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Pictures of Zagreb’s Jewish community

‘We’re still here’ was a frequent refrain during my October conversational journey with Eastern European Jews.   Conversations unsurfaced pride, wonder, and questions.  Questions continue to blossom as I sift through notes and pictures in the comfort of local coffeehouses.    Zagreb, a last minute

Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia

substitution  as my time and travel energy wore thin, was rich with opportunity to sit, listen and learn.   Zagreb reminded me:  I always end up exactly where I’m meant to be!

So finally, here are pictures (miraculously recovered)  and stories to share and expand on previous Zagreb posts ( ‘Unassuming Treasures’ and ‘Holiday lights in Zagreb lead to holiday thoughts in New York’) about this interesting city and community:

Searches for ‘Zagreb synagogues’ lists the address for the Great synagogue built in

Marker for ‘Great’ Maketa Synagogue in parking lot at 7 Praska Street

1867 and burned in 1942 by Croatians hoping to endear themselves to invading  German troops.  Locating the address does not mean finding a sanctuary.  Rather, a parking lot and this small sign memoralize the former location.

Pictures  – and models of what the synagogue looked like, and perhaps even what a rebuilt synagogue will resemble when a decision can be made are plentiful.  This model was on display at the Zagreb City Museum (found on-line).

model of the Maketa Synagogue (Sinagoga) at the Zagreb city museum

Around the corner from my hostel (where we ended our days watching unedited ‘Sex in the City reruns), at Palmoticera 16, was ZOZ:  Jewish

ZOZ: Jewish Community (Center) Zagreb

Community Zagreb, http://www.zoz.hr, housing a synagogue (among other groups).  Around the corner means my searching time was under an hour.  Finding the ‘right’ street, as always challenged me to find the right building as I walked up and down the street.   Where was the building which matched my assumption of a synagogue?   Eventually, I realized I should be paying attention to the security booth.

ZOZ, from across the street and a look up

Stepping across the street and looking four stories up revealed a small Mogen David (star) .

The following pictures of ZOZ are thanks to my guide Biserka K. (Read more in ‘Unassuming Treasures’.)  For over an hour she shared  history and artifacts, welcomed her 12 year-old daughter, Maya, all while ignoring the security guard’s calls for her to stop talking (to me) and finish preparing for a luncheon

Inside ZOZ: this old Ark is one of the many artifacts from the Zagreb Synagogue

with Zuzi Jelinek,

Biserka, with curtain from ark inside ZOZ

fashion designer and author .

My day started over coffee with the warm and energetic Chabad Rabbi, Pini Zaklas.   Rabbi Pini’s community-building journey over the last seven years includes basic organizational development processes.  Joking that Abraham was the first Chabadnik (teaching about Judaism), he shared, ‘every Jew is a diamond, hug the diamond.  Doesn’t

Inside ZOZ: the ark and front Bima

matter how many or how ‘religious’, just that they

come close to Yiddishkite.’  He predicted Zagreb’s new Chabad’s  Center open for

Inside ZOZ: Biserka reminded me to look up

Chanukah to draw about 200 congregants each Shabbat.   Dubrovnik, Croatia’s beautiful and internationally trendy coastal resort, hosts 150 – 200 travelers each summer Shabbat thanks to Chabbad!  Amazing and wonderful, I think, for travelers to include Judaism in their vacation memories.

In Zagreb, as for most Eastern European Jews, acknowledging Judaism means learning to pray and observe traditions from scratch.  Rabbi Pini’s wife teaches women how to prepare and celebrate holidays like Chanukah.  And btw:  learning Hebrew is HARD!  I’ve been reviewing my early  textbook and am amazed I ever accomplished ‘tarzan Hebrew .

Congregation Bet-Israel,  http://www.bet-israel.com
discussed in ‘Unassuming Treasures’, began as an offshoot of ZOZ.    The Bimah, Ark, chairs are the work of a Croatian artist.

I love the filigree of this Bimah (located in the center of the sanctuary)! This is where the Rabbi or Cantor reads from the Torah.

Bet Israel’s unique, personal and intimate sanctuary struck me (with my American optimism) as a promise of the future of Zagreb’s Jewish community.  With no landmark synagogue, yet a large public menorah lighting, this community is significant.

Croatia is not known to be open to those who are ‘different’ ( a taxi driver told me).  Jews fit in that category. Croatia is more pro-Palestine than Pro-Israel.  Yet, Zagreb’s mayor gifted pews for

Inside Bet-Israel: The unique and beautiful Bima and Ark

Inside Bet-Israel: Jewish humor and irony are apparent here as B. pointed out the picture of Theodore Hertzl, father of Zionism and avidly anti-religious above a Chanukia (Chanukah menorah)

Bet Israel and participates in the Menorah lighting.  Complicated?  Absolutely amazing!

The famous Sarejevo Haggadah (originally from Spain, 1490’s) was the lead exhibit at the Mimara Museum.  Zagreb is a city known for its museums.

Zagreb Cemetery: these tombstones may appear old compared to the other tombstone here, but these appear to be from the 1970’s. There were about 20 stones in this shape and though I don’t know the story, I was intrigued. If anyone knows, I hope they will share.

Zagreb’s HUGE cemetary has a sizeable Jewish section which I found by drawing a Jewish star and asking people ‘where?’ Rows of tombstones mirrored political changes. Starting Jewish, later including crosses, and for some, names written in Cyrillic (Russian).  Tombstones with both Mogen David’s and crosses are common in this cemetery.  The flowers and candles were everywhere – a few days before was All Saints day which shut down Hungary, and I’m sure also Croatia

This funky art installation was in one of the many city squares

This exceptionally pretty – and artsy – bathroom is in Zagreb’s Arts and Crafts museum. I realize those who know me well aren’t totally surprised to see a pic of a favorite ‘loo’. There was also a very nice permanent exhibit of Jewish artifacts on display at this museum!

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