Slovenia Virtual Jewish History Tour
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 1718.
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.
Sources: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee