Ivan Ceresnjes

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Ivan Ceresnjes (born 1945,[1] Sarajevo), also known as Ivica Ceresnjes, is a Bosnian architect-researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem specializing in the documentation of the Jewish architectural-cultural heritage in the former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe. During the Bosnian War of 1992–1995 he served as the president of the Jewish community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and played a central role in the rescue and evacuation of thousands of Sarajevo residents.

Biography[edit]

Ceresnjes was born in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina). He received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Arhitektonsko - Urbanisticki Fakultet (Faculty of Urban Architecture) in the University of Sarajevo and afterwards worked as a practicing architect-designer, project manager, and manager of the building department, with responsibility for approximately 500,000 square meters of buildings in the Sarajevo area. His work included designing, building, restoration and conservation of sacred buildings of various religious denominations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as churches and mosques.[citation needed]

A significant part of his professional activity was devoted to Jewish buildings and sites. He was engaged in initiating, supporting, organizing the funding, and actively working on revitalization, reconstruction, and conservation of the 16th-century old Sephardic cemetery in Sarajevo. That project was prepared for a public presentation twenty-four hours before war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina in March 1992. Ceresnjes also surveyed and planned restorations for the Ashkenazi synagogue in Sarajevo (built in 1902), the 17th-century Il Kal Nuevu Sephardic synagogue, and the cemetery chapel on the Jewish cemetery (1926).[citation needed]

In 1989–1990 he planned and headed the reconstruction of the Jewish summer camp in Pirovac, Croatia, which served as a central meeting place for the entire Jewish community of the former Yugoslavia. In 1990–1991 he prepared and headed the restoration and conservation of the complex of the burial site of Rabbi Moshe Danon, a significant historic person from the Bosnian Jewish community (1832, The Sarajevo Megilla) in Stolac, Herzegovina.[citation needed]

Jewish community leader[edit]

Ceresnjes served as head of the Jewish community of Bosnia and Herzegovina and vice-chairman of the Yugoslav Federation of Jewish Communities from 1992 until his emigration to Israel in 1996.[2][3][4][5] His tenure coincided with the Bosnian War of 1992–1995.[3][6] When Serbian forces occupied the Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo, Ceresnjes gave permission to the Bosnia-Herzegovinan army to bomb the cemetery. (In the end, the cemetery was not bombed.)[7]

Ceresnjes and the Sarajevo Jewish humanitarian society, La Benevolencija, also provided aid to thousands of besieged Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Jewish residents, supplying food, medicine, and postal and radio communications.[1][8] Ceresnjes told a local paper that the nonsectarian relief effort was partly a gesture of gratitude to local Muslims who had hidden Jews during the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia.[9] As a student of Balkan history, Ceresnjes said he had anticipated the war a full year before it broke out, and had organized the Jewish community of Sarajevo to stockpile supplies, make sure everyone had passports, make plans to evacuate the children and the elderly, and find places for the evacuees in Israel and Europe.[9] After the war started, Ceresnjes and La Benevolencija assisted the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in the evacuation of 2,500 Sarajevo residents, only one-third of whom were Jewish. There were 11 evacuations in all, three by air early on in the war, and eight by bus convoy after the airport had been closed to civilian traffic.[1] While other convoys were stopped, the Ceresnjes convoys all got through, as field staff from the Joint negotiated cease fires to ensure safe transfer.[10]

In recognition of his wartime humanitarian efforts, Ceresnjes was awarded the French Légion d'honneur in October 1994.[1][11] He published his wartime memoirs in a 35-page monograph, Caught in the winds of war: Jews in the former Yugoslavia, in 1999.[12]

Work in Israel[edit]

Ceresnjes made aliyah to Israel in 1996.[2][13] In 1997 he joined the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as an architect-researcher. He is permanently engaged in the documentation of the Jewish architectural cultural heritage in the former Yugoslavia[14][15] and other Eastern European countries, along with the mapping of Holocaust memorials and monuments.[2][13][16] He also assists the United States Congressional Commission for Protecting and Preserving American Property Abroad, which was founded in 1985 to survey Jewish cemeteries, memorials and monuments, with a primary focus on Eastern Europe.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Shanker, Thom (10 October 1994). "Do Unto Others: In the midst of Bosnia's ethnic bloodbath, innocents find a lifeline in the Jewish community". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Destruction of the Memory of Jewish Presence in Eastern Europe; a Case Study: Former Yugoslavia – Interview with Ivan Ceresnjes". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. December 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Serageldin, Ismail; Shluger, Ephi; Martin-Brown, Joan (January 2001). Historic Cities and Sacred Sites: Cultural roots for urban futures. World Bank Publications. p. 313. ISBN 0-8213-4904-X. 
  4. ^ Schwartz, Stephen (2005). Sarajevo Rose: A Balkan Jewish notebook. Saqi. p. 70ff. ISBN 0-86356-592-1. 
  5. ^ Davico, Leon (June 1993). "Passover in Sarajevo". UNESCO Courier. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Schwartz, Stephen (2 January 2004). "Historic Cemetery in Serbia Desecrated". The Forward. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Allen, Beverly (February 1996). Rape Warfare: The hidden genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. University of Minnesota Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-8166-2818-6. 
  8. ^ Polonovski, Max (2002). Le Patrimoine Juif Europeen Actes Du Colloque International Tenu a Paris, Au Musee D'Art Et D'Histoire Du Judaisme, Les 26, 27 Et 28 Janvier 1999: Actes Du Colloque International Tenu a Paris, Au Musee D'Art Et D'Histoire Du Judaisme, Les 26, 27 Et 28 Janvier 1999. Peeters. p. 44. ISBN 90-429-1177-8. 
  9. ^ a b Gay, Lance (10 April 1993). "Jews Repay Bosnian Muslims". The Vindicator. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  10. ^ London, Charles (2009). Far From Zion: In search of a global Jewish community. William Morrow and Company. p. 137. ISBN 0-06-156106-1. 
  11. ^ Singer, David (July 1996). American Jewish Year Book, 1996. American Jewish Committee. pp. 327–328. ISBN 0-87495-110-0. 
  12. ^ Ceresnjes, Ivan (1999). Caught in the Winds of War: Jews in the Former Yugoslavia. Institute of the World Jewish Congress. 
  13. ^ a b Gruber, Ruth Ellen (6 September 2004). "Strange painting in Serbian shul baffles art maven". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "Bloomfield/Schachter Grant for Architectural Research". Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  15. ^ "Former Synagogue in Travnik (1860) Demolished". International Survey of Jewish Monuments. 7 September 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  16. ^ "News Update: 2009 – The Architecture Section". Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 

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