It was an extremely exciting day for the Jews of Macedonia. On Thursday 3rd January 2013 the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) held its annual Jerusalem Congress with the Republic of Macedonia being ratified as the 45th full member union. WUJS along with all of the other member unions could not be more thrilled to have Macedonia join their union and be a part of the expanding network of international Jewish students. Today, the small community of about 200 Macedonian Jews reside mostly mostly in the capital, Skopje. The Republic of Macedonia joined WUJS in order to provide its small Jewish community with the necessary support those students need in the hopes that they will one day aspire to be future Jewish leaders.
The Jews of Macedonia have a rich history which dates back about 2,000 years ago. The first Jews arrived in the area now known as the Republic of Macedonia during Roman times, when Jews fled persecution in other Roman territories, while some settled in Macedonia. After Roman Rule, the Jewish community remained in Macedonia. During the First Crusade, the Jewish population was devastated in Pelagonia and Skopje. The small Jewish community remained until the Ottoman rule while an influx of Jews came from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. Jews were granted significant autonomy, with various rights including the right to buy property the right to build synagogues and to conduct trade throughout the Ottoman Empire. – In 1941 the Jews of Macedonia came face to face with the tragedy of the Holocaust; Bulgaria, who entered the war on the side of the axis powers invaded the Macedonian lands claiming them as part of Bulgaria. Jews flocked to the partisan movement as Bulgaria adopted harsher measures against the Sephardic populations in Skopje and across occupied Greece. In 1943 the entire Jewish populations of Skopje, Bitola and Štip were rounded up by the police, under the watch of the SS and were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp. – After the war those who survived either made aliyah or moved to the larger community of Belgrade. By 1952 there were only 81 Jews in all of Macedonia, an historic low. This trend is, however, being enthusiastically challenged. The community now has a functioning synagogue, native born Rabbi and one of the most impressive museums dedicated to the memorial of the holocaust in the world. – It was under this wind of optimism that WUJS chairman Oliver Worth traveled to Skopje in 2011 on official duty to witness the opening of the Holocaust Memorial Center. Oliver was immediately inspired by the strength and passion of this tiny community, often forgotten, on the south eastern borders of Europe. With the help of two dedicated local activists Oliver raised awareness of Macedonian Jews in international circles and took the long term view that the Jewish youth of Macedonia must be supported and included on a global scale, or suffer the consequences of community breakdown and loss of cultural heritage. – “When I got the opportunity to meet with them and learn what they are doing to empower the next generation of young Macedonian Jews, I saw their inclusion into WUJS as absolutely obligatory,” said Oliver Worth to Congress delegates in an impassioned speech before welcoming the unanimous vote for membership from the congress floor. – For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or follow our facebook page for photos ‘World Union of Jewish Students‘or twitter feed ‘JewishStudents’ for updates.