Bulgaria: Jewish burial society "Chevra Kadisha" members enamel pin, circa. 1920's; bronze and enamel; not maker-marked; size: 20mm x 44mm; weight: 1.6g.
Stretched hexigonal shaped pin with emblem of coffin with Star of David emerging from behind (with rays) and legend in Bulgarian (partially transliterated from Hebrew) цедек вееметь - "Tzedek Ve Emet [Justice and Truth] Sofia 1921".
Very little information is available about the Sofia branch of the burial society: the book "Oriental Jews in Eretz Israel" by Moshe Gaon (Jeusalem, 1938) lists Abraham (Avraham) Astruc (died 1878), a notable Jew of Sofia, as having held a Synagogue in his house and being the head of the Hevra Kadisha of the city; it may be that his son, Ezra ben Abraham Astruk succeeded him in this position, although he emigrated to Palestine in 1882.
Until 1878 Bulgaria formed part of the Ottoman empire, and the somewhat better documented activites of the Hevra Kadisha organization in the city of Monastir (today's Bitola) in Ottoman Macedonia may be relevant: the Jewish community there was large, and at the turn of the 20th Century a Hevra Kadisha society was formed by Solomon (Shlomo) Levy of the city's charitable "Ozer Dalim" ("Assist the Needy") society, which itself was formed in 1894.
"Ozer Dalim" was funded through membership fees, employed non-Jewish doctors, provided the sick with medicine and food. established a maternity ward and special committees for different needs, including visiting the sick (a Jewish good deed known as "Bikur Cholim") and clothes for the needy. "Ozer Dalim" also helped establish the local "Chevrah Kadisha", whose activities in Bitola are recorded up to the 1930's.
A "Chevra Kadisha" is an organization of Jews who see to it that the bodies of deceased Jews are prepared for burial according to Jewish law: the task of preparing a body for burial and interring him is considered a good deed of truth ("Chesed shel Emet"), an activity of such importance that nearly every city with a small Jewish community raises such a society.
The (Ladino) Jewish communities of Sofia and Macedonia being very similar to one another, during Ottoman rule and then again during the Holocaust, under Bulgarian rule, it is very probable that the Sofia branch commemorated by this pin shares its history with that of its better documented sister branch in Monastir/Bitola. The few documents of the Sofia branch suggest that the society existed in one form prior to the First World War and was re-established again in 1921.
מילות מפתח: מדליות מוסדות עמותה עמותות יהודיות בית בתי ספר מרכז קהילתי בולגריה יודאיקה יוקאיכה