kocaeli district near Istanbul). Among the pioneers of Zionism in Bulgaria, the most noteworthy was Joseph Marco *Baruch. Between 1919 and 1948, during the British Mandate, 7,057 Bulgarian Jews emigrated to Palestine.
ORGANIZATION OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
After 1878 a chief rabbinate was created, headed by a chief rabbi. In 1900 a conference of Jewish communities assembled and passed a new constitution, which, however, was not recognized by the Bulgarian government. The constitution dealt with elections to synagogue or community and school committees. The community committees chose a central council (Consistory) of Bulgarian Jewry from among their members. The council functioned independently of the chief rabbi, who was also head of the central rabbinical court. The central rabbinical court exercised authority over the rabbinical courts of Sofia, Plovdiv, and Rushchuk (now Ruse).
Bulgarian Jewish education passed through three periods: (1) the period of the meldar, the Sephardi religious school, equivalent to the Ashkenazi ḥeder, which flourished in Bulgaria before national independence; (2) the period after independence during which the Alliance Israélite Universelle maintained many schools; and (3) the period of modern, national education. Jewish schools were maintained at the expense of the community. Many Jewish children, especially in large cities, attended schools of other denominations.
RABBIS AND SCHOLARS
Rabbi Isaac b. Moses of Beja (16th century), who lived in Nikopol after the Turko-Walachian war (1598), wrote the book Bayit Ne'eman (1621). Rabbi Isaiah Morenzi (d. after 1593), who also lived in Nikopol, introduced new customs into the yeshivah founded by Joseph Caro. Another rabbi of Nikopol was Abraham b. Aziz *Borgil, author of the book Leḥem Abbirim (1605). Moses Alfalas of Sofia, a famous preacher, published Va-Yakhel Moshe (Venice, 1597). In the 18th century Solomon Shalem of Adrianopolis and Issachar Abulafia were among the famous rabbis. Chief rabbis after Bulgarian independence (1878) were Gabriel Almosnino, Moses Tadjer, Simon Dankowitz from Czechoslovakia, Mordecai Gruenwald, and Marcus *Ehrenpreis. Ẓemaḥ Rabbiner was chief preacher to the Bulgarian communities. David Pipano, author of Ḥagor ha-Efod (1925) and other books, was head of the rabbinical court. Other scholars of Bulgaria include Solomon *Rosanes, author of Divrei Yemei Yisrael be-Togarmah, the standard history of Turkish Jewry. Mention may be made also of Saul Mézan, author of Les Juifs espagnols en Bulgarie.
In 1899 the Bulgarian-language newspaper Chelovecheski prava ("Human Rights") was published to repudiate the libels of antisemitic newspapers. The first Ladino newspaper, La Alborada ("The Dawn"), was launched in 1884.
In World War II
Comprehensive anti-Jewish legislation in Bulgaria was introduced after the outbreak of World War II. The regime's main motivation in its antisemitic pursuits could be explained by its determination to conform to the orientation of Nazi Germany, with which Bulgaria was allied. Yet even a German official, Karl Hofmann of the RSHA, expressed skepticism that conditions were ripe for the expulsion of Jews. He wrote: "The Jewish problem does not exist in Bulgaria in the sense that it exists in Germany. Ideological and racial prerequisites for convincing the Bulgarian people of the urgent need for a solution to the Jewish question as in the Reich are not to be found here."
The turning point in events came on Feb. 15, 1940, with the appointment of Bogdan Filov, a noted scientist and a determined Germanophile, to the premiership. In July 1940 the government announced its decision to curb the freedom of the Jewish minority. In August of the same year the cabinet approved the anti-Jewish "Law for the Protection of the Nation," patterned after Nazi regulations. On Dec. 24, 1940, Parliament approved the proposed legislation, which was officially promulgated on Jan. 23, 1941. On March 1, Bulgaria joined the Tripartite Pact and the German Army entered the country. A declaration of war on the western Allies followed; yet Bulgaria did not enter the war against the Soviet Union, mainly because of Slavophile sentiments of its population. In June 1942 Minister of Interior Gabrovski, the architect of the anti-Jewish legislation, demanded and received from Parliament a blank authorization empowering the government with absolute prerogatives on all questions pertaining to the Jews. Protests against this measure, coming from such well-known democrats as Nikola Mushanov, were of no avail. The fact of such protests was an indicator of things to come. At the end of August the government promulgated new restrictive regulations and provided for the establishment of a Commissariat for Jewish Affairs. On Sept. 3, 1942, the lawyer Alexander *Belev, a German-trained antisemite, became the head of this Commissariat.
The Deportations Program
In January 1943 Adolf Beckerle, the German minister to Sofia, was joined by SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Theodor Dannecker, an associate of *Eichmann, who came to Bulgaria in order to arrange for the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the eastern territories. By the summer of 1942, the Bulgarian government had already surrendered into German hands Bulgarian Jews residing in countries occupied by Germany, but not Bulgarian Jews residing in Bulgaria. On Feb. 2, 1943, Gabrovski and Dannecker agreed that all Jews living in Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia and in Thrace, administered by Bulgaria since the spring of 1941, would also be surrendered to the Germans for deportation. On Feb. 22, Belev and Dannecker signed a formal agreement to deport 20,000 Jews. As the total number of Jews living in Bulgarian-held Thrace and Macedonia was only slightly over 11,000, Dannecker informed Eichmann that Jews from Bulgaria proper, mainly from the capital and other large towns, would also be deported. On March 2, the government approved the surrender of 20,000 Jews into German hands, but the fiction that only Jews from Macedonia and Thrace were to be deported continued to be maintained. The collection of Macedonian and Thracian Jews into special transit camps began immediately. Bulgarian police controlled the entire operation until the Jews boarded the train. Preparations were also begun for the concentration of those Jews from Bulgaria proper who were to make up the agreed figure of 20,000.
OPPOSITION TO THE DEPORTATIONS
Rumors of the forthcoming deportations and of the fate of the deportees aroused unexpected opposition. An action group headed by the vice president of the Bulgarian Parliament, Dimiter Peshev, was organized in the town of Kustendil. Peshev appeared before the minister of interior on March 9, and insisted that the deportation orders be altered forthwith. Both humanitarian and political considerations motivated the protest movement. Conditions in 1943 were rather different than in 1942 when German victories seemed inevitable. There were pragmatic as well as altruistic reasons for coming to the aid of the Jews In the aftermath of the German debacle at Stalingrad, it was thought that Bulgaria should not endanger her chances of an eventual disengagement from the German alliance by giving her hand to so monstrous an act. The initiative of Dimiter Peshev developed into a minor revolt within the government's own majority in Parliament. On March 17 Peshev presented the prime minister with a petition against the deportations signed by 42 deputies. Political figures outside Parliament and prominent
ABOLISHMENT OF ANTI-JEWISH POLICIES
In September a Regency Council and a new government headed by Dobri Bozhilov were established. Minister of Interior Gabrovski was not included in the new cabinet. Belev, the head of the Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, was also dropped and replaced by the more moderate Khristo Stomaniakov. In December the resettled Jews of Sofia were allowed to return to the capital for brief periods in order to attend to private affairs. Early in 1944 a small number of Jewish families were permitted to leave the country for Palestine. These and other signs of relaxation were aimed at establishing Bulgaria's greater independence in foreign affairs, and the Bozhilov regime's effort to appear more reasonable in the eyes of the western Allies. Representations on behalf of the Bulgarian Jewish community by Jewish organizations to both Washington and London produced a number of Allied protests, communicated to the Bulgarian government throughout 1943 and 1944. At the end of May 1944 the cabinet of Bozhilov was replaced by a new cabinet headed by Ivan Bagrianov. Determined to extricate Bulgaria from her war involvement, the Bagrianov regime opened truce negotiations with the western Allies. Earlier, secret talks were held between Nikola Balabanov, Bulgaria's minister to Turkey, and Ira Hirschmann, representative of the United States War Refugee Board, one of the few American officials with permission to negotiate directly with the enemy. In August Hirschmann was informed of the decision of the Sofia government to abolish all anti-Jewish measures. On Aug. 24 the minister of interior told representatives of the Bulgarian Jewish community that the Commissariat for Jewish Affairs had been abolished. All anti-Jewish legislation was officially abrogated on Aug. 29. The decrees of abolition were published on Sept. 5, 1944, by which time a new government, headed by the democratically oriented agrarian leader Kosta Muraviev, had come to power.
On Sept. 5, 1944, while truce talks were being held between Bulgarian and Anglo-American representatives in Cairo, the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria. On Sept. 8, the Soviet Army entered the country, and on the following day the Muraviev government was overthrown and replaced by a coalition government of the Fatherland Front, which was dominated by the Bulgarian Communist Party. Following an armistice agreement, signed in Moscow on Oct. 28, 1944, Bulgaria
The reasons that the fate of Bulgarian Jews differed from that of most of Germany's allies are contested by historians. As expected, the Communists credit the Communists; some government figures give undue credit to the king. Undoubtedly, two effective forces on behalf of the Jews were the Parliamentarians and the Church, where intervention on behalf of the Jews was direct. There were protests on behalf of the Jews from various segments of the Bulgarian populace, most especially lawyers and physicians and prominent cultural figure, which had their effect on the government and its perception of popular opinion. The protests also strengthened the internal resilience of the Jewish community. Certainly, the Bulgarian alliance with Germany lessened direct German involvement in the deportations and the sense that Germany was losing the war and that the Allies were interested in the Jewish question also influenced government policy. Omar Bar Tov commented: "On the moral scale that is most urgent to those who try to extract lessons from the Holocaust – what really matters are the moments, however rare, in which a few shades of goodness were introduced into the general canvas of evil, opportunism, and indifference. These moments matter not because they made a significant difference in the general scheme of things: they did not. They matter because they illustrate that, all the contemporary (and subsequent) talk of inevitability notwithstanding, it was possible to make choices and that the right choice at the right time by the right people could make a difference for some of the victims."
[Nissan Oren /
Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]
The Postwar Period
REVIVAL OF JEWISH LIFE
From the beginning of the Fatherland Front's rule, Jewish communal life fell under the control of the Communists and their sympathizers. Jewish communities were controlled by the Central Jewish Committee of the Fatherland Front, which was in turn subordinate to the Front's Commission for National Minorities. The Communists supervised the Central Jewish Consistory, and, as a rule, policy statements were signed jointly by the Central Jewish Committee and the Consistory. In January 1945 the official Jewish Communist leaders announced Bulgarian Jewry's severance from all international Jewish organizations, Zionist or otherwise. Bulgarian Jews were to be considered Bulgarians of Jewish origin, having nothing in common with other communities around the world. The Zionist organization was called bourgeois and chauvinist. The majority of Bulgarian Jews, however, continued to support the Zionist organization. In 1946 its president, Vitali Haimov, claimed 13,000 active members. Zionist organizations continued to function in the face of continuous harassment. Independent weeklies were published until 1948 by the General Zionists and Po'alei Zion. The majority of Jewish youth were organized by He-Ḥalutz ha-Ẓa'ir and *Ha-shomer Ha-Ẓa'ir.
Since political power resided with the Jewish Communists, whereas rank-and-file support was given to the Zionist groups, the Communists, under the leadership of Zhak Natan, undertook to absorb the Zionists by way of "unification" in the common "struggle against antisemitism and Fascism." In May 1946 the Zionist groups joined the Communists in a formal agreement providing equal representation in the Consistory, the Central Jewish Committee of the Fatherland Front, and all other Jewish communal organizations. An effective Communist majority was assured, however, since the balance of power was in favor of pro-Communist Jewish Social Democrats and pro-Communist "non-partisans."
The economic condition of Bulgarian Jews was desperate. Immediate restitution of property lost during the war was essential if the Jewish population was to recover from the deep poverty to which it had been reduced. In March 1945 the government passed the Law of Restitution, providing for the return of all Jewish rights and property, but many months passed before the law began to be enforced. Determined to achieve the eventual socialization of all property, the Fatherland Front regime actually prevented the execution of its own laws. Throughout the existence of the Front, there continued to be a huge discrepancy between the letter of the Law of Restitution and its implementation. Only a small part of Jewish losses were actually recovered, and these were further reduced by the postwar inflation. Thanks to relief measures from international Jewish organizations, a large number of Bulgarian Jews were able to carry on until their eventual emigration. The regime exhibited greater interest in punishing those guilty of anti-Jewish persecutions during the war. A special section of the People's Court, set up at the end of 1944, dealt with crimes against the Jews, and the sentences it issued were among the most severe in postwar Europe.
EXODUS TO ISRAEL
During the first two years of its tenure, the Fatherland Front regime expressed open hostility to Jewish emigration, particularly to Palestine. The first signs of change in this attitude came in 1946. The reversal of Soviet policy on Palestine was reflected in Bulgaria and reinforced by local conditions that showed the Zionist movement to be much more influential in the Jewish population than expected. Upon assuming the premiership in December 1946, the veteran Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov told a group of Jewish leaders that, in principle, resettlement in Palestine would be allowed. The real turn in events came with Gromyko's UN
Between September 1944 and October 1948, 7,000 Bulgarian Jews left for Palestine. The exodus was due to deep-rooted Zionist sentiments, a relative alienation from Bulgarian intellectual and political life, and depressed economic conditions. Humanitarian considerations and a general feeling of goodwill on the part of the Bulgarian people helped to ease the process of resettlement. The Bulgarian Communist Party was not weakened by the exodus because few Communist Jews held central positions of power. Bulgarian policies toward national minorities were also a factor that motivated emigration. In the late 1940s Bulgaria was anxious to rid itself of national minority groups, such as Armenians and Turks, and thus make its population more homogeneous. Further numbers were allowed to depart in the winter of 1948 and the spring of 1949. The mass exodus continued (between 1949 and 1951, 44,267 Jews emigrated to Israel) until only a few thousand Jews remained in the country.
After the Exodus
In the following decades Jewish life in Bulgaria was systematically circumscribed in keeping with the agenda of the Communist regime. The organized religious life of the community steadily declined while the rate of intermarriage increased. There were no recognized rabbis to provide leadership or religious schools to perpetuate Jewish education. Religious affairs were directed by the Jewish Religious Council, affiliated with the Cultural and Educational Society of Jews in Bulgaria, a non-religious, Communist-dominated organization that replaced the Consistory in 1957 and was responsible for conducting Jewish affairs and officially representing the Jewish community. It held lectures, supported a theater group, and presented programs and exhibitions honoring Jewish anti-Nazi resistance. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences published a number of works on Jewish subjects, among them an authoritative collection of responsa pertinent to the economic history of the Balkan Jews (A. Hananel and E. Eškenazi, Fontes Hebraici…, 2 vols., 1958–60, Heb., Bul., Fr.). The Hebrew Scientific Institute was founded in 1947; from 1952 it was a part of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The Bulgarian government looked with disfavor upon ties with other Jewish communities, but the remnant of Bulgarian Jewry lived free from persecution. The Jewish Religious Council also continued to publish Yevreyski Vesti, which incorporated news from the Jewish press in other countries, including news on Israel. In 1966 the Cultural and Educational Society began publishing its Godishnik ("Annual"), a literary miscellany in Bulgarian and English for Jewish studies in history, ethnography, linguistics, and Jewish folklore. A film, The Transports for the Death Camps Have Not Yet Departed, showing Nazi preparations for the deportation of Bulgarian Jews during the German occupation in World War II, won its producer, Naim Oliver, the National Front Prize at the third festival of short films held at Plovdiv in 1978. Only one synagogue continued to function in Sofia, attended by a handful of elderly people with a quorum on Sabbath. The only other synagogue was in Plovdiv where services were held only on the Day of Atonement. The synagogue in Burgas was converted into an art gallery and the one in Pazardzik into a museum. In the late 1970s, in only one marriage in three were both partners Jewish. By the 1980s the first post-war generation of Jewish communal leaders and outstanding personalities in the public life of the country had almost entirely disappeared following the deaths of Dr. Salvator *Israel, head of the Cultural and Educational Society and a participant with observer status in meetings of the World Jewish Congress, even when held in Jerusalem, and of the international lawyer, Dr. Nissim *Mevorah.
After the collapse of the Communist system in 1989–90 and the institution of democratic changes a new wave of aliyah set in as 4,288 Bulgarians took advantage of the Law of Return and moved to Israel – Jews with their families, many of them in mixed marriages or themselves the product of mixed marriages and all retaining their Bulgarian citizenship. At the same time, in accordance with the new Bulgarian legislation, a great number of Jews who left in the 1949–51 period had their Bulgarian citizenship restored and their property returned and thus began to spend a large part of the year in Bulgaria. Consequently, it is estimated that around 7,000 Jews lived in Bulgaria in 2004.
The post-1990 period also saw the creation of the Shalom organization in place of the Communist-oriented Cultural and Educational Society. In 2004 it had around 4 000 members in 15 independent branches – Burgas, *Varna, *Vidin, Dupnitza, *Kyustendil, Lom, *Pleven, *Plovdiv, *Ruse, Sliven, *Sofia, *Stara Zagora, Haskovo, Shumen (*Kolarovgrad), and Iambol. In addition, Maccabi, Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair, and B'nai B'rith were active. Shalom was the coordinator of the social, educational, and cultural life of the Bulgarian Jewish community and was generally recognized as its representative. The restitution of Jewish communal property made it possible for Shalom to develop Jewish educational and cultural facilities.
The synagogues in Sofia and Plovdiv were restored. The community had a rabbi who was officially recognized as the chief rabbi of Bulgaria. Jewish education had a formal and informal aspect. Formal Jewish education is received in a state secondary school, one of the best in the country, which, though mixed, has compulsory Hebrew and Jewish history studies for all 800 of its students. Informal Jewish education is in framework of Sunday schools run by the bigger regional organizations.
The Jewish population included over 1,300 Holocaust survivors. An old age home, considered the best in Bulgaria, operated in Sofia, as well as the Keshet Jewish theater, which put on An-Ski's Dybbuk in 2004, the Haggadah Jewish Choir, and the Dulce Canto Jewish Vocal Ensemble. Around 500 Jewish children participated yearly in Jewish camps and seminars.
[Emil Kalo (2nd ed.)]
Relations with Israel
Bulgaria recognized the State of Israel upon its establishment, and formed diplomatic ties with her. The two states also developed trade relations. Over the years, however, Bulgaria grew closer and closer to the official Soviet line on relations with Israel. In the process of deteriorating relations, a Bulgarian Air Force plane shot down an El Al passenger plane that had crossed the Bulgarian border in error in August 1955, killing all the passengers aboard. In 1967, after the *Six-Day War, Bulgaria severed diplomatic relations and discontinued trade relations with Israel (the expected turnover for 1967 was to have been about $10 million). In addition, Bulgarian representatives in the UN were conspicuous in the sharpness of their attacks against Israel. In the beginning of 1968, however, Bulgaria resumed trade relations with Israel. In 1977 a delegation of members of the Israel Knesset participated in the Inter-Parliamentary Union which met in Sofia, one of the rare occasions since the establishment of the State that elected representatives of Israel set foot on Bulgarian soil. In 1990, with the collapse of the Communist regime, diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Israel were reestablished and general relations between the two countries improved dramatically.
[Eliezer Palmor /
Emil Kalo (2nd ed.)]
Rosanes, Togarmah, passim; idem, in: El mondo sefardi (Ladino, 1923), 33–38; D.J. Elazar (ed.) et al., Balkan Jewish Communities: Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey (1984); V. Tamir, Bulgaria and her Jews: the History of a Dubious Symbosis (1979); P. Meyer, Jews in the Soviet Satellites (1953), 559–629; Belkovsky, in: Ha-Perotokol shel ha-Congress ha-Ẓiyyoni ha-Rishon: Maẓẓav ha-Yehudim be-Vulgaryah (1947); Marcus, in: Sinai, 26 (1950), 236–46; idem, in: Mizraḥ u-Ma'arav, 4 (1930), 152–8; idem, in: Maḥberet, I (1952), 30–31; 3 (1954), 61–62; 10 (1961), 19–23; S. Mézan, Juifs espagnols en Bulgarie (1925); N.M. Gelber, in: JSOS, 8 (1946), 103–26; N. Greenberg (ed.), Dokumenti (Bul., 1945); N. Oren, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 7 (1968), 83–106; Bulgarian Atrocities in Greek Macedonia and Thrace (Athens, 1945); R. Kashani, Sekirat Sefarim al ha-Yahadut be-… Bulgaryah (1962); B. Arditi, Yehudei Bulgaryah bi-Shenot ha-Mishtar ha-Naẓi (1962); BJPES, 2 (1935), 19–25; Godishnik ("Yearbook"), 1 (1966), 63–79 (Eng. summ. 178); 2 (1967), 21–40 (Eng. 232–3), 65–110 (Eng. 236–7); 3 (1968), 31–58 (Eng. 201–2); J. Caleb, La situation des Juifs en Bulgarie (1919); A. Hananel and E. Eškenazi, Fontes hebraici ad res 'conomicas socialesque terrarum balcanicarum, 2 vols. (1958–60); S. Levy, in: Cahiers Sefardis, 1 (1947), 142–6; F.B. Chary, in: East European Quarterly, 4 (1970), 88–93. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Shaltiel, Me-Ereẓ Holedet le-Ereẓ Moledet 1939–49: Aliyah ve-Ha'palah me-Bulgaryah ve-Darkah (2004); M. Bar-Zohar, Beyond Hitler's Grasp, The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews (1998).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.