Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion
to a new history.
the 1920s and 1930s Zionism emerged as the most powerful
force in Monastir´s Jewish community. Jewish sports
clubs, music and dance societies, summer camps, a library,
schools, a newspaper, and a youth orchestra were all products
of Zionist organization.
triumph of Zionism in Monastir
appeal for young Monastirlis was dramatically evidenced
by the extraordinary number of them who emigrated to Palestine.
Of the 70,000 Jews in Yugoslavia in the mid-1930s, Monastir
held no more than 4,000, or 6 percent of the country´s
Jewish population. Yet these few thousand Monastir Jews
accounted for the great majority of Yugoslavia´s
emigrants to Palestine.
the 490 Yugoslav Jews who emigrated to Eretz Israel during
the 1930s, the Monastirlis accounted for 429 of them.
When the 1920s period is included, the number of Monastirlis
who made aliyah approaches 500, or about 12 percent of
Monastir, a combination of factors made emigration to
Palestine attractive. Chief among these seem to have been
the emigration of Monastir Jews to Palestine in the 19th
century, the influence of the Alliance schools, anti-Semitic
incidents, extreme poverty, and the destruction of Monastir´s
Jewish life in the First World War.
Kamhi was the prime force behind the Zionist movement
in Monastir and one of the more important leaders of the
Zionist movement in Yugoslavia.
1918 and 1939, he held a dizzying variety of official
titles and positions both in Monastir and on national
Jewish organizations, including chairman of the Jewish
National Fund Commission for southern Serbia; secretary,
vice-chairman, and chairman of Monastir´s Municipal
Council; vice-chairman of the Zionist Federation of Yugoslavia;
and secretary of the Bitolj Zionist Organization.
perhaps his unofficial titles were more indicative of
the vital role he played in Monastir. As a sign of respect,
Kamhi was called Doctor, and when he took to arranging
the certificates needed for emigration to Eretz Israel,
a new title was added, and he was called Consul Dr. Leon
1936, emigration to the nascent Jewish homeland was much
more difficult than it had been just the year before.
Arab riots against the Jews that year caused the British
to substantially reduce the number of Jews they allowed
1934, there were 42,000 Jewish immigrants, and in 1935
there were 61,800. But in 1936, British restrictions reduced
immigration to only 29,700. In 1937, the number dropped
to just 10,500.
1938 and 1945, when Europe´s Jews were desperate
for a safe haven from the Nazis, fewer than 100,000 Jews
were allowed to settle in Palestine.