About Us



The history of the Jews in Albania dates back about 2,000 years. According to historian Apostol Kotani (Albania and the Jews): "Jews may have first arrived in Albania as early as 70 C.E. as captives on Roman ships that washed up on the country's southern shores. Descendants of these captives that would build the first synagogue in the southern port city of Sarandë in the fifth century. By the early 16th century, there were Jewish settlements in most of major cities of Albania such as Berat, Elbasan, Vlorë, Durrës and also they are reported as well in Kosovo region. These Jewish families were mainly of Sephardic origin and descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Iberia in the end of 15th century CE. In 1520 in Vlorë were reported 609 Jewish households and also Vlorë was also the site of Albania's only synagogue which was destroyed in the First World War. In 1673 the charismatic Jewish prophet Sabbatai Zevi was exiled by the sultan to the Albanian port of Ulqin, now in Montenegro dying there some years later. Little is know about the Jewish community in the area until the 15th century.

 1900 - 1939 According to the Albanian census of 1930, there were only 204 Jews registered at that time in Albania. The official recognition of the Jewish community was granted on April 2, 1937, while at that time this community consisted in about 300 members.



With the rise of Nazi Germany a number of German and Austrian Jews took refuge in Albania. Still in 1938 the Albanian Embassy in Berlin continued to issue visas to Jews, at a time when no other European country was willing to take them. One of the major Albanologist Norbert Jokl asked for the Albanian citizenship which was granted to him immediately, but this couldn't save him from concentration camps. 1939 - 1945 Albania had about 200 Jews at the beginning of the war. It subsequently became a safe haven for several hundred Jewish refugees from other countries. At the Wannsee Conference in 1942, Adolf Eichmann, planner of the mass murder of Jews across Europe, estimated the number of Jews in Albania that were to be killed at 200. Nevertheless, Jews in Albania remained protected by the local population and this protection continued even after the occupation of Albania by Nazi forces after the capitulation of Italy on September 1943. At the end of the war, Albania had a population of 2,000 Jews.



Throughout Albania’s communist rule under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, the Jewish community was isolated from the Jewish world, though this does not reflect anti-Jewish measures. In order to forge sustainable national unity as well as the new socialism, Hoxha banned confessional loyalties across the religious spectrum. In this manner, the fate of the Jewish community was inextricably linked to the fates of the Albanian society as a whole.  All religion was strictly banned from the country. After the fall of Communism in 1991, nearly all the Jews of Albania emigrated. They left primarily for economic reasons and not because of anti-Semitism. Some 298 Albanian Jews immigrated to Israel, and about 30 others moved to  Brooklyn in the United States.