Maia Daltcheva: Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria – 1330 Years of Coexistence
Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria – 1330 Years of Coexistence Maia Daltcheva Wien Abstract – Bulgarian Jews have had a considerable contribution to the import of Western ideas and new developments/discoveries in Bulgaria. Especially during the longlasting period under Ottoman rule the Jews widened their contacts with the West. They financed arts, litera- ture, donated money for the first books printed in Bulgarian. The aim of this article is to bring to the attention of the reader an aspect of Bulgarian and European history, which stands in unique contrast to the relations between Jews and the local population in other parts of Eu- rope. We will demonstrate how Jews and Bulgarians have coexisted in a fruitful mutual ex- change for 1330 years. The fact, that Bulgaria has saved its Jewish community in World War II, stands not alone as a “political decision”, but is the continuation of a good coexistence be- tween the Bulgarians and their Jewish neighbors. Keywords: Jewish, Bulgaria, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Synagogue, Sofia, Arie Family, Samokov, Plovdiv, Ottoman Empire, Ladino 1. Introduction The presence of Jews on what is now Bulgarian soil can be traced back to the 2nd century. It is very likely that they might have reached the Balkan Peninsula ear- lier. One of the earliest artefacts we have from that time is a tombstone from that 2nd century, which also features an engraved Menorah (the seven-armed candle- holder). It was found near the village of Gigen, Northern Bulgaria. Another in- teresting artefact is a talisman with an engraved...
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