Jews Repay Bosnian Muslims

Jews stay in war-torn Sarajevo to run a meal center for Muslims

By Lance Gay
The Vindicator, p.E4
10 April 1993.

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — In this land of historic hatreds, a tiny Jewish community is braving Serbian shells to repay a 50-year-old debt to Muslims [Bosniaks] who saved JEws from the Holocaust.

Ivica Ceresnjes, president of the Jewish Community of Sarajevo, says he and about 1,000 other Jews chose to remain in Sarajevo, rather than leave for Israel, to keep a feeding center in the medieval old town district running.

Motive: Ceresnjes said that was partly in gratitude to the Muslims who hid Jews during the Nazi occupation and partly to keep intact the centuries-old presence of Jews living in Sarajevo.

As a student of Balkan history, Ceresnjes said he saw this war coming and had plans to evacuate children and the elderly. A year before the war erupted here last April, Ceresnjes said the Jewish center began stockpiling supplies, ensuring everyone had passports and arranging for places in Israel and Europe for the evacuees.

Shelling: The center, which has been shelled several times along with most of Sarajevo, also runs a radio station, mail center and distributes food packages sent by Jewish organizations around the world.

While Muslims and Jews are fighting each other in the Mid-east, Jews here say there’s a long tradition of cooperation.

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