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Macedonia, Former Yugoslav Republic of

26 Jewish cemeteries are identified in this country. Source: Srdjan Matic, MD, 40 West 95th Street, Apt. 1-B, New York, NY 10025; (212) 2227783.

Source: Gruber, Ruth Ellen. Jewish Heritage Travel, A Guide to East-Central Europe. NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992. (pages 256-258) Extracted by Elaine B. Kolinsky: MACEDONIA

No functioning synagogue in Macedonia existed after WWII until 2000 when a prayer hall opened on the top floor of the renovated Jewish community center in Skopje: The Jewish Community in the Republic of Macedonia, Ul. Borka Taleski 24,91000 Skopje,Macedonia, +389 91 237 543 and +389 91 214 799. Macedonian Jews maintain close contacts with the Jewish communities of Belgrade (Serbia) and Thessalonika (Greece), holding occasional joint cultural and religious events with these groups.[January 2009]

"The earliest Jewish presence was really in Macedonia and Dalmatia. Philo mentions the Jews of Macedonia in Embassy to Gaius (Legatio ad Gaium), translated into English by F. H. Colson (1962), par. 281, while the apostle Paul delivered sermons in its communities (Acts 20:1-2). A Greek inscription on a pillar of the church-a former synagogue-in Stobi (in the vicinity of the town of Bitolj (Monastir) and now preserved in the national museum of Belgrade, serves as evidence of the Jewish settlement during the second and third centuries. In it, Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos relates his Jewish way of life. During the Middle Ages, Jews lived in Bitolj (Monastir), Skoplje, Ochrida, and Struga. During the reign of the Serbian emperor Stefen Dushan there is a mention of Jewish farmers in Macedonia (conquered by Dushan in 1353). During the 14th century, the renowned grammarian Judah (Leon) Moskoni, whose version of Josephus was published in Constantinople in 1510, lived in Ochrida. During the 16th century there were Jewish communities in Skoplje, Bitolj, Ni2, Smederevo, and Po9arevac. At the time, Skoplje was a commercial center. The Jews traded in wool clothes, "kachkaval" cheese, and also engaged in commerce between Salonika and Constantinople on the one hand and Western Europe on the other. In 1680 Nathan of Gaza died in Skoplje. His admirers made an annual pilgrimage to his tomb. When the armies of Leopold I approached Skoplje in 1689, the Jews hurriedly abandoned the city. Their synagogues were burnt down and the wall surrounding their quarter also was destroyed by the flames. The Jewish population of xtip was of Salonikan origin. During the 17th and 18th centuries, R. Abraham Motal ha-Paytan ("the hymnologist") and R. Reuben b. Abraham, who wrote the work Derekh Yesharah (Leghorn, 1788) and in Ladino Tikkunei ha-Nefesh (Salonika, 1765-75), lived in this town. At the time of the upheavals in Turkey which preceded the Balkan Wars, more Jews settled in Macedonia." Source [February 2009]

Macedonia, the southernmost republic of the former Yugoslavia, became independent in 1991 and shares borders with Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Kosovo. The country is known formally as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).Macedonia included parts of present day Bulgaria and Greece where Jews lived since ancient Roman times. Jewish archeological sites can be seen at Stobi, an ancient Roman commercial centre near Gradsko. Discovered in 1861, excavations began in 1924 hat revealed the mosaic floor of a synagogue 1.5 metres below the remains of a 4th-century CE Christian basilica. A 3rd century CE column unearthed in 1931 dates fbears an inscription describing the construction of this synagogue by Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos.

Jews from central Europe (today's Austria and Hungary) also settled in Macedonia in medieval times, particularly during the Ottoman period. Jews came to the Balkans after expulsions from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497. These ruling Turks welcomed these Sephardim and allowed them to form  communities in Monastir (Bitola), Štip, and Skopje with close links to communities now in northern Greece, notably Thessalonika (Salonika). Macedonian Jews engaged in trade, banking, medicine, law, and even became administrators for the Sublime Porte (Royal Court of Istanbul). Bitola in particular was a lively centre of Sephardi culture, although a poor Jewish underclass developed in the 19th century. By 1910 (eve of the Balkan wars) saw 10,000 Jews living in what is now Macedonia. These wars devastated the region, encouraging residents including Jews to emigrate. On the eve of World War II, about 8,000 Jews lived in Macedonia.  The largest community at Bitola numbered about 3,350. Bulgaria invaded Macedonia in Winter 1941. Together with the Jews of Northern Greece and Thrace, most Macedonian Jews were arrested by the Bulgarian Army and transported to Treblinka and Auschwitz  where they were exterminated. 7,200 Macedonian Jews died; only a handful survived by hiding or with the partisans. Bulgarian authorities appropriated all Jewish assets.

Early Jewish history [March 2009]

Today's Jewish community of about 190 people almost all live in the capital city, Skopje. The community promotes restoration of the historic cemetery in Bitola. Some 200 to 300 Jews living elsewhere in Macedonia, but are unaffiliated with a formal Jewish community. On 30 May 2000, the Macedonian parliament enacted a law that allowed heirless properties of Jewish Holocaust victims to be included in a special-purpose fund whose proceeds would create a Holocaust memorial museum in the country. [January 2009]

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3 BITOLJ (former Manastir)
6 MANASTIR: see Bitolj
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