<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
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Zionist Youth

The Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion to a new history.

During 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.

The triumph of Zionism in Monastir

Zionism´s 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.

Of 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 the community.

In 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.

Leon Kamhi

Leon Kamhi was the prime force behind the Zionist movement in Monastir and one of the more important leaders of the Zionist movement in Yugoslavia.

Between 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.

But 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 Kamhi.

Halt to emigration

In 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 into Palestine.

In 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.

Between 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.

<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.

Last Century of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
by Mark Cohen

LIST PRICE: $34.95


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