SPLIT (also Spliet; It. Spalato; in Jewish sources אישפלטרא), Adriatic port in Croatia. A Jewish community with a cemetery existed in nearby Salona (now Solin) in the third century C.E. When Salona was destroyed by the Avars in 641, the Jews seem to have fled to Diocletian's fortified palace which later became the town of Split. The register of the Church's properties in 1397 mentions a building that served as a synagogue. The first Jewish tombstones on the Marjan hill date, however, from 1573.
In the 16th century there were two groups of Sephardi Jews in Split; the Ponentine ("western") and the Levantine ("eastern") Jews. The first group came from Italy or from Spain via Italy, Split being a Venetian possession, and the second from the Ottoman territories in the Balkans. Both groups later merged into one Sephardi congregation whose notable families were Pardo, Macchiero, Misrai (Mizraḥi), Penso (Finzi), Jesurun (Yeshurun). There were also some Ashkenazi Jews, e.g., the Morpurgo family from Maribor.
The Jews of Split were mainly merchants, physicians, and tailors. The Venetian authorities protected them from the Inquisition and favored them in the interest of the trade with the Ottoman Empire. In 1592 the Jew Daniel Rodriguez succeeded, with the authorization of the Senate of Venice, in establishing a free port in Split. Jewish merchants from the Ottoman Empire wanting to settle in Split were exempted from paying the residence tax; and immunity of person and capital was guaranteed to Jewish merchants traveling to Venice via Split. The free port prospered. Some Jews became wealthy from traveling to the Ottoman territories in the Balkans and exporting the wares brought to Venice; later they had agents in major cities. In the 17th century Joseph Penso, consul of the Jews, became instrumental in expanding the free port's activities. The increasing wealth of Split's Jews brought a prohibition on real estate ownership except by special license, to prevent gentiles from pledging houses and land to Jews.
During the Turkish attack in 1657 the Jews were assigned the defense of a tower which later became known as the Jewish position [posto degl' Ebrei].
In the beginning of the 18th century there were several abortive attempts to exclude Jews from the food trade (1719, 1748), and from tailoring (1724, 1758). The law of 1738, regulating Jewish rights and duties in Venetian possessions, was applied in Split. It included the wearing of a yellow hat cover by Levantine, and of a red one by other Jews; confinement to the ghetto between midnight and sunrise; not leaving it at all Thursday and Friday of holy week; closing the shops in the ghetto on Christian holidays; and an interdiction to employ Christians.
The general decadence of Venice in the late 18th century and the anti-Jewish measures of 1779 caused many Jewish families to leave. In 1796 there were 173 Jews left in Split. The ghetto was abolished by the Napoleonic regime. When Split passed to Austria in 1814, the Jewish laws valid in Austria were applied there, and full emancipation was granted only in 1873. Many families left for Italy during the 19th century, and with the influx of Jews from Croatia and Bosnia, the community became increasingly Croatian-speaking.
When on April 6, 1941, the Italian Army occupied the town, there were 400 Jews living there, some being refugees from Austria, Czechoslovakia etc. Although Dalmatia nominally belonged to *Pavelić's quisling Croatian state, the Italian army prevented his regime from persecuting the Jews, and some 3,000 refugees from Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia had passed through Split by 1943.
In June 1942 a mob devastated the synagogue, community offices, shops, and private houses. Under German pressure refugees were interned in Italian camps on the Dalmatian islands. When Italy capitulated in September 1943, and before the Germans entered the town, several hundred Jews crossed the Adriatic in small boats to Italy and to partisan-held islands, while others joined the partisan forces on the mainland. All remaining male Jews were made to register with the German authorities, and on October 13 were arrested and sent to the Sajmište camp near *Belgrade where most of them perished. Around 150 Jews from Split died in the Holocaust.
In 1947 there were 163 Jews in Split, and in 1970 some 120; there was no rabbi and very little communal activity. The new military hospital inaugurated in 1965 bears the name of Dr. Isidore Perera-Molić, the founder of the Yugoslav Army Medical Corps. During reconstruction work in the Diocletian Palace engravings of menorot were discovered, confirming earlier allusions regarding a Jewish presence there in the 2nd or 3rd centuries. The nearby camp at Pirovac, which was formerly a summer resort for Jewish youth from all parts of the country, served as an absorption center during the 1992 evacuation of the Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina (mainly from *Sarajevo and Mosta). The successful rescue operation was a joint venture of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Belgrade, the Jewish community of Sarajevo, the Jewish Agency, and the respective civil and military authorities of the Bosnian Moslems, Croats, and Serbs. A number of Jews were evacuated by air to *Belgrade; others through Herzegovina to Dalmatia (Split) by land across several zones held by the three warring parties. About 100 Jews lived in Split in 2004.
G. Novak, Židovi u Splitu (1920); C. Roth, Venice, (1930), 67, 186, 305–10, 343; Frey, Corpus, 1 (1936), no. 680; Jevrejski Almanah (1959/60), 7–14, 29–53; Hananel-Eškenazi, 2 (1960), 199. HOLOCAUST PERIOD: Jevrejski Almanah (1957/58), 125–8; Savez jevrejskih opśtina, Zločini fašističkih okupatora… (1952).