Kingdom of southeastern Europe; until 1876 a vassal state of Turkey. The history of the Jews of the country is almost identical with that of Belgrade and of Nish, its two oldest communities. There was no regularly organized congregation in Belgrade until the year 1530, when one was established through the efforts of Don Joseph Nasi, while the foundation of the community of Nish dates only from 1728. According to Samuel di Medina, rabbi of Salonica, there were two other communities, at Semendria and Shabats, although the Jews of the latter city, threatened by the rebellious Haiduks or Oksoks, were greatly reduced in number by emigrations in 1690 and 1787 to the Banat, Slavonia, and even to Buda. From a religious point of view all these communities of Servia were under the supervision of the congregation of Salonica.
The Servian Jews were frequently molested in times of general disturbance, e.g., by the Turks in 1792, and by the orthodox Servians in 1807 and 1813, the political equality of all Servians being first proclaimed by Milosch Obrenovich in 1817. From that period until 1830 the Servian Jews enjoyed all legal rights, and contributed materially to the prosperity of the country.
Alexander (the son of Czerni-George [Kara-Georgevich]), who was elected on the abdication of Milosch in 1842, inaugurated a policy of oppression. The new prince thus repaid the support given him by the merchants of the orthodox religion on his accession to power; and the Jews were forbidden to settle in the interior of the country. In the Treaty of Paris (1856) a paragraph was inserted which gave full liberty in matters of religion, legislation, and commerce to the Servian Jews, though their condition was once more to be aggravated by the law of Oct. 30, 1856.
The restoration of Milosch to the throne in 1858 revived the hopes of the Jews; and a decree issued by him Sept. 26, 1858, repealed all laws in force against them. Prince Michel, the successor of Milosch, however, restricted their right to settle in the interior. At this period Servia contained 2,475 Jews, residing in Belgrade, Nish, Pojarevatz, Semendria, Shabats, and Obrenovatz. In 1861 sixtyJewish families were driven from the cities of the interior, further expulsion taking place in 1862 and 1863, and especially at Shabats in 1864.The Outrage of Shabats.
A protest made in Dec., 1864, by the Alliance Israélite Universelle against the anti-Semitic journal "Svetovide" was ineffectual, and in January of the following year two Jews of Shabats were assassinated, whereupon the Servian Jews went into voluntary exile. In 1865 there were but 1,805 left in the country, the greater number of them living at Belgrade in a ghetto beyond the entrenchments of the fortress. The Jews, however, still sought for assistance, and were aided by J. A. Longworth, G. J. Ricketts, and J. C. Blunt, successively English consuls at Belgrade from 1861 to 1869. These officials presented a petition and several verbal protests from the Servian Jews to three successive ministers at the English Foreign Office. As the Jews of Servia wished to place themselves under the protection of England, the problem was discussed in the House of Commons on March 29, 1867, when a memorial was presented to the British government by Sir Francis Goldsmid. In a like spirit the Alliance Israélite Universelle and its president, Adolphe Crémieux, as well as the Board of Deputies in London, and its president, Sir Moses Montefiore, drew the attention of the English, Turkish, and Servian governments to this Jewish question. At the same time Count Abraham Camondo brought all his influence to bear on the viziers Ali Pasha and Fuad Pasha, and even on Prince Milan, when he visited Constantinople in 1867. The Servian constitution, proclaimed in 1869, while professedly liberal in character, reaffirmed the anti-Jewish laws of 1856 and 1861, and, moreover, rendered the Jews liable to military service. The English, French, Italian, and Austrian consuls at Belgrade at once protested in the names of their respective governments against the inconsistency of these laws; and the victims of the measures emigrated from the country in large numbers.
The most influential Jew of Belgrade at that time was David Russo, who kept the Alliance Israélite Universelle and the proper authorities informed with regard to Jewish matters. In 1873 the Alliance again sought to intervene with Prince Milan on behalf of the Jews when he passed through Paris; but his reply was evasive. In 1876 eleven families were expelled from Semendria. When Servia revolted against Turkey in 1876 fifty-five soldiers from 230 Jewish families fought in the Servian army (see the list in Loeb, "Situation des Israélites de Turquie," etc., p. 407). In 1873 the Jews of Belgrade were permitted to elect a deputy to the Skupshtina; and in 1880 Prince Milan appointed six Jews as members of his private body-guard. The constitution of Jan. 2, 1889, finally abolished the anti-Jewish laws of 1856 and 1861, and from that time to the present date (1905) no important event has marked the history of the Jews of Servia.
In 1884 there were 3,492 Jews in Servia. Now, in a total population of 2,493,770 there are 6,430, distributed as follows: Belgrade, 4,000; Nish, 800; Shabats, 600; Pirot, 300; Pojarevatz, 200; Lescovatz, 200; Semendria, 150; Obrenovatz, 100; Vatjevo, 50; Onb, 30. Since 1841 Belgrade has had a Hebrew press in the national printing-office, and from 1888 to 1893 a Judæo-Spanish journal, "El Amigo del Pueblo," was published there.
Although the Jews have possessed legal equality since the promulgation of the constitution of 1889, this equality scarcely exists in general intercourse, and the Jews have therefore taken little part in public affairs. The Jewish state functionaries number only one schoolmaster, one schoolmistress, one head of a department in the Ministry of the Interior, one consul-general, one ex-deputy, and one sublieu-tenant. In the liberal professions are eight lawyers, six physicians, and three engineers.
- Loeb, Situation des Israélites de Turquie, Serbie, et Roumanie, pp. 28, 45-81, Paris, 1877;
- Annual Bulletin All. Isr. 1880, 1889, 1903;
- Amarillo, Debar Mosheh, p. 69, Salonica, 1742-50.