The Balkans has a rich and diverse Jewish history and many institutions hold significant archival materials relating to their Jewish communities, these are of increasing interest to the research community and the wider public.
In October, the National Library of Israel came to Belgrade, Serbia and hosted 16 archivists from State Archives, Jewish Communities and Jewish Museums in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Macedonia , Serbia and Slovenia, for a special training course, 'At the Source South East Europe' which was developed by the NLI in close consultation with regional experts and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. The course offered a unique opportunity for networking and knowledge sharing across the region.
Photo by Mina Piscevic
Dr Jelena Erdeljan, Art Historian at the University of Belgrade, said that the course was a 'historical occasion' for Jewish heritage in the Balkans and this was borne out by the interest from the wider community – including TV and Press coverage. Israel's Ambassador to Belgrade, Alona Fisher-Kamm opened the course acknowledging the appropriate timing close to the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration, Serbia being the first country to support the Declaration - the letter expressing their endorsement is in the NLI's Collections.
Photo by Mina Piscevic
The course was delivered in cooperation with local institutions including The Historical Archives of Belgrade; Archives of Serbia; The Jewish Historical Museum; University of Belgrade, who hosted a public event 'The Future of our Past' about Jewish Cultural Heritage in the Balkans, and the National Library of Serbia.
At the Source is a core project of Gesher L'Europa, an initiative funded by the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, to provide opportunities for exchange and enrichment between the NLI and European Scholars, library and archive professionals and educators working within Jewish settings.
Belgrade is the first phase of the training, and NLI look forward to welcoming the archivists to Jerusalem in January 2018.
A copy of the letter expressing Serbian endorsement of the Balfour Declaration
The graves of Herzl's Grandparents in the Zemun Jewish Cemetary. images by Dr. Katja Šmid