There are archaeological finds that show Jewish existence
in Slovenia since the Roman
period. Little is known about Jews in Slovenia during the Second
Temple Period. Many Jews, however, escaped the Crusades during the 12th century B.C.E. and emigrated to towns within Slovenia.
Jews came from the areas of Germany and Czechoslovakia to avoid the
violent mission of the Christians.
Jews also came from western European countries such as Italy to avoid
the economic depression in the area.
Jews in Slovenia lived rather peacefully for a couple
of centuries. By the beginning of the 15th century, however, there were
clear conflicts between Jews and the Slovenian government. The regional
rulers of Slovenian provinces were resentful of Jewish wealth. They
refused to pay back the Jewish moneylenders, and Jews were considered
a nuisance among the wealthy nobility. In 1495, the first Jews were
expelled from the areas of Carinthia and Styria. The expulsion of Jews
from individual territories continued until the last Jews were expelled
In 1809, King Charles VI allowed Jews to resettle
in the country. His decree was very short-lived, however, and it was
countered by Emperor Francis II in 1817. He prevented Jews from resettling
in Slovenia, and the prohibition stuck. In 1910, only 146 Jews were
estimated to be living in the country. In 1919, the Jews joined with
the Jewish community in Zagreb because there were too few Jews in Slovenia.
Anti-Semitic sentiments continued to be rampant throughout the Slovenian
population. These sentiments and the Holocaust both contributed to the
tiny Jewish population in Slovenia at present.
Currently, there are approximately 75 Jews living
in Slovenia. The majority of the Jewish population resides in the capital
of Ljubljana. The community comes from a mixture of Sephardic and Ashkenazi background.
In general, the Jewish community in Slovenia has been very inactive
since before World War II.
In 1991, civil war broke out in Yugoslavia, among to
five major republics. Thousands of Yugoslav citizens, including many
Jews, were forced to leave their homes because of the violence. The
civil war in Yugoslavia destroyed many Jewish landmarks including famous
synagogues and memorials to the Holocaust.
After the civil wars of 1991, the Slovenian Jews rebuilt
a Jewish community center. The center's reconstruction has motivated
more than one hundred other citizens to again affiliate themselves with
other Slovenian Jews. In addition, the community has become large enough
that Rabbi Ariel Haddad was appointed as the first Chief Rabbi in Slovenian
history. In 2003, Ljubljana opened its new synagogue.
Until then, it had been the only European capital without a synagogue.
Today, the Jews living in Slovenia are distanced from
the Jewish communities in the former Yugoslavia. There is, unfortunately,
no orgranization to connect the communities of Slovenia, Macedonia,
Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia.
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Jewish Heritage Report, Vol. II, nos 3-4
News, (March 4, 2003)