The Sarajevo Hagaddah: Held Hostage in a Crumbling and Shuttered Museum

October 8, 2014 | Ilan Ben Zion
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An exquisite 14th-century illuminated manuscript, one of few artifacts to have survived the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, is in danger. In a story not unlike that of many Sephardi families, the Haggadah migrated first to Venice and then to Sarajevo, then the capital of the Ottoman province of Bosnia and home to a thriving Jewish community. The manuscript managed to survive both the Holocaust and the fierce fighting in Bosnia in the 1990s. But today the ongoing tensions between Bosnia’s central government and its autonomous Serbian Republic are holding it captive:

Now the Sarajevo Haggadah sits in limbo in the bankrupt National Museum on the Bosnian capital’s main drag. The museum closed its doors on October 4, 2012, after its employees went without salaries for an entire year. . . . The museum, along with several other cultural institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was left without a government body responsible for running and funding it, leaving it outside the budgets of the country’s various administrative bodies.

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