The Passover Sarajevo Hagadah- An inspiring fascinating journey from Spain to Sarajevo

The Passover Sarajevo Hagadah- An inspiring fascinating journey from Spain to Sarajevo

Tradition has it that you start cleaning for Pesach from after Purim. I start preparing for Pesach from after Rosh Hashana. My early orders for Pesach usually come in the midst of Hanukah.

To be inspired I usually go to old Manuscripts of Hagadot for Passover. In the days of travel I went to Sarajevo with Jewish Historical Seminars and viewed the magnificent Sarajevo Hagadah. We had the great fortune of having as scholar in residence Professor Shalom Sabar, who wrote a scholarly study for the reprinted Facsimile edition.

While it is named the Sarajevo Hagadah its origins are in Spain, probably written in the 13th or 14th century Spain. With the expulsion of the Jews at the time of the Inquisition in Spain in 1492 the Jews moved to other countries.

The Haggadah was taken with them. It is confirmed that for a certain time it was in Italy. Some years later when the Sephardi Jews reached Sarajevo the book came along with them. In the 19th century, the Kohen family sold the book to the Bosnian National Museum.

Clearly Christian medieval art motives appear in the Hagadah. The illustrations are truly magnificent. Sarajevo has a rich Sephardic tradition, so it is very fitting that the book found its refuge in Sarajevo. A city known as small Jerusalem or as the Sephardim would say “Saray el chico Yerusalai”.

During the Second World War, Sarajevo was occupied by fascistic and Nazi officers. When they came to the Museum to take the Hagadah the museum custodian, Derviš Korkut risked his life by lying to the Nazi officers. He told them that the book was already taken by another officer. All the while hiding the book and then taking it out of the museum. Some say an Imam had the Hagadah a local mosque.

In the nineties, when Sarajevo was besieged for 44 months. A distinguished Bosnian historian Dr. Enver Imamovic was able to take the Haggadah out of the museum and together with other valuables. He kept it in a safe of the Central Bank of Bosnia. So Sarajevo Haggadah was saved by the people of Sarajevo once more.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is located in the National Museum in Sarajevo. It is a joy to behold.

3rd Feb 2021 Barbara Shaw

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