July 24, 2012

Sights From Dubrovnik

The main street of Dubrovnik's Old Town. Photo: Laszlo Szalai
From September 28-30 to October 1-3 JDC Ambassadors will be leading an expedition to Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, and the Croatian Coast. This mission will combine historic insight, social advocacy, and an exploration into the fascinating Jewish life of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

With a breathtaking view of the Adriatic coastline, spectacular medieval walkways, and culture and history at every turn, the city of Dubrovnik is not to be missed. Beneath its picturesque exterior however, lies a city that was once home to a reserved but robust Jewish community. Dating back to the 14th century, the Jewish community of Dubrovnik is a resilient one, hosting a synagogue, museum, and multiple treasured artifacts.       

One of the most famous sights in all of Dubrovnik, and not just in the Jewish world, is the Dubrovnik Synagogue. Built in the 14th century, it is the second oldest synagogue in the world in addition to being the oldest Sephardic synagogue. It houses torah scrolls dating back to the 13th or 14th century that contain some of the oldest styles of Hebrew script. They demonstrate a variety of calligraphy that is noticeably different from the writing style seen in most torahs. These scrolls are now housed in the synagogue’s museum and have been viewed as far away as New York City.

Not far from the museum and synagogue is the “Jewish fountain,” nicknamed for the fact that it was the only water fountain in which Jews were allowed to drink until Napoleon invaded Dubrovnik. It serves as a reminder of the contentious past that Croatian Jews were once forced to live.

 “Dubrovnik was a Jewish melting ground,” due to its Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and other widespread influences that thrived in the area called “Zudiska Ulica,” or “Jews Street,” the neighborhood in which the Jewish people of Dubrovnik were confined for many years. The community of Zudiska Ulica produced a great many Jewish Dubrovnik residents, such as the physician and discoverer Amatus Lusitanus and the poet Didacus Pyrrhus.

Although it is a small community today, it is swelling in pride and determination. A member of the Coordination Committee of Croatian Jewish Communities, Dubrovnik’s Jewish community and sites boast visitors and admirers from all over the world. It continues to grow, establishing a future for itself for years to come. 

For more information please contact Rebecca Neuwirth at rebeccan@jdcny.org or Rachel Rosenthal at rachelr@jdcny.org.

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