SEPHARDI PRIDE: JEWISH CIVIL SOCIETY AND ASSOCIATIONAL NETWORKS IN INTERWAR SARAJEVO
This essay aims to explore the impact that particular interwar historical circumstances produced on the advancement of Sarajevo Sephardim self-awareness, and on the modernization of their associational networks in the domestic and international spheres. The outline of the present analysis follows the associational construction on the three levels of their existence: Bosnian, Yugoslav, and international. The great variety of associations that Bosnian Sephardim created indicates the beginning of civic initiatives in and the modernization of their community, in a way “civil society before democracy”. Similarly, the urge for a sentimental reconnection with Spain was yet another manifestation of their Sephardi self-consciousness and subsequent overlapping among the multiple layers of their belonging. Moreover, Zionism incited a specifically Sephardi reaction, that is, the foundation of the Sephardi movement in the international realm, in which Sephardim of Bosnia actively participated. Their ideology, Sephardism, was not a form of
separatism from their majoritarian brethren, Ashkenazim, but rather a different interpretation of Zionism without rejecting it. Finally, the interwar South-Slavic Kingdom had both quite active Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities and thus represents a useful case study for the divergent Jewish opinions. In addition, a re-evaluation of Sephardi associations in the interwar years is a necessary requisite for filling the existent explanatory gap within both Yugoslav and Jewish histories. The Sephardi movement was a modern initiative, providing a democratic discussion platform and promoting a crucial demand for cultural diversity within Jewishness, one that stands even to the present.