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DUBROVNIK (Ragusa), port in S. Dalmatia, Croatia; oligarchic maritime city-state, autonomous until 1808, mainly under Venetian or Turkish protectorate. Jewish merchants from Durazzo (Albania) are mentioned in Ragusan archives in 1368. French Jews living in Apulia (south Italy) after the expulsion from France temporarily resided and traded in Dubrovnik in the second half of the 15th century. After the Spanish expulsion in 1492 Dubrovnik became an important transit center for refugees traveling to Balkan cities under Turkish rule. In 1502 there were many refugees staying in Dubrovnik. When an old woman was found murdered, a dozen of them were arrested and tortured; several were declared guilty and burnt at the stake.

After the expulsions from Aragonese possessions in south Italy in 1514 and 1515, many more refugees went to Dubrovnik. Their success in commerce, together with the local clergy's zeal to have the city follow the example of other Christian states, resulted in several expulsion decrees (1514, 1515, 1545) which were revoked on the sultan's intervention. When wars against Turkey in the second half of the 16th century made the Mediterranean insecure for commerce, trade was re-routed through the Adriatic to Dubrovnik and thence by caravan to Turkey. Jews were allowed to settle in Dubrovnik and were given customs privileges to encourage transit trade. Jews dealt mainly in textiles, silk, wool, leather (Hananel-Eškenazi, 1 (1958), 264), and spices. They were allowed to live inside the walls in 1538, but in 1546 a ghetto was established in a small street (still called the Jewish street) enclosed by walls, and the gate was locked at night. A monthly tax was levied per person for residence and per bale for storage of wares. The synagogue is said to date from 1532. The Jewish cemetery was first mentioned in 1612 when it had to be enlarged; it was still in use in 1910. Two more streets were added to the ghetto in 1587, when there were 50 Jews in Dubrovnik, some with their families. Most of the trade with Turkey and much of the transit trade with Italy was in Jewish hands. At this time some Jewish intellectuals found temporary or permanent refuge there, such as the physician *Amatus Lusitanus and the humanist Didacus Pyrrhus. Many Jewish physicians were in the service of the republic, which had to obtain from Rome the authorization for them to treat Christians.

The most important Jewish family in the 16th and 17th centuries was that of *Aaron b. David ha-Kohen; arriving from Florence in the 16th century, they established connections with Sarajevo and Sofia, and also acted as agents for many Jewish traders throughout Europe. To induce more Jewish merchants to settle in Dubrovnik, the senate issued in 1614 a letter of safe conduct for five years, guaranteeing Jewish merchants freedom from arrest and from seizure of their wares for payment of previously incurred debts. There was a notorious blood libel in 1622, in which Isaac Yeshurun was accused of murdering a small girl: he stoically maintained his innocence, but was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment (he was released after 32 months). As a result of the restrictions imposed on the Jewish community at the time of this libel, most Jews left for Venice or Turkey; only four families remained in Dubrovnik, among them that of Aaron b. David ha-Kohen, rabbi of Dubrovnik. The Jewish population increased again after Aaron had obtained another letter of safe conduct in 1637. Since many restrictions imposed in 1622 were disregarded, the Church renewed its attacks and obtained from the senate the enforcement of several of them. But in many instances, the senate refused to pass anti-Jewish measures as Dubrovnik was a Turkish protectorate and the sultans had always protected the Jews.

In the 18th century the Jewish population increased; there were 218 Jews out of a total population of around 6,000. Ragusan archives mention Jewish schools, teachers, weddings, and a Jewish bookseller; Jews participated in maritime ventures as co-owners of ships that went as far as Scandinavia and America, or supplying loans for equipment of such ships; they also played a part in establishing the first maritime insurance companies. With the economic decline of Dubrovnik, however, restrictions were imposed on all foreigners. Jews could not engage in commerce and could only be teachers, physicians, or help in commerce, and some were tax farmers. In 1755 they were again forbidden to live outside the ghetto or to leave it at night. Although it had supported the French against the Russians, Dubrovnik was annexed in 1808 to the French vice kingdom of Illyria, which abolished all Jewish disabilities. When Dubrovnik passed to Austria in 1815, laws applied to Jews in Austria became valid in Dubrovnik too; e.g., Jews had to obtain permission from Vienna to get married. Full emancipation was granted only in 1873. When after World War I Dubrovnik became part of Yugoslavia, the Jewish population had decreased. There were 308 Jews in 1815, and 250 in 1939.

Holocaust and Contemporary Periods

Dubrovnik was occupied by the Italian army in April 1941; administratively however it belonged to the Independent Croatian State of the Croat quisling Pavelić, whose ustashi were allowed to persecute Jews. Jewish property was confiscated or put under "caretakers," and a few Jews were sent to concentration camps in Croatia. The Italians, however, did not allow mass deportations, so that many refugees from other parts of Yugoslavia went to Dubrovnik. At the bidding of the Germans, in November 1942, the Italians interned all Jews (750) in Gruž and on the island of Lopud, near Dubrovnik. There they remained until June 1943, when they were transferred to the big Italian internment camp on Rab in northern Dalmatia, together with most Jews from the Italian-occupied territories in Yugoslavia. During the brief interregnum in 1943 between the capitulation of Italy and the German occupation, most of them were transported by the partisans to the liberated territory on the mainland. Some joined the Jewish battalion formed on Rab, and others served as physicians or nurses. The 180–200 Jews who could not leave Rab were taken by the Germans to extermination camps. After World War II, 28 Jews immigrated to Israel. The Jewish community in Dubrovnik had 31 members in 1969. The rabbi of Dubrovnik served as the chief rabbi for the regions of southern Dalmatia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Services in the old synagogue were held irregularly. During the Yugoslav War of Secession of 1991/2 the synagogue suffered slight damage from artillery shells and its roof had to be repaired. Ceremonial objects from this synagogue, built c. 1510, were loaned to New York's Yeshiva University in 1964 and returned only in 1988 following a court order. A small community is now affiliated to the Coordination Committee of Croatian Jewish Communities, headed by Zagreb. It maintains a museum showing the synagogue artifacts and other items belonging to the past. The well-preserved cemetery contains 200 old gravestones, including that of Rabbi Jacob Pardo, who died there in 1819.


J. Tadić, Jevreji u Dubrovniku do polovine XVII. stoljeća (1937); C. Roth, The House of Nasi: Dona Gracia (1948), 85–86; M. Levi, in: Recueil jubilaire en l'honneur de S.A. Rosanes (1933), 47–53 (Sp.); Hananel-Eškenazil, 1 (1958), 39, 110, 199, 335; 2 (1960), 264; J. Subak, Judenspanisches aus Salonikki… Ragusa (1906); Aaron b. David ha-Kohen, Il Processo di Isach Jeshurun, ed. by I.A. Kaznačić (1882). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Zbornik, 1 (1971), Dubrovnik issue; B. Stulli, Zidovi u Dubrovniku (1989).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.