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Levi, Moritz

LEVI, MORITZ

LEVI, MORITZ (Moric ; 1878–1941), rabbi and author. Born in Sarajevo, he studied Judaism and philosophy in Vienna. As a student he was a member of the Zionist groups Bar Giora and Esperanza. His Ph.D. thesis, Die Sephardim in Bosnia, published in 1911 by the Jewish publisher and printer Daniel A. Kajon, in Sarajevo, was the product of pioneering work on the history of the Sephardi Jews in the Balkans. It appeared in Serbo-Croat translation, prepared and issued by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Belgrade.

From 1916 he was the rabbi of the Sephardi community, a post he held until the Holocaust. In 1925, when the Federation of Jewish Communities decided to open a theological seminary, Levi and his Ashkenazi colleague Ephraim Urbach were chosen to head this institute and teach in it. This seminary provided secondary education coupled with Judaic studies. Its alumni became cantors, Hebrew teachers, and rabbinical assistants all over the country, significantly contributing to the continuity of Jewish life there.

Rabbi Levi was a central figure in Jewish life in Sarajevo, serving as mediator between the Zionist and the Sephardi factions. He corresponded with the Spanish senator Angelo Pulido, who had inquired about the presence of Ladino-speaking Jews during the early decades of the 20th century, publishing a work titled Judios sin Patria ("Jews without Homeland"), which contained some of the data he had gathered.

During the occupation of Sarajevo by the Croat Ustashe and the Nazis, in April 1941, he was arrested and interrogated at the Gestapo headquarters in Graz, released in Croatia, but rearrested and deported, together with his wife, Rivkah, to the Croatian death camp Jasenovac, where they perished.

bibliography:

Spomenica – 400 godina od dolaska Jevreja u Bosnu i Hercegovinu 1566–1966 (1966).

[Zvi Loker (2nd ed.)]

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