ALBANIA, Balkan state (bordering Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Republic of Yugoslavia), Macedonia, and Greece) on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea; from 1478 to 1913 under the sovereignty of Turkey.
*Benjamin of Tudela heard of people living in the region, evidently Wallachians, toward the end of the 12th century: "They are not strong in the faith of the Nazarenes and call each other by Jewish names, and some say that they are Jews." Jewish settlements were founded at the beginning of the 16th century in the Albanian seaports by exiles from Spain, who were joined by refugees from other areas. There were sizeable trading communities at Berat, Durazzo, Elbassan, and Valona: here there were Castilian, Catalonian, Sicilian, Portuguese, and Apulian synagogues.
In 1673 Shabbetai Ẓevi was exiled by the sultan to Albania, dying in Dulcigno. In 1685, during the Turkish-Venetian War, members of the Valona community fled to Berat. Those who remained were taken prisoner, including Nehemiah *Ḥayon. Between 1788 and 1822 Jews suffered from the extortions of Ali Pasha. The Jewish minorities were accused of collaborating to suppress the rebels during the Albanian revolt in 1911.
After World War I only a small number of Jews were living in Albania, in Koritsa (1927). According to a 1930 census, there were 204 Jewish inhabitants in Albania. The Albanian community was granted official recognition on April 2, 1937. In 1939, some families from Austria and Germany took refuge in Tirana and Durazzo.
G. Scholem, in: Zion, 17 (1952), 79–83; Scholem, Shabbetai Ẓevi, 2 (1957), 787–90; Bernstein, in: Jewish Daily Bulletin (April 17–18, 1934); A. Milano, Storia degli Ebrei italiani nel Levante (1949), 63–66; J. Starr, Romania… (Eng., 1949), 65, 81–83. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK; M. Arbell, "The Jewish Community of Vlor–Valona–Avilona and Its Role in the Adriatic," in: Los Muestros, 50 (2003), 16–20.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.