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Turk of Amerika 9/19/09 5:21 PM Page 1




The present size of the Jewish community is estimated to be around 22,000. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with a com


munity of about 500 in Izmir and other smaller groups located in Adana, Ankara, Antakya, Bursa, Canakkale, Kirklareli etc.

ART DIRECTOR Sinem Ertafl EDITOR Patricia Russo,



The first two Sephardic Jews Jack Policar (d. 1961) and


SENIOR ASSOCIATE PHOTO EDITOR Ayhan Kay WRITER-REPORTERS Ayfle Önal Zambo¤lu, Ali Ç›nar, Demet Cabbar, Duygu Uçkun, Maureen Ertürk, Melda Akansel.

Solomo Calvo (d. 1964), arrived in Seattle from the island of Marmara, Turkey in 1902. In 1904, they met Nissim Alhadeff, who had arrived that year from the Isle of Rhodes, between Greece and Turkey, in a Seattle Greek Café.

CONTRIBUTORS Burcu Gündo¤an, Halim Özyurt, Karen Gerson Sarhon, Naim Güleryüz, Virna Banastey.


ADVISING COMMITTEE Ali Günertem, Egemen Ba¤›fl, Ekmel Anda, Ferhan Geylan, G. Lincoln McCurdy, Hakk› Akbulak, Mahmut Topal, Mehmet Çelebi, Osman (Oz) Bengür, Tolga Ürkmezgil, U¤ur Terzio¤lu. MAIN OFFICE TURKOFAMERICA, Inc. 445 Park Avenue, Suite 936 New York, NY 10022 Tel: +1 (212) 836 4723 Fax: +1 (917) 322 2105 info@ turkofamerica. com

Today, the Sephardic community in the United States is generally known for its members’ attachment and loyalty to their native lands in and around Turkey. New York City has the largest population of Sephardim in the country, and is known, together with Seattle.


REPRESENTATIVES IN THE U.S. CALIFORNIA (Los Angeles): Barbaros Tapan btapan@ turkofamerica. com Tel: +1 (213) 924 8027

26 34

26 SEPHARDIC JEWS OF LOS ANGELES The first spiritual leader was Rabbi Abraham Caraco. There were 52 families in the congregation: 37 from Rhodes. In time, as happens in most families, the Rhodeslies and Turkinos, as they called one another split up due to shall we say, euphemistically for parochial differences.

CALIFORNIA (San Fransisco): Ayfle Önal Zambo¤lu – aozamboglu@ turkofamerica. com Tel: +1 (650) 938 1764


CONNECTICUT Ali Ç›nar – Tel: +1 (203) 722 4339

David Dangoor: “Turkey saved a big chunk of the Jewish

MASSACHUSETTS Mustafa Aykaç – Tel: +1 (857) 205 8318

would have happened to them if they had no place to go.”

NEW YORK (Rochester) Ersoy Yildiz – Tel: +1 (585) 414 4300

religion when the Jews came from Spain. God knows what


34 BARRY HABIB: A SON OF AN ‹STANBUL FAMILY Barry is the youngest of five children of an immigrant family from Ortakoy, ‹stanbul. When the family decided to move

EUROPE: Yasin Ya¤c› – Tel: +31 (624) 66 92 23

away in 1958, like any immigrant who desired to come to the


and all they had to do was just bend down and picked it up.

U.S., they thought that money lay scattered on the streets



MARKETING & SALES P›nar Özçelik- turkiye@ turkofamerica. com

According to Jewish sources, there were 12,000 Jews living in

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peak of 20,000 in 1912 on the eve of the first Balkan War.

Edirne in 1873 and 17,000 in 1902. Their numbers reached a



PRINT: Promat Bas›m Yay›n San. ve Tic. Adile Naflit Bulvar› 122. Sokak No:8 34513 Esenyurt - ‹stanbul - Turkey Telefon: + 90 (212) 622 63 63-pbx Fax: + 90 (212) 456 63 73 E-Mail:

Jews did not leave the city of Bursa when Sultan Orhan took over that city. Sultan gave permission for the building of the Efs Ehaim synagogue –the first synagogue in the Ottoman state- in what today is called Arapsukru Street in the Jewish town.

Most articles in the magazine are translated by Citlembik Ltd. Tel: +90 (212) 292 3032

61 FIRST CHIEF RABBI IN ISTANBUL: RABBI MOSHE CAPSALI After arriving in Istanbul, Sephardic Jews would move out to

TURKOFAMERICA is a member of Independent Press Association. TURKOFAMERICA is a member of Turkish American Chamber of Commerce Industry. Cover Photo: "Hanukiyyah" [Hanukkah Lamp] in the shape of a minaret (The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews, ‹stanbul)

their permanent homes, which the various communal


organizations found for them, settling in the different districts of Constantinople such as Ortakoy and Kuzguncuk, as well as Haskoy and Balat.


The Un›ted Colors of Turkey and The Mosa›cs that Have Spread from Anatol›a to the World he Anatolian territory, which has been located on the migration lines for centuries, has hosted millions of immigrants. Jews who fled from Spain to ‹stanbul in 1492, refugees from the Caucasus who came to various Anatolian cities as a result of the Crimean War of the 1850s and the Ottoman-Russian War in 1870s, victims of Balkan Wars who moved from Bulgaria and Greece… The paths of all refuges crossed in Anatolia. These people moved to such cities of the Ottoman Empire as ‹stanbul, Edirne, Salonica, ‹zmir, Bursa, Tekirda¤, and Rhodes. For years, they continued their lives. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, with the French Revolution, nationalism spread to the whole world. Consecutive wars broke out, such as the Balkan Wars (1912), World War I (1914), which included the Gallipoli Campaign (1915), and The Arab Revolt (1916). These wars cluttered the territory ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Faced with wars, raids, and economic problems, the Anatolian soil lost its children by the hundreds of thousands. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in the years between 1895-1924, a total number of 318,945 Ottoman citizens moved to the United States. The migration waves from Ottoman lands were not only toward United States; people were rushing to Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Australia and Cuba as well.


Cemil Özyurt

Some pieces of the mosaic are still in Anatolia, and some pieces are in the various corners of the world.

In the year of 1913, 1670 people moved to Havana, Cuba, in 1893 410 people moved to Melbourne, Australia. In 1906, 66,558 Ottomans emigrated to Argentina. In the years between 1880-1901, about 1 million Ottomans emigrated to the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and other countries. The most valuable research about immigration from the Ottoman Empire to the United States and Latin America countries was conducted by Kemal Karpat, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Karpat’s magnificent work, Ottoman Population, 1830-1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics, gives many details about the immigration of the Ottomans. Karpat writes in his book that in the years between 1908-1912 a total of 26,065 Ottoman citizens immigrated to Brazil. In Brazil Ottomans were the fifth-largest group of immigrants in the period. The probable number of Syrians in Argentina in 1909 was 51,936. By 1914 the total was 64,369. In Argentina, the Ottomans were the sixth-largest group of immigrants. Between 1901-1924, a total of 65,756 Armenians and 18,848 Turkish immigrants arrived in the New World. Karpat indicates that the general classification terms for Ottoman immigrants were non-descriptive; in Argentina they were called “Syrians,” while in Brazil they were referred to as “Turks” and “Arabs.” Before the first waves of immigration to United States, the famous historian gives important population figures for ‹stanbul. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the population of ‹stanbul consisted of about 722,000 people, divided into 380,000 Muslims, 205,000 Armenians, 100,000

Greeks, and 37,000 Jews. Karpat emphasizes that in about 1850, ‹stanbul had more than 350 mosques of all sizes, 91 Greek and Armenian churches, 8 Catholic churches, and 37 synagogues. ‹stanbul was the capital of the worlds’ faith and cultures. Today there are hundreds of thousands of Americans whose grandfathers and fathers were born in Turkey; hunger, wars and economic crises forced them to emigrate to the United States. They call themselves Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian, Greek, Armenian or Jewish. No matter what religion or nationality they claim, they are the people of the same soil. They are different colors of a rainbow and the pieces of a mosaic. Some pieces of the mosaic are still in Anatolia, and some pieces are in the various corners of the world. If someone has a dream of establishing a greater Turkey, these mosaics have to be combined and never allowed to be divided again.


to the Argentina

to Brazil

to Cuba

to Canada**

4,884 4,451 4,516 4,247 6,169 6,410 8,647 9,579 10,699 15,864 28,820 21,043 16,521 33,617 24,667 27,269 38,083 29,915 4,551 1,983 545 58 29 6,966 18,126 3,658 5,926 4,301

66,558 59,272 162 199 1,611 1,309

648 978 1,823 874 781 772 481 1,097 1,446 1,193 1,480 3,170 4,027 5,257 6,319 7,302 10,886 3,456 514 603 259 93 504 4,854 1,865 2,278 4,829 4,078

23 88 86 228 264 248 190 277 210 313* 651* 1670* 239* 71 68 33 13 79 1138* 216* 249* 868* 1,178*

662 1,268 1,050 540 788 812 758 1,842 510 803 619 838 1,119 625 148 3 17 4 29 410 80 64 516 336

(1856-1924) 364,014





1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 Total

Source: Imre Ferenczi and Walter F. Willcox, International Migrations, Vol. 1 (New York 1919) * From Turkey and Turks from other countries. ** All Turkish


natolia, from the pre-historic period until the

“We consider the Jewish Diaspora as our natural partners to better communicate Turkey's tradition and culture of tolerance and ‘diversity in unity’ to the rest of Europe and the world.” By Egemen Ba¤›fl

Apresent time, evolved into an area enriched with a cultural legacy inherited from many different civilizations. This cultural heritage has been preserved until the present time, making good use of shared experiences and utilizing what had been learned or accumulated. In this way, Anatolia has served not only as a geographic bridge, connecting Asia to Europe or the East to the West, but also as a perception linking the past with the present and introducing Eastern thought to the Western way of thinking. The Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey also served as a cradle for many religions, such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism, which were allowed to coexist together. During the Ottoman era, the regulations put into practice by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror and many others clearly aimed at protecting the cultural diversity and the existence of the different belief systems and communities, as well as establishing appropriate circumstances to guarantee

a decent life for all citizens. As a result, different religious groups that suffered oppression at home did not hesitate to migrate to take shelter in this peaceful land. Modern and secular Turkey has followed this Ottoman path of tolerance and co-existence. THE JEWISH DIASPORA IS OUR PARTNER The culture of "living together" has gained further significance in today's globalized world, in particular the European Union integration process. Jews in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey enjoyed and still enjoy all rights and appreciate their status in our country. This also contributes to the positive image of Turkey as a country respecting differences and religious minorities, which is one of the fundamental values of the EU. In fact, around 300.000 American Jews of Ottoman origin contributed to building a bridge of friendship between the Ottoman Empire and the USA in the 19th century. Turkey's positive approach to Jews and the Jewish community, as well as Israel, is reflected in the attitudes of the Jewish Diaspora not only in the USA but also in European countries towards Turkey. We consider the Jewish Diaspora as our natural partners to better communicate Turkey's tradition and culture of tolerance and "diversity in unity" to the rest of Europe and the world. In this respect, progress in Turkey's EU accession will mean more stability and better relations in the region and beyond. Turkey's full membership in the EU will contribute to a better understanding of the Middle East issue and the concerns of all sides, including Israel. Turkey in the EU will also increase the credibility of the Union vis a vis the region, making the EU a real global actor to bring balanced and viable solutions to the problems of the region.

* Egemen Ba¤›fl, Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator of Turkey

EGEMEN BA⁄Ifi Egemen Ba¤›fl was first elected to Parliament in 2002 as a deputy for ‹stanbul. He was appointed Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator on January 2009 and has been working at Turkey’s full membership negotiations since then. Ba¤›fl was the party's Vice Chairman in charge of Foreign Affairs and as a Vice Chairman, he was a member of AK Party's Central Executive Committee, the party's highest body, until 2009.

European Turkey: D›vers›ty ›n Un›ty 10 • TurkofAmerica

Ba¤›fl was the party's contact person for international relations and diplomacy. He directed and coordinated the party's national and international network and local branches on foreign policy matters. He also coordinated the flow of key global developments to the party leadership.


The 517-Year-Old Journey of Turkish Jews – from the Iberian Peninsula to the Present only the expulsion, but also seven centuries of the Jewish life in Spain, flourishing under Muslim rule, and the 500th anniversary of the official welcome extended by the Ottoman Empire in 1492. This humanitarianism demonstrated at that time was consistent with the beneficence and good will traditionally displayed by the Turkish government and people towards those of different creeds, cultures and backgrounds. Indeed, Turkey could serve as a model to be emulated by any nation which finds refugees from any of the four corners of the world standing at its doors.

By Naim Guleryuz*

The present size of the Jewish community is estimated to be around 22,000. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with a community of about

t midnight on August 2, 1492, when Columbus

Aembarked on what would become his most famous expedition to the New World, his fleet departed from the relatively unknown seaport of Palos because the shipping lanes of Cadiz and Seville were clogged with Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by the Edict of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain.

500 in Izmir and other smaller groups located in Adana, Ankara, Antakya, Bursa, Canakkale, Kirklareli etc.

The Jews forced either to convert to Christianity or to "leave" the country under menace "dare not return... not so much as to take a step on them not trespass upon them in any manner whatsoever" left their land, their property, their belongings, all that was theirs and familiar to them rather than abandon their beliefs, their traditions, their heritage. In the faraway Ottoman Empire, one ruler extended an immediate welcome to the persecuted Jews of Spain, the Sephardim. He was the Sultan Bayazid II. In 1992, the Discovery Year for all those connected to the American continents - North, Central and South world Jewry was concerned with commemorating not

12 • TurkofAmerica

In 1992, Turkish Jewry celebrated not only the anniversary of this gracious welcome, but also the remarkable spirit of tolerance and acceptance which has characterized the whole Jewish experience in Turkey. The events that were planned - symposiums, conferences, concerts, exhibitions, films and books, restoration of ancient synagogues, etc - commemorated the longevity and prosperity of the Jewish community. As a whole, the celebration aimed to demonstrate the richness and security of life Jews have found in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic over seven centuries, and showed that indeed it is not impossible for people of different creeds to live together peacefully under one flag. A HISTORY PREDATING 1492 The history of the Jews in Anatolia started many centuries before the migration of Sephardic Jews. Remnants of Jewish settlements from the 4th century B.C. have been uncovered in the Aegean region. The historian Josephus Flavius relates that Aristotle "met Jewish people with whom he had an exchange of views during his trip across Asia Minor." The ruins of ancient synagogues have been found in Sardis, Miletus, Priene, Phocee, etc., dating from 220 B.C. and traces of other Jewish settlements have been discovered near Bursa, in the southeast and along the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. A bronze column found in Ankara confirms the rights the Emperor Augustus accorded the Jews of Asia Minor.

OTTOMAN ENCOURAGED JEWISH IMMIGRATION Jewish communities in Anatolia flourished and continued to prosper through the Turkish conquest. When the Ottomans captured Bursa in 1326 and made it their capital, they found a Jewish community oppressed under Byzantine rule. The Jews welcomed the Ottomans as saviors. Sultan Orhan gave them permission to build the Etz ha-Hayyim (Tree of Life) synagogue, which remained in service until the nineteen forties. Early in the 14th century, when the Ottomans had established their capital at Edirne, Jews from Europe, including Karaites, migrated there. Similarly, Jews expelled from Hungary in 1376, from France by Charles VI in September 1394, and from Sicily early in the 15th century, found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. In the 1420s, Jews from Salonika, then under Venetian control, fled to Edirne. Ottoman rule was much kinder than Byzantine rule had been. In fact, from the early 15th century on, the Ottomans actively encouraged Jewish immigration. A letter sent by Rabbi Yitzhak Sarfati (from Edirne) to Jewish communities in Europe in the first part of the century "invited his co-religionists to leave the torments they were enduring in Christendom and to seek safety and prosperity in Turkey". (1) When Mehmet II "the Conqueror" took Constantinople in 1453, he encountered an oppressed Romaniot (Byzantine) Jewish community which welcomed him with enthusiasm. Sultan Mehmet II issued a proclamation to all Jews "... to ascend the site of the Imperial Throne, to dwell in the best of the land, each beneath his Dine and his fig tree, with silver and with gold, with wealth and with cattle...". (2) In 1470, Jews expelled from Bavaria by Ludvig X found refuge in the Ottoman Empire.

A HAVEN FOR SEPHARDIC JEWS Sultan Bayazid II's offer of refuge gave new hope to the persecuted Sephardim. In 1492, the Sultan ordered the governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire "not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially". (3) According to Bernard Lewis, "the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled.� Immanual Aboab attributes to Bayazid II the famous remark that "the Catholic monarch Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished Spain by the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched Turkey". (4) The arrival of the Sephardim altered the structure of the community and the original group of Romaniote Jews was totally absorbed. Over the centuries an increasing number of European Jews, escaping persecution in their native countries, settled in the Ottoman Empire. In 1537 the Jews expelled from Apulia (Italy) after the city fell under Papal control, and in 1542 those expelled from Bohemia by King Ferdinand found a safe haven in the Ottoman Empire. In March of 1556, Sultan Suleyman "the Magnificent" wrote a letter to Pope Paul IV asking for the immediate release of the Ancona Marranos, whom he declared to be Ottoman citizens. The Pope had no other alternative than to release them, the Ottoman Empire being the "Super Power" of those days. By 1477, Jewish households in Istanbul numbered 1647, or 11% of the total. Half a century later, 8070 Jewish houses were listed in the city. 13 • TurkofAmerica


THE LIFE OF OTTOMAN JEWS For 300 years following the expulsion, the prosperity and creativity of the Ottoman Jews rivaled that of the Golden Age of Spain. Four Turkish cities: Istanbul, Izmir, Safed and Salonika became the centers of Sephardic Jewry. Most of the court physicians were Jews: Hakim Yakoub, Joseph and Moshe Hamon, Daniel Fonseca, and Gabriel Buenaventura to name only a few. One of the most significant innovations that Jews brought to the Ottoman Empire was the printing press. In 1493, only one year after their expulsion from Spain, David and Samuel ibn Nahmias established the first Hebrew printing press in Istanbul. Ottoman diplomacy was often carried out by Jews. Joseph Nasi, appointed the Duke of Naxos, was the former Portuguese Marrano Joao Miques. Another Portuguese Marrano, Alvaro Mendes, was named Duke of Mytylene in return for his diplomatic services to the Sultan. Salamon ben Nathan Eskenazi arranged the first diplomatic ties with the British Empire. Jewish women such as Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi "La Seniora" and Esther Kyra exercised considerable influence in the Court. In the free air of the Ottoman Empire, Jewish literature flourished. Joseph Caro compiled the Shulhan Arouh. Shlomo haLevi Alkabes composed the Lekhah Dodi, a hymn which welcomes the Sabbath according to both Sephardic and Ashkenazi ritual. Jacob Culi began to write the famous MeAm Loez. Rabbi Abraham ben Isaac Assa became known as the father of Judeo-Spanish literature. On October 27,1840 Sultan Abdulmecid issued his famous firman concerning the "Blood Libel Accusation" saying: "... and for the love we bear to our subjects, we cannot permit the Jewish nation, whose innocence for the crime alleged against them is evident, to be worried and tormented as a consequence of accusations which have not the least foundation in truth...". This famous firman can be seen at The Museum of Turkish Jews in Istanbul. Under Ottoman tradition, each non-Muslim religious community was responsible for its own institutions, including schools. In the early 19th century, Abraham de Camondo established a modern school, "La Escola", causing a serious conflict between conservative and progressive rabbis which was only settled by the intervention of Sultan Abdulaziz in 1864. The same year the Takkanot haKehilla (Bylaws of the Jewish Community) was published, defining the structure of the Jewish community. An important event in the life of Ottoman Jews in the 17th century was the schism led by Sabetay Sevi, the pseudo Messiah who lived in Izmir and later adopted Islam with his followers. EQUALITY AND A NEW REPUBLIC Efforts at reform of the Ottoman Empire led to the proclamation of the Hatt-› Humayun in 1856, which made all Ottoman citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, equal under the law. As a result, leadership of the community began to shift away from the religious figure to secular forces. World War I brought to an end the glory of the Ottoman Empire. In its 14 • TurkofAmerica

place rose the young Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was elected president, the Caliphate was abolished and a secular constitution was adopted. Recognized in 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne as a fully independent state within its present day borders, Turkey accorded minority rights to the three principal non-Muslim religious minorities and permitted them to carry on with their own schools, social institutions and funds. In 1926, on the eve of Turkey's adoption of the Swiss Civil Code, the Jewish Community renounced its minority status on personal rights. During the tragic days of World War II, Turkey managed to maintain its neutrality. As early as 1933 Ataturk invited numbers of prominent German Jewish professors to flee Nazi Germany and settle in Turkey. Before and during the war years, these scholars contributed a great deal to the development of the Turkish university system. During World War II, Turkey served as a safe haven for many Jews fleeing the horrors of the Nazism. While the Jewish communities of Greece were wiped out almost completely by Hitler, the Turkish Jews remained secure. Several Turkish diplomats, Ambassadors Behic Erkin and Numan Menemencioglu; Consul-Generals Fikret Sefik Ozdoganci, Bedii Arbel, Selahattin Ulkumen; Consuls Namik Kemal Yolga and Necdet Kent, just to name a few, made every effort to save Turkish Jews in Nazi occupied countries from the Holocaust. They succeeded. Mr. Salahattin Ulkumen, Consul General at Rhodes in 19431944, was recognized by the Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile "Hassid Umot ha'Olam" in June 1990. Turkey continues to be a shelter, a haven for all those who have to flee dogmatism, intolerance and persecution.

TURKISH JEWS TODAY The present size of the Jewish community is estimated to be around 22,000. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with a community of about 500 in Izmir and other smaller groups located in Adana, Ankara, Antakya, Bursa, Canakkale, Kirklareli etc. Sephardim make up 96% of the community, with Ashkenazim accounting for the rest. There are about 100 Karaites, an independent group that does not accept the authority of the Chief Rabbi. Turkish Jews are legally represented, as they have been for many centuries, by the Hahambasi, the Chief Rabbi. He is assisted by a religious council made up of five Hahamim. Fifty Lay Counselors look after the secular affairs of the community and an Executive Committee of fourteen runs daily matters. Representatives of Jewish foundations and institutions meet four times a year as a so-called “think tank” to exchange opinions on different subjects of concern to Turkish Jewry.

Synagogues are classified as religious foundations (Vakifs). There are 18 synagogues in use in Istanbul today. Three are in service in holiday resorts, during summer only. Some of them are very old, especially Ahrida Synagogue in the Balat area, which dates from the middle of the 15th century. The 15th and 16th century Haskoy and Kuzguncuk cemeteries in Istanbul are still in use today. The Museum of Turkish Jews (Türk Musevileri Müzesi), the first such Museum in Turkey, was inaugurated on November 25, 2001. ( EDUCATION, LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL LIFE Most Jewish children attend state schools or private Turkish or foreign language schools, and many are enrolled in the universities. Additionally, the community maintains in Istanbul a school complex including elementary and secondary schools for around 700 students. Turkish is the language of instruction, and Hebrew is taught 3 to 5 hours a week. While younger Jews speak Turkish as their native language, the generation over 70 is more at home speaking French or Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). A conscious effort is being made to preserve the heritage of Judeo-Spanish. For many years Turkish Jews have had their own press. La Buena Esperansa and La Puerta del Oriente started in Izmir in 1843 and Or Israel was first published in Istanbul ten years later. Now one newspaper survives: SALOM (Shalom), a fourteen to sixteen pages weekly in Turkish with one page in Judeo-Spanish, plus a monthly 24-page supplement in Judeo-Spanish: EL AMANESER. A Community Calendar (Halila) is published by the Chief Rabbinate every year and distributed free of charge to all those who have paid their dues (Kisba) to the welfare bodies. The Community cannot levy taxes, but accept donations. Two Jewish hospitals, the 98-bed Or-Ahayim in Istanbul and the 22bed Karatas Hospital in Izmir, serve the community. There are also homes for the aged (Moshav Zekinim) and several welfare associations to assist the poor, the sick, and needy children and orphans. Social clubs containing libraries, cultural and sports facilities, and discotheques give young people the chance to meet. The Jewish Community is of course a very small group in Turkey today, considering that the total population - 99% Muslim - exceeds 70 million. But in spite of their small numbers, the Jews have distinguished themselves. There are several Jewish professors teaching at the Universities of Istanbul and Ankara, and many Turkish Jews are prominent in business, industry, the liberal arts, and journalism. * Naim Güleryüz, a researcher and writer, is president of the 500. Y›l Vakf› (Quincentennial Foundation)

(1) Bernard Lewis, "The Jews of Islam" (2) Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume 16 page 1532 (3) Abraham Danon, Review Yossef Daath No.4 (4) Immanual Aboab, "A Consolacam as Tribulacoes de Israel, III Israel" 

15 • TurkofAmerica


An Over 100-Year-Old H›story of Turk›sh Sephard›c Jews ›n Seattle Solomon Calvo (left) and Jack Policar (right) were the first two Sephardic Jews, arriving from the Turkish island of Marmara in 1902, to settle in Seattle. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

ccording to the M.A. thesis of Albert Adatto, a student

Aof University of Washington in 1939, (“Sephardim and

the Seattle Sephardic Community”), the first two Sephardic Jews Jack Policar (d. 1961) and Solomo Calvo (d. 1964), arrived in Seattle from the island of Marmara, Turkey in 1902. The first Turkish Jew to arrive in Seattle is thought to have been David Levy in 1900. In 1904, they met Nissim Alhadeff, who had arrived that year from the Isle of Rhodes, between Greece and Turkey, in a Seattle Greek Café.

The first two Sephardic Jews Jack Policar (d. 1961) and Solomo Calvo (d.

Marco Calvo, Jack Policar and Sam (Sol) Baruch at Apex Sheet Metal Works, Seattle, December 30, 1930. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

1964), arrived in

By 1906, 17 Sephardic Jews resided in Seattle. That number tripled by 1907. As economic and political conditions in the Ottoman Empire deteriorated, and as Jews became newly subject to the draft, immigration increased. Sephardim from Constantinople and Rodosto joined those from Rhodes and Marmara. By 1910 there were about 40 Sephardic families, more than 100 souls, and growing.

Seattle from the island of Marmara, Turkey in 1902. In 1904, they met Nissim Alhadeff, who

In addition to Marmara and Rhodes, Sephardim from Tekirdag (Rodosto) and Istanbul (Constantinople) joined the first Turkish Jews immigrant group. Almost all were young men, and after a few years some went back to their homes in Turkey to marry and bring their new wives to Seattle. Shortly thereafter the first of the American-born Sephardim appeared.

Esther and Jack Policar, studio portrait, Seattle, ca. 1954. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

By 1916 the Sephardic community had grown to about 1500 people, which comprised three separate groups,

had arrived that year from the Isle of Rhodes, between Greece and Turkey, in a Seattle Greek Café. Marco Calvo's 80th birthday with children and grandchildren, Seattle, 1977. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

Jack Policar's 80th birthday with children and grandchildren, Seattle, 1959. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

16 • TurkofAmerica

Bottom: Pearl Cohen. 2nd row, L-R: Esther and Jack Policar. 3rd row, L-R: Betty Alhadeff, Sam Alhadeff, Ralph Policar, Marco Calvo, Sema Calvo, 1932. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

Sephardic Bikur Holim, the Rhodes group which established their own synagogue, Ezra Bessaroth and the Marmara group. Sephardic Bikur Cholim, founded by Jews from Turkey, particularly Tekirdag, incorporated in 1910. The congregation purchased the former Ashkenazic Bikur Cholim synagogue on 13th Avenue and Washington Street. To this day Sephardic Bikur Holim follows the traditions and customs brought from Turkey by its founders. Ezra Bessaroth Congregation evolved out of Koupa Ozer Dalim Anshe Rhodes, a fund to help the needy in Rhodes; its synagogue incorporated in 1914. Ahavath Achim Congregation, founded in 1914, had a membership that included the earliest founders of the Seattle Sephardic community -- Jacob Policar, Solomo Calvo, and David Levy. SEPHARDIC BIKUR HOLIM: FOUNDED BY JEWS FROM TEKIRDAG According to the Seattle Sephardic Bikur Holim website, up to 1908, Jewish religious services such as for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur had been held by all of the Sephardim together, in a rented hall, with the Ashkenazic rabbi coming over to blow the shofar. In the following years, because of differences in minhagim, the Turkish (Tekirdag and Marmara) and Rhodes groups were determined to conduct their own separate religious services. In 1911, Samuel Morhaime, head of the mutual aid society of the Tekirdag group, decided to purchase a Sefer Torah, a handwritten copy of the Torah, from Palestine, as the first step towards a synagogue. Two years later, the Tekirdag group took action towards the establishment of a synagogue. The Ashkenazi synagogue, Bikur Cholim, was completing the construction of a new building at 17th and Yesler, so their old synagogue, at 13th and Washington, was becoming available. The Tekirdag group called a meeting, and their leaders convinced them to take joint and dramatic action. They raised $800 and agreed to buy the building, along with a section of cemetery, from Bikur Cholim. The synagogue was established as Bikur Holim, named after the synagogue in Tekirdag, and Joseph Caston was elected as its first President. Officially, it was known as the Spanish Hebrew Society and Congregation Bikur Holim. At this time, the Marmara group decided to maintain their own identity. FIRST RABBI OF SYNAGOUGE SERVED IN TEKIRDAG AND ISLAND OF MARMARA Religious services at Sephardic Bikur Holim were conducted by Rabbi Shelomo Azose, who had arrived in Seattle 1910 and had served as a haham in both Tekirdag and Marmara previously. According to Adatto’s master thesis, Rabbi Solomon Azose served as schohet (ritual slaughterer), cantor, and mohel (one who performs circumcisions) until his death in 1919. When he passed away in 1919 he was succeeded by his brother, Rabbi Isaac Azose, who served until 1924. After World War I was over, a number of the relatives of the Sephardim living in Seattle, who had suffered through the war in Turkey, made their way to the US to be with their family members. This influx lead to a sudden increase in the Sephardic population in Seattle, but it was followed by a number of families leaving Seattle for Portland and Los Angeles. In 1921, Henry Benezra became the first Sephardic Jew to graduate from the

University of Washington and six years later he was elected President of Sephardic Bikur Holim. That same year some Sephardic Bikur Holim members left when the Marmara group announced plans to build their own synagogue, the Ahavath Ahim, which was completed in 1922. CHIEF RABBI OF TURKEY VISITED TO SEATTLE IN 1921 In 1921 Rabbi Haim Nahum, former Haham Bashi (Chief Rabbi of Turkey) visited Seattle on behalf of the Alliance Israelite Universalle to raise money. The entire Sephardic community turned out to see and hear Rabbi Nahum who remained in Seattle for three weeks. He raised more money in Seattle than he did in Portland or Los Angeles. In 1924 a very significant event occurred within the Sephardic Bikur Holim community. Since Rabbi Abraham Maimon had been the rabbi in Tekirdag when many of the members had lived there prior to immigrating to the US, they knew him and greatly respected and admired him. When some of these leaders learned that he might be interested in moving to Seattle, they began contacting him by mail in late 1923, and by mid-1924 the papers and preparations for his appointment as rabbi and his move to the US were completed. This took some time because beginning in 1921 the American Congress passed several laws restricting immigration to the US. Rabbi Maimon and his family (his wife Vida and 6 of his 8 children) arrived in September, 1924, in the evening, a day before the start of Yom Kippur. Due to illness the family had to spend Rosh Hashanah on Ellis Island before proceeding by train to Seattle, where they were warmly greeted by more than 100 members of the community. LEON BEHAR: FIRST PRODUCER OF SEPHARDIC THEATER During the 1920s one of the unique social past times for the members of SBH was attending the amateur Sephardic Theater, performances of plays completely in Ladino. Leon Behar, who grew up in Istanbul before coming to Seattle, was the most accomplished producer of Ladino theatrical productions, but not the only one. In Istanbul as a teenager he had participated as an actor, director and playwright of several plays, and he put that talent to good use in Seattle. He produced and directed a number of plays, beginning with Dreyfus in 1922, using talented Sephardim from all three synagogues as his actors. Once the Depression started at the end of 1929, the era of Ladino dramatic productions in Seattle came to an end. By 1930, Seattle would be second to New York in Sephardic population in the United States. Rabbi Maimon died in 1931 and Rabbi Isaac Azose was called to lead the congregation again. In 1944, Solomon Maimon, son of Rabbi Abraham Maimon, became the first American Sephardic Jew to receive rabbinic ordination in this country. He was the first Sephardi to receive semiha at Yeshiva University and in the country. He remained the rabbi of Sephardi Bikur Holim for 40 years. After him more than 30 SBH members followed in his footsteps, going to New York to further their Jewish education by attending YU, either its Yeshiva College (for men) or Stern College (for women). Along with Bikur Holim’s Rabbi Wohlgelernter, he was instrumental in organizing the first all day religious school in Seattle, Seattle Hebrew Academy. A SYNAGOGUE CANTOR FROM EDIRNE Rev. Morris Scharhon, the Hazzan, passed away in 1950, and the synagogue began looking for a new Hazzan Rev. Samuel Benaroya, originally from Edirne, Turkey was at the time the Hazzan of the Sephardic kehilla in Geneva, Switzerland. TurkofAmerica • 17


Sue Rousso and Sema Calvo stand next to a photograph of Solomon Calvo (left) and Jack Policar (right). Jack Policar was the father of Sema Calvo and Sue Rousso. Solomon Calvo was the father-inlaw of Sema Calvo. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division) Temple de Hirsch exterior, 15th Avenue and E. Union St., Seattle, ca. 1908-1914. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

In 1952, Rev. Samuel Benaroya arrived in Seattle with his wife and daughter to become the Hazzan (cantor) for Sephardic Bikur Holim congregation. He was originally from Edirne, Turkey, but had been employed as a Hazzan in Geneva, Switzerland, prior to his arrival in Seattle. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division) The SBH Talmud Torah directed by Prof. Albert Levy December 1937. (Photo: Washington State Jewish Archives Photographs)

At the request of the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation, another Turkish citizen, Rev. Samuel Benaroya (d. 2003) and his family immigrated to Seattle in 1952. Reverend Samuel Benaroya is a descendant of one of the most renowned families of musicians from Edirne, Turkey, where he was born in 1908, the youngest of five brothers and two sisters. His father, Haham Yitzhak Benaroya, was a Hazzan in Edirne for 60 years.

In the 1990s, Sephardic Bikur Holim was led by Rabbi Simon Benzaquen, who was born and raised in Spain, and educated and rabbinically ordained in England. According to Stacey Schultz, freelance writer living in Seattle, today, there are over 40,000 Jews in Seattle—the Sefardic community is now the third largest in the country— and most live in small clusters throughout the city and suburbs.

In early 1935 the three social organizations merged into the Seattle Sephardic Brotherhood, which became the largest Sephardic organization in Seattle, and still plays an important role today.

WHAT DID THE FIRST IMMIGRANTS IN SEATTLE DO? One of first Turkish Jewish immigrants, Solomon Calvo, founded the Waterfront Fish and Oyster Co. in Seattle, while Nessim Alhadeff started the Palace Fish and Oyster Co., which later became the Pacific Fish Co. In the 1920’s, Turkish immigrant David Levy purchased City Fish Market, which he ran until his death in 1943. His sons sold the business in 1995, but the store remains in the market. In 1951, Jack Amon bought the Pure Food Fish Market. His son, Sol, took over in 1956 and continues to run the Pike Place operation.

Reverend Samuel Benaroya had served the synagogue for 26 years as Hazzan, since his arrival in 1952 from Geneva, Switzerland. He was highly regarded in the community for his abilities as Hazzan, his knowledge and interpretation of the Turkish traditional melodies and for his friendliness and helpfulness in the community. In 1965, a new synagogue was purchased by SBH at 6500, 52nd Avenue South in Seward Park and by 1975, the SBH constitution was amended to allow for women to serve as members of Board of Directors; two women, Becky Varon and Judy Balint, were elected the following year. By the end of 1977 the Reverend informed the synagogue board of his intention of retiring as Hazzan by the middle of 1978. Rev. Samuel Benaroya passed away in Seattle, Washington on Thanksgiving Day 2003 at the age of 95. In 1977, Dr. David Raphael, who came to Seattle and became affiliated with SBH in the late 1960s along with his wife of Turkish descent, Esther, directed and produced the famous film, ‘Song of the Sephardi’, telling the cultural tale of the Sephardic Jews. By the 1980s, the Seattle chapter of the umbrella organization ‘American Sephardi Federation’, established in 1973, was created, holding regular conventions which have included such noteworthy speakers and attendees as CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer.

In 1914, the Young Men's Sephardic Hebrew Association was founded to improve Turkish-Jewish conditions in Seattle. Parliamentary rules were followed for meetings. The group purchased a home on 14th Avenue between Washington and Yesler and converted it into a clubhouse with pool tables, a card room, library, and coffee shop. In 1917 the name changed to Young Men's Sephardic Association. In 1920 the hall moved to 109 12th Avenue. The Young Men's Sephardic Association was instrumental in achieving social harmony among the Sephardim. TURKISH SONGS BY SEPHARDIC WOMEN In 1935, the unique Sephardic culture possessed by some of the older members of the SBH community received recognition by a UW professor in the Anthropology Department, Dr. Mel Jacobs. Emma Adatto, a member of SBH along with her parents Anna and Nessim Adatto, was a student in the UW Anthropology Dept. writing a MS thesis on Sephardic folklore. She sought to add an extra dimension to her thesis by including with it recordings of some of the old Sephardic songs, Ladino romanzas and Turkish songs. Thus a group of about 10 Sephardic women, most from SBH, was driven to the UW to record a series of Sephardic songs, and the best technology available at that time for recording music was the old-style large metal cylinders. In 1981, through the intervention of a latter-day Jewish music expert, these recordings were transferred to audiocassettes. Sources: Albert Adatto, "Sephardim and the Seattle Sephardic Community", MS Thesis, U. of Washington, 1939 / Isaac Maimon, "The History of Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation, 1914-1989", 1989 / Joy Maimon, "Unity and Divisions Among the Early Seattle Sephardic Community"

Benaroya family in Edirne, Turkey, ca. 1913. Edirne, Turkey, ca. 1913; L to R: sister Esther, ?, Rev. Samuel Benaroya's mother, Polomba, father Yitzchak Benaroys. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

18 • TurkofAmerica

Senior Paper, U. of Washington / Marc Angel, "The Sephardic Theater of Ralph Policar in Navy uniform with parents, Esther and Jack Policar, Seattle, ca. 1940-1945. (Photo: University of Washington Libraries. Special Collections Division)

Seattle Jewry," Western States Jewish History, October, 1996, Vol. XXIX, No. 1, p. 553 / Isaac Maimon, English Translation of the Minutes of the Bikur Holim Building Committee, 1928-1930. 


Turk›sh-Jew›sh Fr›endsh›p s a nation of many people and many faiths, Turkey

Ahas always been proud to count among its citizens

those of the Jewish faith. We are a republic that straddles the ancient and the modern, East and West, and throughout our history, we have welcomed the contributions of Jews, and built enduring friendships with Jewish communities around the world. Nabi fiensoy Ambassador of Turkey to the United States


Jewish civilization existed in Turkey for centuries – ancient synagogues are still being discovered in Anatolia and some of Judaism’s most famous sages made their homes in what became modern Turkey. In 1492, when Catholic Spain expelled its Jewish citizens, the Ottoman sultan of that time, Beyazid II, extended an invitation for them to resettle throughout the Ottoman Empire, seeing it as an opportunity to show brotherhood while also enriching the empire with the talents of the Spanish Jews. The descendants of those Spanish communities became the heart of the great Sephardic Ottoman communities that gave Judaism and the world some of history’s great art, music, and intellectual contributions.

26,000 MEMBERS OF JEWISH COMMUNITY Jews have been vital members of the modern Republic of Turkey, and 26,000 Turkish citizens are members of the Jewish community today. Those who have migrated to Israel after its establishment constitute today a strong bond of friendship between Turkey and Israel. Turkey’s constitution, which pledges the nation to a secular existence, guarantees the rights of all minority faiths, and Turkey is virtually alone in the Muslim world in boasting a robust and vibrant Jewish community. This ideal was tested during the Nazi Holocaust, when the dark shadow of state-sanctioned mass murder fell over an entire continent. Turkey’s diplomats actively sought out Turkish-born Jewish citizens of other nations, and issued visas to them so they could escape Nazi persecution. In Paris, Milan, and Vienna, diplomats risked their own lives as they worked around-the-clock to save Jews. Meanwhile, hundreds of German Jewish academics were welcomed to teach in Turkish universities, and they and their families thus survived the Second World War. The film Desperate Hours beautifully captures this chapter of Turkish-Jewish history.

Turkish Jewish culture, cuisine, and language are now experiencing fresh appreciation and a global boom. Just recently, I was pleased to witness photographs in a Washington DC exhibition of some of Turkey’s many synagogues, and

This friendship had significant benefits to the Empire, but also to the Jews. Jewish populations in Istanbul, Safed, Damascus, Cairo, and Salonica all blossomed, creating communities which flourished for centuries.

After its establishment, Turkey was the first in the Muslim world to recognize Israel. In the subsequent six decades, Turkey and Israel formed a firm and strategic friendship, resting on a foundation of shared values of democracy, rule of law and progressive market economies.

Unlike those communities in Europe which often lived at the mercy of their rulers, and with centuries of persecution, harassment, and pogroms, the Jews of the Ottoman Empire lived with significant freedoms and autonomy. Many Jews rose to prominent positions in their communities, building businesses, mastering crafts, providing counsel to the rulers of the Ottoman Empire, and becoming Cabinet Ministers.

Multi-dimensional and transparent relations between Turkey and Israel serve the mutual interests of both countries, and serve to promote peace and stability in the region. As with every friendship, Turkey and Israel do not always see eye-to-eye on specific situations. Yet this friendship is strong and enduring, and is based on deep mutual respect which outlasts any controversy.

Just as Jewish communities elsewhere grew and became prominent in world Jewry, the Jews of Turkey continued to grow and thrive. Today, Turkish Jewish culture, cuisine, and language are now experiencing fresh appreciation and a global boom. Just recently, I was pleased to witness photographs in a Washington DC exhibition of some of Turkey’s many synagogues, and marveled at their beauty and diversity.

The friendship of Turkey and the Jewish people throughout the world has many dimensions and many high points. When Turkey has been stricken by natural disaster and terror, Israel and Jews throughout the world have extended the helping hand of a friend, and Turkey has been more than happy to return the favor. This is a friendship that has endured for centuries, and we look forward to many more.

marveled at their beauty and diversity.

Behic Erkin, Ambassador to Paris/Vichy World War II (Courtesy of 500. Yil Vakfi)

Consul Cevdet Dulger & Vice Consul Namik Kemal Yolga (Paris) World War II. (Courtesy of 500. Yil Vakfi)

Consul Selahattin Ülkümen at Yad Vashem, for his righteous gentil nomination ceremony. (Courtesy of 500. Yil Vakfi)

TurkofAmerica • 19


By Selin Senol

Today, the Sephardic community in the United States is generally known for its members’ attachment and loyalty to their

n March 4, 1992, Turkish Jews celebrated at the

ONeve Salom Synagogue in Istanbul the 500th

anniversary of their ancestral acceptance in Ottoman Turkey under Sultan Beyazit II, after the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews (who refused to convert to Christianity) by Spain in 1492. Hearing about the eviction, the Sultan issued a welcoming decree for the Jews, purportedly commenting that the Spanish King must have ‘lost his mind’ for expelling his ‘best’ and ‘wealthiest’ subjects. ‘Sephardim’, referring to Jews with ancestral origins from the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal), is said to come from the word for ‘Spain’ in Hebrew, also found in the Bible. A major portion of Sephardic Jews, speaking a Judeo-Spanish language called ‘Ladino’, settled in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, especially in the cities of Istanbul and Salonika; myth has it that the root word Sepharad, the land where Hebrew wanderers settled after the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, likely refers to a region in Asia Minor, or, modern-day Turkey.

native lands in and

Today, the Sephardic community in the United States is generally known for its members’ attachment and loyalty to their native lands in and around Turkey. New York City has the largest population of Sephardim in the country, and is known, together with Seattle, for having one of the earliest and most influential Sephardic communities in the US; the two cities are also interconnected in that many young people from Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation in Seattle, for example, tend to travel to NYC to further their Jewish education. The Sephardic Diaspora in the United States, however, also includes decades-old communities in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Atlanta, Montgomery, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Rochester, New Brunswick, etc. UNITY WAS ACHIEVED BY A TURKISH-BORN RABBI Such Sephardic colonies, spread throughout the United States, often faced the problem of unity as there was never any one, recognizable organization uniting all of them; this was certainly the case with the Sephardim of New York. An effort in the 1920s, for example, by New York’s Sephardim to maintain a central communal-insti-

around Turkey. New York City has the largest population of Sephardim in the country, and is known, together with Seattle.

Welcome", oil painting by Mevlut Akyildiz. (Courtesy of 500. Yil Vakfi)

Sephard›c Jews from Turkey and Former Ottoman Lands ›n the Un›ted States 22 • TurkofAmerica

tution entitled the ‘Sephardi Jewish Community of New York, Inc.’, with a community house located on 115th Street in Harlem, eventually fell apart, lacking visionary leadership. The lack of unity showed itself most poignantly in the realm of religious guidance: the lack of unity in liturgy was especially found to be problematic and unfruitful for the production of Sephardic leaders. As a solution, the ‘Union of Sephardic Congregations’ was founded in 1928, formed through a meeting of three ancient congregations: the Shearith Israel in New York (founded in 1684), Mikveh Israel of Philadelphia (founded in 1740) and Shearith Israel of Montreal. Although this Union obtained a very significant achievement with the publication of Sephardi prayer books, it too gradual-

ly became inactive. A final attempt at unity was made by Turkish-born Rabbi Nissim J. Ovadia, who shortly after his 1941 arrival in the United States created the ‘Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America, Inc.’: although facing mostly NYC concerns, its membership consisted of Sephardim living in other US cities as well. After Mr. Ovadia died in August of 1942, his wife, Mazal Ovadia, helped to organize a women’s division for the Community. In September 1943, the seemingly successful organization then launched a bulletin entitled The Sephardi, with the stated purpose of ‘[awakening] the Sephardi masses to the necessity of a united Sephardi community throughout the Western Hemisphere’; it lasted until 1957. 10,000 SEPHARDIC JEWS IN EARLY 20th CENTURY AT NEW YORK CITY When Moise Gadol, a successful businessman who became the editor of the first Ladino-American newspaper ‘La America’, which ran from 1910 until 1925, arrived in NYC from Bulgaria in 1910 to visit relatives, he was surprised to see the plight of the immigrants living on the Lower East Side, especially the Sephardic Jews numbering over 10,000.

In the early 1900’s, Shearith Israel of New York had been conducting free Holy Day services for the needy, for example- a form of charity often called ‘overflow services’. Gadol observed in 1913 that 90% of the worshippers in such services were Turkish Jews and believed that sending such immigrants to the downstairs auditorium of the synagogue, as became the custom, rather than allowing them to occupy seats in the main area, was degrading. SUCCESFULL BUSINESSMEN Nonetheless, success stories did arise amongst Turkish Jews in NYC despite a general state of economic despair; the Shinasi Brothers, born in Manisa, Turkey, became the most inspiring of such luminaries. Although they arrived in the US without much money in 1892, they were able to turn their small cigar-factory establishment, which at first began operation with

merchandise sold on the streets, into a profitable business entitled ‘Shinasi Brothers’ making millions of dollars each year-eventually selling the factory to the Tobacco Produce Company in 1916 for $3.5 million. Other notable businessmen and professionals included Eliah and Jack Crespi from Ankara (of The Sunshine Battery Company), Samuel Yahya from Istanbul (of the Adams Paper Company), lawyer John Hezekiah Levy, and Mair Jose Benardete- the first Turkish Jew licensed to teach public school in the US. Between 1890 and 1924, nearly thirty thousand Sephardic Jews came to the United States, most of them Ladino-speaking people originating from Turkey and the Balkan region, settling mostly in the Lower East Side of New York City - often facing wretched conditions. Many came after various nationalist revolts led to a gradual collapse of the Ottoman Empire around this time, lured by dreams of entrepreneurial success similar to that achieved by the Sephardic Jews who had immigrated many years earlier; they were called ‘Orientals’ by the existing Sephardic Jewish community to distinguish them from the earlier ‘Grandees’. Around 10,000 Sephardic Jews entered the US between 1908 and 1914, with 1,911 Jews being recorded in the year 1912 as originating from Turkey. Sephardic communities in the Ottoman Empire were also affected around this time by grave natural disasters as well as the violence of Turkey’s war with Italy in 1911-1912 and the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913; with the official breakout of WWI in 1914, stories of America as a place of prosperity and equal opportunities for economic advancement became especially appealing. The 1908 revolt of the Young Turks attempting to create a constitutional government in Turkey, beginning compulsory military service in the country for all male citizens, affected the poorest citizens (usually non-Muslim minorities) the most. This is because they were the ones unable to afford paying a certain amount of money to the government to exempt themselves from being drafted and becoming soldiers; Gadol believes this was a major reason behind many of the Jews leaving for America. Albert Amateau, for example, was such a Jew who came to New York in 1909 and went on to organize a self-help society for Sephardic Jews called the ‘Brotherhood of Rhodes’. Sephardic immigrants initially felt unwelcomed by Ashkenazi Jews in the United States, whom they felt often saw them as ‘Greeks, Italians, or Turks’ because of their appearance and exotic culture and somehow not ‘actually’ Jewish. In time, however, Gadol celebrated that feelings of affinity between the two groups were achieved for the most part, though certain identity-issues of feeling ‘unique’ still exist amongst Sephardim today- he attributed this to his La America. With time, some Sephardim on the Lower East Side were able to find economic success and relocate to more spacious living spaces in Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx, while others were relocated to places like Seattle and Indianapolis by the Industrial Relief Office (IRO). SEPHARDIM SOCIETIES The deepest-rooted and most prestigious Sephardic society in NYC was the ‘Union and Peace Society’, founded in 1899 with English as its official language; most of its members originated from Turkey, including the Shinasi brothers, and many worshipped at the Shearith Israel synagogue. It is worthy to note that another organization, the ‘Oriental Progressive Society’, was founded in 1904 with most of its members being Ashkenazi Jews from Turkey. There were also organizations created by Sephardim from Canakkale, Churlu, Silivri, and Ankara, Turkey. Most of these Sephardim were concerned with raising enough money to both earn a living as well as send money to their relatives back in Turkey and that region, facing many financial difficulties along the way; Gadol even sugTurkofAmerica • 23


Morris Schinasi and his wife Laurette. Schinasi brothers were able to turn their small cigar-factory establishment into a profitable business entitled ‘Shinasi Brothers’ making millions of dollars each year-eventually selling the factory to the Tobacco Produce Company in 1916 for $3.5 million. (Courtesy of Naim Güleryüz)

gested at one time, unsuccessfully so, that a collector should actually be sent to such Sephardic societies to pick up unpaid pledges and subscription-money for his magazine! Turkish Sephardic immigrants were called ‘Turkinos’ and soon many ‘Turkino’ cafes and restaurants were popping up all over NYC, especially on Chrystie Street. As such, the Sephardim were gradually getting used to their new environments while culturally staying in touch with their fellow Sephardim in this ‘new world’- similar to other such distinctly ‘American’ realities as the Chinese of Chinatown or Italians of Little Italy. ‘Dark’ aspects of life on the Lower East Side, such as gambling, prostitution, rape, adultery and alcoholism soon found themselves impacting the Sephardic community as well, however, causing many to complain of this new environment. This was America, after all, and instead of an Ottoman Sultan inviting Jews being evicted from the Iberian Peninsula, there was now the ‘American Dream’ inviting them- and its consequences, both ‘positive’ (success in return for hard work) and ‘negative’ (parting from morality and traditions), can affect every immigrant, regardless of where he or she is from, in the same ways. 

(June 4, 1912 Schools For 14,000 Turk Jews) A news about Turkish Jews immigrants in New York in 1912. (Source: New York Times June 4, 1912)

Bibliography • Guleryuz, Naim. ‘Iber’den Gunumuze Turk Yahudileri’nin 500 Yillik Yolculugu (Turkish-Jews’ 500 year-old Voyage since the Iberian Peninsula)’, TUSIAD: Gorus Dergisi (Ozel Sayi)- Turkiye Yahudileri, September 2003 • Weiner, Rebecca. ‘Sephardim’, Jewish Virtual Library: A Division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. • Birmingham, Stephen. ‘The Grandees- America’s Sephardic Elite’. Syracuse University Press. 1997 • ‘SBH 90th Anniversary’, Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation, • Albert Adatto, “Sephardim and the Seattle Sephardic Community” (M.A. thesis, University of Washington, 1939) • Lorraine Sidell, "Historically Speaking: Sephardic Jews of Seattle," Part II Nizcor: Washington State Jewish Historical Society Newsletter, March 1992 • Gurock, Jeffrey S. & American Jewish Historical Society. American Jewish History: A Eight-Volume Series, 1998 • Belinfante, Randall C. ‘The Other Lower East Side’. American Sephardic Federation ( • Angel, Marc D. ‘La America: The Sephardic Experience in the United States’. 1982 24 • TurkofAmerica


D›scover›ng Sephard›c Her›tage ›n Turkey By Dr. Rita Rosenthal*

“As my entrepreneurial Sephardic family, I plan to open a business to importing Turkish lamps to the United States and bridge the two lands I belong to.”

hat is it like to be a Sephardic Jew, whose parents originally immigrated to the United States of America from Istanbul, growing up in Brooklyn New York? I was part of a huge, warm, gracious, close, extended family. Members prepared wonderful unique foods, lived nearby, saw each other all the time and spoke a strange language. Although the words sounded like Spanish, it was not the language of New York’s Puerto Rican community. I later learned that the language my grandparents and relatives spoke was Ladino - a Romance language of Sephardic Jews, based on Old Spanish and written in the Hebrew script. My grandparents, the Semarias, along with my grandfather’s brother Max and sister Caroline left Istanbul for New York. His other sister had been kidnapped in Turkey by men on horseback and taken to the mountains to live. In 1974, after years of stories about our Turkish family, I set out to find them and journey to Istanbul. I contacted Raphael Puller, a wool merchant, who gladly connected and corresponded. Coming from Brooklyn, I pictured Raphael owning and operating a little wool store. When I inquired, he said his clients were England and Australia. My picture of Turkey was nothing like the reality. I pictured a primitive backward country, thinking about bringing ballpoint pens to my relatives as presents. What I discovered was a magical city and educated family that I felt I knew all my life. I arrived in Istanbul to meet my grandfathers’ warm and wonderful cousins Raphael, Pepo and Jack. Three days later, the war between Greece and Cypress broke out and Raphael urged me to flee for safety. My trip was abruptly cut short; I joined a busload of tourists through Bulgaria into Yugoslavia - a 26 hour adventure. Bribing the border guards with cigarettes and landing on a street in Belgrade - to discover the war was already over. That concluded my first trip to Istanbul.


RE-DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF ISTANBUL How remarkable that my husband, Eric Louzil, President of Echelon Studios does business in Turkey - to be generously 25 • TurkofAmerica

Dr. Rita Rosenthal and her husband Eric in Sultan Ahmet Square, Istanbul.

invited to return to Istanbul by a business colleague and old friend, Mr. Ugur Terzioglu (Chairman TABA/AmCham) - presenting a spectacular opportunity to meet the next generation of Sephardic family and to re-discover the magic of Istanbul. Since my grandfather’s cousins died, I remained in contact with Raphael’s son David. We arrived from the Los Angeles, California at midnight to discover that 30 family members were still anxiously awaiting our arrival at a restaurant to meet us. At 12:45 am, we arrived at the restaurant to be surrounded by such warm, gracious, eager family members with their sons and daughters, spouses and children. I brought a photo album and family tree and discovered they never knew about the kidnapping of my grandfather’s sister! Here I was informing them of events in Turkey. However, Jack, Pepo and Raphael were missing. So David and I together visited the Sephardic cemetery in Istanbul to pay them a visit - as close as I could get to them. In the cemetery we came across a grave marker with the last name of a business colleague in the United States, Mr. Larry Namer; which we later discovered to be his great grandparents. How close can a community be? We then visited David’s old neighborhood, the apartment he grew up in and the elevator I so remember on my first visit. The apartment where I came for lunch in shorts and found everyone dressed for a formal dinner party. How fortuitous that my husband does business in Turkey. After three days with our family in Istanbul, we then spent six days in Bodrum with our dear friends and business colleague Mr. Ugur Terzioglu and his lovely wife Cavidan - yet another magical experience. Meeting their wonderful friends, eating such amazing food, experiencing the warmth, sentimentality and graciousness of the family I knew in Brooklyn leaves me missing them all the time and yearning to return. As my entrepreneurial Sephardic family, I plan to open a business to importing Turkish lamps to the United States and bridge the two lands I belong to. * Psychologist- Encino, California USA


There were 52 families in Los Angeles congregation: 37 from Rhodes. Interior of Kahal Shalom Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Rhodes, Greece today.

Sephard›c Jews of Los Angeles By Maurice I. Bob Hattem*

The first spiritual leader was Rabbi Abraham Caraco. There were 52 families in the congregation: 37 from Rhodes. In time, as happens in most families, the Rhodeslies and Turkinos, as they called one another split up due to shall we say, euphemistically for parochial differences.

he first Jew arrived in Los Angeles in 1841 with the

TRowland-Workman party. His name was Jacob

Frankfort, a German tailor. Though Frankfort wasn't Sephardic, it was only a dozen years later that some Sephardim did arrive from the eastern part of the country. Solomon Nunes Carvalho (pronounced Cavayo in Portuguese), a painter and photographer with the John C. Fremont Expedition to California the 1840s, was born in South Carolina in 1815 of Sephardic parentage. In 1854, Carvalho opened a photographic studio in a building owned by the Labatt brothers, Samuel K. and Joseph, the only Sephardim in town at that time. The first native-born American Jewish adults were Samuel K. and Joseph Labatt who were also the first Sephardic Jew in Los Angeles, but more important, Samuel K. Labatt was the first president of the first Jewish organization to be established here. Their father, Abraham Labatt came to San Francisco in 1849. Between the 1850s and the 20th Century there was only one instance of a Sephardic Jew in the Los Angeles area. His name was David d'Ancona who

26 • TurkofAmerica

traveled from San Diego to Los Angeles in the 1870s. The real emphasis of the Sephardic community wasn't felt until the beginning of the 20th century, the predominant influx coming from the Ottoman Empire. They came from Salonica, Egypt, Turkey, Rhodes and other points of the middle east. The first Sephardic Jew to arrive in 20th century Los Angeles was Mordecai Zeitoun, a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, a native of Algeria. He was an entrepreneur in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. "Papa" as he was affectionately known, along with his daughter Rose arrived in Los Angeles during the closing months of 1904, probably in October or early November. They were followed by brothers Louis and David Bramy. Davidmarried Rose Zeitoun on March 6, 1906 and their son, Roger was the first known Sephardi to be born in Los Angeles on February 14, 1907. Another early Sephardic arrival was Jacob (Jack) Caraco. Names like Baruch, Cohen and Levy plus a listing of a Portuguese Jewish Colony (probably the Avat Shalom Congregation founded in 1912) was

included in the honor roll of the first Jewish Federation dated 1912. Its members were from Turkey and from Rhodes. The first spiritual leader was Rabbi Abraham Caraco. There were 52 families in the congregation: 37 from Rhodes. In time, as happens in most families, the Rhodeslies and Turkinos, as they called one another split up due to shall we say, euphemistically for parochial differences. In 1917 the Rhodeslies formed the Peace and Progress Society with Haham Haim Levy serving as the Spiritual leader and Morris Soriano as the first president. In 1919, Avat Shalom composed of Turkinos divided into three groups: The Sephardic community of Los Angeles, Haim VaHessed, The Sephardic Brotherhood, and Yaacov Tovee. The Sephardic Community of Los Angeles was organized on 1st February 1920 in Walker Auditorium near downtown Los Angeles with Abraham Caraco as rabbi and Adolph Danziger De Castro as their first president. The Rhodeslies built a synagogue at the corner of 55 th Street and Hoover Avenue in 1935. It was called Ohel Abraham but the Community was known as The Sephardic Hebrew Center. Later the name was again changed to Congregation Sephardic Beth Shalom. The Sephardic Community of Los Angeles dedicated their first synagogue at 1516 West Santa Barbara Avenue, (now called Martin Luther King Boulevard) on 21 February 1932. In 1959 The Sephardic Brotherhood (Haim VaHessed) merged with the Sephardic Community of Los Angeles. The new name became The Sephardic Community and Brotherhood of Los Angeles. Later the name changed again, this time to the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, the name by which it is known today.

In 1974, High Holy Day Services were conducted for the first time at the new Temple Center on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles. In 1994 Sephardic Beth Shalom and Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel merged. Apparently their parochial differences had been ameliorated to some degree after 80 years to everyone's delight. The Sephardic Jews have given the world a rich and beautiful culture and have left a Heritage of which they can all be proud. Wherever they went they brought their culture with them and always a bit of old Spain is evidenced by the Spanish and Judeo-Spanish-Ladino they have managed to keep as they traveled from country to country these past 500 years. This is the key to their survival. * Maurice I. Bob Hattem, archivist/historian of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles, California.

A PROFILE: MAURICE AMADO Maurice Amado (1888 to 1968) was born in Izmir, Turkey and came from a Sephardic Jewish family that lived for several centuries in the Old Ottoman Turkish Empire, following their ancestors’ expulsion from Spain in 1492. Amado emigrated to the United States from Turkey in 1904 where he settled in New York and, upon his retirement, resettled in Los Angeles in the 1950’s. Amado was in the tobacco trade business, at first working for Standard Commercial Tobacco Company until he left to work for himself. With the proceeds from his profits in the tobacco business he became a successful financier and investor. He was married to Rose, who had a high-end dress business in New York City. Although Rose had a son from a previous marriage, they never had children. Amado was a very cultured man. He taught himself English by attending lectures and speeches in New York City. He read a great deal, mainly philosophy and kept a large library in his home. He was also an excellent conversationalist. He was extremely close to his nephew, Raphael Amado, who had five children. These children and their descendents have and continue to serve on the Maurice Amado Foundation Board of Directors which he established in 1961. Prior to establishing the Foundation he began his charitable work giving funds to a Sephardic congregation in Los Angeles. This congregation eventually merged and became the Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel located on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles. He established a scholarship fund at the Temple for the children of Temple members. His Foundation also funded both capital projects and programs at the Temple for several decades.

1900 of Rabbi Chilebi Nissim Codron in Rhodes (Source: Rhodes Jewish Museum)

As one of the Foundation’s most lasting charitable gifts, the Maurice Amado Foundation established an endowed chair at UCLA to support research and teaching in Sephardic culture and history by a distinguished scholar in any of the disciplines associated with the broadest range of Sephardic concerns. This encompasses the entire historical and geographical scope of Sephardic culture and religion from its beginnings as a regional phenomenon in the Iberian Peninsula to its development as a widespread manifestation of Jewish social and intellectual experience throughout the world. TurkofAmerica • 27


One of Dangoor’s remarkable pieces of work is still on the wall of The Center for Jewish History building.

David Dangoor: “Turkey saved a big chunk of the Jewish religion when the Jews came from Spain. God knows what would have happened to them if they had no place to go.”

David Dangoor, President of American Sephardi Federation

“The Ottoman Mentality Was Always An Educated One” t the end of lunch, the old guy looked into the young

Aman’s eyes and told him: “You have to do it.” The young man couldn’t turn the older one down and he accepted his offer by saying,“Yes, I have to do it.”

The old man, Leon Levy, who served as president from 1982 to 2001, convinced David Dengoor to become the fifth president of American Sephardi Federation in 2003. Leon Levy was born in Seattle, Wash. to Sephardic Jewish parents who emigrated from Turkey. He believed that the history of Jews in Turkey was an essential one. Under his leadership, the American Sephardi Federation had very tight relations with Turkey. Currently president of the federation, David Dangoor was born in 1949 to Jewish parents who emigrated from Tehran to Sweden. Before moving to Tehran, the members of his families had lived in Iraq many years. His great-grandfather was chief rabbi of Iraq in 1900’s. His mother’s side is Austrian Sephardic Jews. In 1922, when Iraq was created by British, the Jewish community protested it. The Dangoor family was among the Iraqi Jews who protested to the British: “You have no right to make us Iraqis. We are Turks. How can you take our Turkish nationality and convert us into a country in which we have no stake?” In 1922, approximately 120,000 Jews, accounting for one third of Baghdad’s population, were living in Baghdad.

28 • TurkofAmerica

The Jewish population in Iraq was 148,000 in 1948 and it decreased to 35 in 2004. Now it is counted at less than 10. Dangoor says that these Jews were not Iraqis. “Just like today, when you ask a Kurd in Iraq where he is from, he never says that he is Iraqi; he says he is a Kurd. It was the same in the Jewish community in Iraq as well,” he adds. Where did the Iraqi Jews come from? According to Mitchell Bard, director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world’s most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture, in 722 B.C.E., the northern tribes of Israel were defeated by Assyria and some Jews were taken to what is now known as Iraq. A larger community was established in 586 B.C.E., when the Babylonians conquered the southern tribes of Israel and enslaved the Jews. WHEN DID THE FIRST SEPHARDIC JEWS ARRIVE IN THE UNITED STATES? According to sources, the first Sephardic Jews arrived in the U.S. in 1654. There are between six and seven million Jews living in America today. First Sephardic Jews were originally Portuguese and they came by way of Brazil. In that time a big section of Brazil belonged to the Dutch, but the Dutch lost this territory to the Portuguese. So Jews moved from Portugal to Brazil. 23 Jews ended up in New Amsterdam, a 17th-century Dutch colonial settlement that later became New York City. They started to establish the first Jewish congregation.

David Dangoor (at left) with Gwen Zuares, Morrie Yohai, Stella Levi at Jewish Costumes in the Ottoman Empire exhibition on March 31st, 2004. (Courtesy of The American Sephardi Report magazine)

Dangoor says that actually the first Jew came to the U.S. with Christopher Columbus in 1492: “The navigator was a Jew. It’s very strange that they left in the morning of the execution (of Spanish King Ferdinand’s order). The ship was full of Jews. If you go to any Caribbean island, you will see signs of Jewish communities from that time. So the Jews went two ways in 1492. They went west to find another way to India and Latin America, and a very large chunk of them went to Turkey.” For Dangoor, today the biggest problem with Sephardic Jews is that they assimilated. “They consider themselves Jewish, but they are less active in Jewish life,” he says. Under Dangoor’s leadership, American Sephardi Federation, along with Sephardic House, has published a new magazine, The Sephardi Report. Working hand in hand with the Director, Esme Emmanuel Berg, they have succeeded in making the American Sephardi Federation, with Sephardic House, an increasingly important partner and representative of Sephardic history and heritage at the Center for Jewish History. One of Dangoor’s remarkable pieces of work is still on the wall of The Center for Jewish History building, on 16th street between 5th and 6th Avenue in New York City. On the second floor wall inside the building, there is a huge map of Spain. Next to the map there are quotes from King Ferdinand and Sultan Bayezid. The Sultan’s quote is: “You call Ferdinand a wise king, he, who by expelling the Jews, has impoverished his country and enriched mine!” Engraving Sultan Bayezid’s quote on the wall was Dangoor’s idea. Mehmet Samsar, Turkish Consul General to New York, participated in the unveiling ceremony of the engraved quote on the wall. He empathizes that the Ottoman mentality was always an educated one and he adds: “The saving of the Spanish Jews was a very positive influence that the Ottoman Empire had on the big Jewish communities that still exist all over the Middle East. Turkey saved a big chunk of the Jewish religion when the Jews came from Spain. God knows what would have happened to them if they had no place to go.” TRIPLE AFFECTION FOR TURKEY Dangoor said he had a triple affection for Turkey. The first one owes to the fact that though he was born in Sweden, his family called themselves Turks. The second one is for a famous Turkish dish, cabbage dolma (stuffied cabbage). This is a Swedish national dish as a result of Charles XII, King of Sweden from 1697 to 1718, staying in ‹stanbul for five years as a prisoner of war. Dangoor says there is a very famous quote in Sweden that when the King came back from Istanbul after five years, they asked

David Dangoor, Carole Basri and Hy Harary at 9th International Sephardic Jewish Film Festival. (Courtesy of The American Sephardi Report magazine)

him how it was to be a prisoner of war of the Ottomans. He said: “My life as a prisoner of war was much better than my life as King of Sweden.” The third reason for Dangoor’s affection is that he grew up in Sweden in the 1950s and 1960s where there was always a strong Turkish presence Turkey in terms of diplomatic relations. In that time, there were not many Middle Eastern people in Sweden. When his father came to Sweden in 1949 for the first time, he had a picture of front page of a newspaper that announced that Middle Eastern businessmen had arrived in Stockholm. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Turkish ambassadors came to Sweden, there were no people to help facilitate their stay. Dangoor says: “So they always found my father. So I grew up with every Turkish ambassador, participated in every event at the Turkish Embassy. My father was actually the man who helped the Turkish ambassador in 1965 to find a house in Sweden which is now the Turkish Embassy.” At the time, the Turkish ambassador to Sweden was Mehmet Benler. Dangor still keeps in touch with his son, Hasan, who live in California. He says the Federation has several members who are Turkish and his best friend is a Turkish Jew, ‹zak fienbahar, the president of the development firm Alexico Management in New York City. In addition to holding the presidency of the Federation, Dangoor runs his own consultancy company in New York. The reason he moved to the U.S. was because he joined Philipp Morris in 1976. He worked for the company in Switzerland, Germany England, Canada, then the U.S. He held an impressive array of executive positions. His wide and diverse interests include directorships of a Swedish biotech company, the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce and the New York City Ballet. When asked when his term as president of the Federation will end, he replies with a smile: “My term will end when I find someone. The reason I become president was that the previous president was getting older. He was begging people. One day we had a meeting. He looked at me and told me, you have to do it, and I looked at him, such a nice guy, and I told him ‘Yes, I have to’. Now I am looking for someone whom I will look in the eyes and say he has to do it.” 

PRESIDENTS OF AMERICAN SEPHARDI FEDERATION Simon Nessim (1952-1968) (remained inactive until 1972) Prof. Daniel J. Elazar (1973-1975) (AFS officially organized) Liliane Winn Shalom (1975-1982) Leon Levy (1982-2001) Mike M. Nassimi (2001-2003) David Dangoor (2003 – Present) TurkofAmerica • 29


A Long Journey from Ed›rne to the U.S.:

The M›tran› Fam›ly Adventure

After 1492 many exiles from Spain came to Edirne (Adrianople), a town in Turkey located in eastern Thrace near the Turkish-GreekBulgarian frontier, followed by refugees from Portugal, and Italy as well. 30 • TurkofAmerica

hese new immigrants, who had different customs from

Tthe Romaniots, established their own congregations

(kahal, pl. kehalim) according to their place of origin. In 1656 there were 15 different kehalim, most of them named after locations in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. On the basis of Ottoman fiscal registers, the city's population in 1580 was around 30,000 inhabitants. During the second half of the 17th century, the general population grew to about 100,000; many of them arrived in Edirne following the temporary transfer of the Sultan's residence to the city (until 1703). At the time the Jewish population of the city grew from 2,500 people to about 5,000. One of Jewish families that lived for many years in Edirne was the Mitrani Family. The writer, historian, and poet

Baruch b. Isaac Mitrani (1847–1919) taught at the Alliance schools. He endeavored to implement new methods of education. To achieve these aims he established a new school – Akedat Yitzhak – and published books on education in Hebrew and a grammar of spoken Judeo-Spanish. He edited the first newspaper that was published in Edirne: Karmi (1871–81) and Kerem Sheli (1890; in Hebrew and Ladino), calling for Jewish colonization in Palestine and national revival.* 20,000 JEWS WERE LIVING IN EDIRNE IN 1912 According to Jewish sources, there were 12,000 Jews living in Edirne in 1873 and 17,000 in 1902. Their numbers reached a peak of 20,000 in 1912 on the eve of the first Balkan War. Between the years 1899-1912, about 8,000

Ottoman Jews immigrated to the United States alone. Mitrani family moved to the U.S. in 1919. Norman Belmonte’s uncle, the first Mitrani family member who moved to the U.S., left in 1919 and then the other brothers followed him. Norman Belmonte’s father side had come directly from Spain after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and his mother’s side emigrated from Italy to Edirne. His mother’s father was a kosher wine maker in Edirne. Belmonte’ parents got married in 1913 in the biggest Edirne Synagogue. Synagogue collapsed in 1997. One of the last pictures of this Synagogue is hanging on Norman Belmonte's office wall. Following the great fire of 1905 in which all 13 synagogues in Edirne were burned to the ground, the community constructed a new synagogue in 1907 which was modeled on the synagogue of Vienna. It could accommodate 1,200 worshipers – 900 men and 300 women – and was designed to demonstrate the community's achievements and modernity. The last standing synagogue collapsed late 1990’s but one of pictures of the synagogue is still hanging on Norman Belmonte’s office wall. TURKEY - CUBA AND FINALLY THE U.S. The couple had five children. Three of Belmonte’s four sisters were born in Edirne, the other one was born in Cuba and finally he was born in the U.S. A question comes to mind: How come one of his sisters was born in Cuba? Belmonte’s family had very long journey to reach the United States. In early 20th century the U.S. had a quota system for accepting new immigrants. Emergency legislation in 1921 imposed a quota system, limiting the number of immigrants from Europe to 3 percent of the number of foreign-born members of that same nationality in the U.S. during the 1910 census. Then in 1924 the U.S. passed the National Origins Act. This act further limited immigration by reducing the allowable number of entries to 2 percent and by using the 1890 census as the base, further discriminating against the newer immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, favoring immigration from northwestern Europe, and barring immigration from the Far East. According to the law, naturally Turkish immigrants’ applications were at the end of the list and Belmonte’s family had to wait at least 50 years because northwestern European countries, such as England, Ireland, and Scotland, were at the top of the list. So the family decided to take a risk and first they moved to Cuba in 1923. Belmonte’s father’s official name was Yakof Tabah at that time and the family lived in Cuba for 11 years. Afterwards, a priest friend of Yakof Tabah helped him to enter the U.S. A Panamanian diplomat had died and the priest gave his papers to Yakof. After waiting 11 years in Cuba, with a dead diplomat’s papers, Tabah family entered the U.S. and the family took the Panamanian diplomat’s last name: Belmonte. Norman Belmonte was born in 1935 in the U.S. He was the first American citizen member of the family. In 1937, the police figured out that the family had entered the U.S. with fake papers. His father was arrested and put in jail. After witnesses testified that he was a good person, they let him go. After a 22-year adventure, finally his father became a U.S. citizen in 1945.

Belmonte’s uncles established Milco Industries in 1921. His father worked for the company as well. The company is in the textile business and Norman Belmonte was the President/CEO. Now, he is the chairman of the company but he doesn’t have an active role in the company’s daily business. His nephew Lenny Comerchero runs the business. Milco has two divisions. One is textile manufacturing in Pennsylvania; the other is ladies sleepwear, active wear, and intimate apparel. Milco works with various countries such as Mexico, China, Turkey, and El Salvador. In the past, they had an office in Istanbul for 10 years. Milco employs a total of 220 people and its 2008 sales were $39.4 million. At the same time, Belmonte serves on the governing boards of the Technion and the American Technion Society, as well as the American Sephardi Federation, the Center for Jewish History, and the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. Belmonte is Chairman of the ISEF Foundation. VISITING EDIRNE AFTER 55 YEARS Even though he was not born in Edirne, Belmonte was curious to see his parent’s hometown. He first visited Edirne in 1990. One of his sisters also had a chance to see Edirne once again. She was 2 years old when she left Edirne. On one of Belmonte’s trips, he visited the old Alliance Israélite Universelle school, which his father taught. The school had opened for boys in 1867; afterwards, the Jewish community donated it to the Turkish government. On this trip he was lucky to find both the school building and the remnants of the Synagogue where his parents were married. A local taxi driver helped them find the school and the Synagogue. He remembers many Turkish Jewish from Istanbul, Edirne and Izmir in his childhood. He says, “They used to get together, played poker and backgammon. There were many Turkish Jews in Brighton Beach in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn as well as Long Island, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle and New York City.” He says proudly he has an original backgammon set from his father. Belmonte remembers his mother’s Sephardic Turkish food and says, “She was a wonderful cook.” Like many of his friends, Norman learned Ladino at home. He adds, “In that time, if someone spoke Ladino, it was a reference that he was from Istanbul, Edirne or Izmir.” Norman’s oldest sister married a gentleman from Edirne. He recalls his sister’s father-in-law had a coffee shop in the lower east side of Manhattan. Belmonte smiles when he says that the coffee shop was like an unofficial employment agency. The Mitrani Family Foundation (Belmonte’s mother’s family name is Mitrani) sponsored a unique project to photograph the remaining synagogues in Turkey from east to west. "The Historic Synagogues of Turkey” photograph exhibition opened at the Sephardic Federation and Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul. As President of the Mitrani Family Foundation, Belmonte says it was an incredible experience to document and display all the old synagogues in one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. Norman Belmonte and his wife Vivian, a retired teacher, divide their time between New York and Colorado, where their daughters and grandchildren live. * TurkofAmerica • 31


A Strong Vo›ce of the Sephard›c Commun›ty

Marc D. Angel, Rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in New York City, was born in Seattle's Sephardic community; his ancestors are Sephardim from Turkey and Rhodes and he grew up speaking Ladino at home.

hodes is a small island, just off the Turkish Coast,

Rwith a history that is as colorful as the natural beau-

ty of the island. According to famous Jewish historian Abraham Galant, as the 16th century opened, Cardinal D'Aubusson of Rhodes initiated forced conversion of the Jews to Catholicism and other persecutions. His intended expulsions were rescinded only because he died suddenly. Soon after, Christian pirates captured more than 2000 Jews and forced them to work on fortifications. When the Turks, under Suleiman the Magnificent (15201566) besieged the island, the Jews sided with the invader, who was victorious. 32 • TurkofAmerica

Suleiman encouraged exiles from Spain to settle in Rhodes and gave them favorable conditions, such as autonomy and religious freedom, housing and certain tax exemptions. Jews outnumbered the Turks and created in Rhodes a major Sephardic center that absorbed the earlier Romaniot kehillah and led them to adopt Sephardic customs and Ladino. The kehillah prospered under the tolerant Ottoman rule for nearly 400 years, until 1912. One of the residents of Rhodes, Sol Menashe, wrote that under Italian rule, which began in 1912,

Rabbi Solomon Maimon was the first Sephardi to receive semiha at Yeshiva University and in the country. He remained the rabbi of Sephardic Bikur Holim (SBH) Congregation for 40 years. After him more than 30 SBH members followed in his footsteps, going to New York to further their Jewish education by attending Yeshiva University, a private university in New York City, with six campuses in New York and one in Israel, founded in 1886, at either its Yeshiva College (for men) or Stern College (for women). Marc Angel was one of 30 students. After spending his boyhood in Seattle, Angel moved to New York for his education at Yeshiva University. He received his B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Th.D. honoris causa and his rabbinal Semicha from Yeshiva University and also has an M.A. in English Literature from the City College of New York. The author and editor of 26 books, also a former President of the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Marc D. Angel answered TURKOFAMERICA’s questions at Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue which he has been serving since 1969 in New York City. Shearith Israel was founded in 1654 by 23 Jews, mostly of Spanish and Portuguese origin, who had been living in Recife, Brazil. It was the first Jewish congregation to be established in North America. Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City from 1654 until 1825. Members of Shearith Israel played an important role in civic life from the earliest times. Three of its members were among the founders of the New York Stock Exchange. Rabbi Angel says the synagogue is one of the most remarkable buildings in New York City. His son now serves at the synagogue as well. Rabbi Angel also founded the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, in the autumn of 2007, and he serves as its Director. The Institute works to foster an intelligent, compassionate and inclusive Jewish Orthodoxy. conditions deteriorated gradually, culminating in the rule of Mussolini, whose siding with Hitler resulted in atrocities and deportation of virtually all the Jews from the island to labor and death camps in July 23, 1944. From its heyday of 5,000 Sephardim, the Jewish population was reduced to just a few souls who remained. 1,604 died at the murderous hands of the Nazis and the others emigrated during the Italian occupation, mainly to Africa, Argentina and America. Many Sephardic families fled to Rhodesia before the island's approximately 5,000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps. There were 40,000 Jews in Rhodes before World War II. Now, only 35 remain. Marc D. Angel, Rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in New York City, was born in Seattle's Sephardic community; his ancestors are Sephardim from Turkey and Rhodes and he grew up speaking Ladino at home. Seattle was home to Turkish Jews in the early 20th century. In June 1902, the first Sephardic Jews, Solomo Calvo (d. 1964) and Jacob Policar (d. 1961), arrived in Seattle from Marmara, Turkey. In 1904, Nissim Alhadeff arrived in Seattle from the Isle of Rhodes. More Jews arrived and joined the community in Seattle. Sephardim from Istanbul and Rodosto (Tekirda¤) joined those from Rhodes and Marmara.

He still remembers how his family members entertained themselves with Turkish songs and he sings the famous song “Katibim” and showed how they danced to the music. He has visited Turkey only once, almost 30 years ago. He is married to Gilda Angel. They have three children and six grandchildren. Their son, Hayyim, serves as Rabbi of Shearith Israel. 

SOME OF ANGEL’S BOOKS A Sephardic Haggadah: Translation and Commentary (Hoboken, 1988). The Jews of Rhodes, The History of a Sephardic Community (New York, 1978) La America: The Sephardic Experience in the United States (Philadelphia, 1982) The Rhythms of Jewish Living: A Sephardic Approach (New York, 1986) The Orphaned Adult: Confronting the Death of a Parent (1987) Voices in Exile: A Study in Sephardic Intellectual History (1991) The Essential Pele Yoetz: an Encyclopedia of Ethical Jewish living (1991) Loving Truth and Peace: The Grand Religious Worldview of Rabbi Benzion Uziel (1999) Remnant of Israel: A Portrait of America's First Jewish Congregation (2004) Losing the Rat Race, Winning at Life (2005) Choosing to be Jewish: The Orthodox Road to Conversion (2005) The Search Committee: A Novel (2008) "Conversion to Judaism: Halakha, Hashkafa, and Historic Challenge", Hakirah, vol. 8 (Brooklyn, 2008) TurkofAmerica • 33


Barry Hab›b: A Gu›de to Mortgage Markets, a Producer of Broadway Shows, a Son of an Istanbul Fam›ly

Barry is the youngest of five children of an immigrant family from Ortakoy, ‹stanbul. When the family decided to move away in 1958, like any immigrant who desired to come to the U.S., they thought that money lay scattered on the streets and all they had to do was just bend down and picked it up.

34 • TurkofAmerica

arry Habib has had a huge influence on my mortgage career. I use

BMortgage Market Guide every day so I may best advise my clients on how to best position their mortgage financing. With Barry's help, I have been able to grow my business in good markets and bad. For that, I will be eternally thankful for Barry and the Mortgage Market Guide team.” These words belong to Brent Sute, Branch Manager at New South Federal Savings Bank, one of the Mortgage Market Guide users who wrote Barry Habib on Linked-in, one of the most popular business-oriented social networking sites. Today, Habib helps over 18,000 of America’s top originators monitor market conditions. Members receive a comprehensive series of daily market commentaries designed to help them stay on top of the market. On April 1, 2008 Habib was named Chairman of the Board of Mortgage Success Source, a leading provider of products and services designed to help loan officers achieve success and grow their businesses. He is one of the top executives in the American mortgage industry but the secrets of his success go back to the streets of Brooklyn. Barry is the youngest of five children of an immigrant family from Ortakoy, ‹stanbul. The family are among the many Sephardic Jews who migrated from ‹stanbul to the United States in the mid 20th century. Habib’s ancestors had lived in ‹stanbul for over 400 years, since 1492. When the family decided to move away in 1958, like any immigrant who desired to come to the U.S., they thought that money lay scattered on the streets and all they had to do was just bend down and picked it up. Habib’s father was 21 years old when he came to the U.S. He had only six suitcases, fresh hopes to start a new life, and a sister in Brooklyn. So that’s the way he was able to come to Brooklyn. Barry’s father was a well-educated man. He was a journalist in ‹stanbul, spoke seven languages, but not English at all. Barry remembers, “He was proud to be a journalist.” In fact the first years of migration were very tough. Because of the language barrier his father could not work in his field and so he sold hot dogs in New York. In 1960, his mother was pregnant with Barry and abortion was illegal in the U.S. So what they were going to do with a new child? They were very poor and Barry’s father was 57 years old. His mother working as a seamstress, making dresses in a sweat shop. Under hard condition, having a baby was a little bit crazy but there was no solution. Barry was born in 1960. The parents and three children had to live in a tiny, modest, and dark Brooklyn apartment. His father passed away in 1971. “I was only 11 years old. So I had to grow up fast. My mother was wonderful but she was not much making money. She had to support us on a yearly income of $3000,” Barry says. SELLING STERO He went to Baruch College and studied finance and economy. While he was studying, his first business experiences started in the streets of Brooklyn. He began to sell stereo equipment from the back of his car. “I was going to people who I never met before to sell equipment but I was

a good kid and honest. After college, I continued to sell stereo equipment because even though I was a 21-year-old boy, I was making 60-70 thousand dollars cash in a year. Back then in 1981, it was a lot of money for a young kid. Also 12 of my friends were working for me.” Barry saved a little money and he started to research some opportunity in the real estate market. He went to Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and the Bronx to purchase some property but the real estate prices were very high. In contrast to New York, prices in New Jersey were very cheap. He started to invest in property in Middlesex County, New Jersey. He started to buy homes; he fixed them, sometimes flipped them and sold them again. He opened up a real estate firm. It did very well because real estate prices suddenly went up. One day he sat down with a guy working in the mortgage business. He asked, “How do you guys do in the mortgage business? Do you make a lot of money in mortgages?” The guy said, “Definitely yes.” He was a young, energetic and confident man and was thinking that, “If I could sell stereos, then mortgage would be much easier.” Barry began his career as a loan originator in 1986 and owned his own mortgage company by the early age of 27 in 1989. As he thought, he was the top mortgage person for three years in the United States. He remained one of the top people in New Jersey and the United States for many years. Barry averaged nearly $100 million dollars per year in individual production and is one of very few originators who have personally originated over $2 billion in individual loan production. After selling his company to Unity Bank in 1999, Barry was highly sought after by everyone from major news networks and large corporations to the independent mortgage professionals from across the country for his financial advice and proven ability to accurately identify market trends. THE MORTGAGE MARKET GUIDE He started to diversify his interests. He learned how to look at charts and how to predict stock prices. He set up a newsletter and managed it very successfully. The newsletter gave him the skills to produce The Mortgage Market Guide, which he founded in the spring of 2001. It was just before the 9/11 attacks, but Barry knew that most loan officers, even seasoned professionals, had trouble understanding what truly drives interest rates, and often relied on false indicators to guess in which direction the market was headed. In his first year he had only 131 subscribers. TurkofAmerica • 35


Barry has a photograph from Ortakoy on his office wall. Norman shows the picture and says when he was a child, he used to swim in the Bosporus, ‹stanbul’s Strait that forms the boundary between the European part of Turkey and the Asian part. He remembers one particular year that the Bosporus froze over (February 24, 1954) and his father took him and they walked across the icy ‹stanbul Strait. Norman works with brother Barry and he is very proud of his brother. “I can’t be objective because he is my brother. He is incredibly successful, but he never ever forgets his roots,” Norman adds. PRODUCER OF BROADWAY MUSICAL ROCK OF AGES Barry is very active in his newest endeavor, the entertainment industry. He has an acting role and executive producer credit in four films all set for release in 2009. The movies Barry acted in are Sympathy for Delicious, Barry Munday, Nic & Tristan and Lonely Street.

“When I created the Mortgage Market Guide in 2001, email was not that common. I used to send people text messages, I sent voice messages. Now in five minutes 20,000 people get my message.” Due to its overwhelming success, many companies started showing an interest in acquiring The Mortgage Market Guide. After a bidding war, United Communications Group (UCG), the nation’s leading provider of business information, tools and guidance for two million professionals worldwide, came out the winner, acquiring Mortgage Market Guide in 2006. In 2008, Habib brought together The Mortgage Market Guide with two of the other mortgage industry information providers, LoanToolbox and The Duncan Group, to form Mortgage Success Source (MSS). As Chairman of the Board, Barry is the driving force behind MSS and over 100 people work for him. Barry was born in the U.S. and has not seen his parents’ homeland, Ortakoy, since 1992. He recalls the mix of languages at home. “Like English, Spanish, and Turkish, I was hearing a lot of languages as a kid at home.” His uncle Morris taught him some nasty Turkish words. “My uncle Morris used to come to us and he used to curse. He made me repeat the word “pezevenk” (pimp in Turkish). When I asked him what pezevenk meant, he used to say pezevenk means a very good person. We had some fun with the language barrier.” He instantly recalls dolma, a family of stuffed vegetable dishes, when he is asked what kind of Turkish food was prepared at home. Classical Turkish music used to be listened to in their home when he was a child but now Barry likes Tarkan, a World Music award winning German-born Turkish pop singer, and listens to one of his best known songs, Ölürüm Sana (I’ll die for you). Barry’s big brother Norman remembers many more things than what Barry recalls. Norman was born in Ortakoy, ‹stanbul. He was only 12 years old when he left ‹stanbul. After 35 years he visited ‹stanbul again for the first time, in 2000. “We spent a week there. I remembered a lot. I was even able to chat with the cab driver. I also was able to bargain in the Grand Bazaar,” says Norman. 36 • TurkofAmerica

Barry is also a general partner and lead producer of the hit Broadway Musical Rock of Ages. With five 2009 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Performance by a Lead Actor, Rock of Ages started in 2008 off Broadway and transferred to Broadway in April. Barry became involved in the musical industry because of his wife Toni’s inspiration. “She fell in love with Rock of Ages. She got me interested in music and we decided to produce it,” Barry says. He crosses his finger for the show’s success. 


My Grandparents Were Always Proud of the›r Turk›sh Her›tage

ntil a century ago in K›rklareli, the capital of K›rklareli

UProvince in Eastern Thrace, in the European part of

Dan Morhaim, Deputy Majority Leader of the Maryland General Assembly. (Courtesy of

The grandparents of Dan Morhaim, Deputy Majority Leader of the Maryland General Assembly, moved from Lüleburgaz, a town and district of K›rklareli Province in the Marmara region of Turkey, to the United States in 1916.

Turkey, there was a Jewish congregation of one thousand three hundred people. Now among the native-born residents of the city there are only five Jews, including the rabbi. Rabbi Hayim Abravanel (86) has served over 50 years in the Musa Synagogue Foundation. According to Margalit Bejarano, author of Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Cuba became the destination of the Sephardim from two distinct areas in Turkey: Istanbul and Thrace (European Turkey). Most of them came from two small towns: Silivri, on the outskirts of Istanbul, and K›rklareli (Kirklisse), near Edirne. The first wave of immigration was mainly male; it was motivated by economic reasons and by the fear of compulsory enlistment in the Ottoman army during the Young Turks’ revolution (1909) and the Balkan Wars (1912–1913). Cuba was a second option for Sephardic Jews. Usually the young immigrants hoped to return home after “making America” or to bring over their wives or brides. However, the outbreak of World War I severed communications with their families. After the war, communications with the old home were resumed, and wives, children, mothers and other relatives from Turkey emigrated to the United States, Cuba, Brazil, Canada and Argentina. The grandparents of Dan Morhaim, Deputy Majority Leader of the Maryland General Assembly, moved from Lüleburgaz, a town and district of K›rklareli Province in the Marmara region of Turkey, to the United States in 1916. Morhaim was first elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, 2002, and 2006 to represent the 11th District in the House of Delegates. He

is a Deputy Majority Leader and also a physician on the faculty at Johns Hopkins. Dan Morhaim answered TURKOFAMERICA’s questions. Could you tell us your family story? When did they leave Turkey? My grandfather was born in Luleburgaz in the late 1890's. He left around 1916 or so for the United States, settling in Los Angeles. He spoke Turkish and Ladino. Did you have a chance to visit your ancestors’ birthplace in Turkey? My wife and two children and I went to Turkey in 2000. We had a wonderful time, in Istanbul, Kufladas›, ‹zmir, Ephesus, and elsewhere. The country is so beautiful, and everyone was very nice to us. We did go to Luleburgaz. It's a small beautiful city on the European side of Turkey. We went to the Hall of Records, and they printed out a list of "Morhaim" names, people that had been born there since the founding of the Republic by Ataturk. We ate lunch in the town center at a lovely restaurant. In your childhood, did your grandparents talk about Turkey? Do you remember anything about Turkish culture, like music, food, etc.? Do you have any relatives in Turkey? My grandparents were always proud of their Turkish heritage and often served Turkish food at home. I don't think we have any relatives there. Could you tell us about the Sephardic community in your district? How big is it? While there is a large Jewish community in Maryland, the Sephardic community is part of the whole. There is a growing Turkish community here, and I am in touch with them. TurkofAmerica • 37


The Turk›sh Oscar Sch›ndlers

ome call them the Turkish Oskar Schindlers for what

Sthey did to rescue Jews of Turkish origin. Necdet Kent

was consul general in Marseilles, France, between 1941 and 1944, Selahattin Ülkümen was a consul in Rhodes during the Second World War, and Nam›k Yolga was the Vice-Consul at the Turkish Embassy in Paris, France. Ali Ç›nar Turkish diplomats are estimated to have saved 10,000

Turkish diplomats are estimated to have saved 10,000 Turkish Jews by insisting the Germans respect their Turkish nationality. Another 10,000 Jews from

Turkish Jews by insisting the Germans respect their Turkish nationality. Another 10,000 Jews from Romania and Hungary may also have found refuge in Turkey during that time. Desperate Hours, filmed in five countries -- Israel, Turkey, Italy, Austria and the United States -- tells the little known story of Turkey’s rescue of thousands of Jews facing certain death during the Holocaust. All three diplomats have died since being captured on film. Desperate Hours reveals these stories of Muslims, Christians and Jews co-operating in saving lives during the Holocaust. Producer, director, writer and actor Victoria Barrett talked to TURKOFAMERICA about her current projects Journey of Faith and her well-known documentary Desperate Hours.

Romania and Hungary may also have found refuge in Turkey during that time. 38 • TurkofAmerica

What can you tell us about yourself? I have 20 years experience in the entertainment industry as a producer, director, writer and actor, and I am president of Shenandoah Films. My most recent production is Journey of Faith which I produced, co-wrote and hosted. What is it about? This documentary traces the history of Christianity in the

Republic of Turkey. Called Asia Minor in Biblical times, Turkey is second only to Israel in Biblical sites, and is a treasure-trove of early Christian history. Journey of Faith was shot in Super 16mm in 15 locations throughout Turkey. Stunning locales include Mt. Ararat, the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, Ephesus and Istanbul. The Broadcast Premiere of Journey of Faith was on West Virginia PBS in December 2008, with national distribution expected in 2009. You also directed and produced the award-winning documentary film, Desperate Hours, which has aired nationally on PBS stations throughout the United States. Could you tell us about the documentary? This production, filmed in five countries, tells the little known story of Turkey’s rescue of thousands of Jews facing certain death during the Holocaust. Turkish diplomats put their lives at risk to save Jews being shipped to concentration camps, and as Germany began excluding Jews from university and professional positions, Turkey welcomed them. The film also explores how Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate in Istanbul during the war, who later became Pope John XXIII, worked with future leaders of Israel in rescues. Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, which issued Nostra Aetate. Desperate Hours reveals these stories of Muslims, Christians and Jews co-operating in saving lives during the Holocaust. Which awards did you win with Desperate Hours? Desperate Hours premiered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C and was the Grand Jury Winner and Audience Award Winner at the DC Independent Film Festival in 2003. I was also recognized for

Creative Excellence as Director of Desperate Hours at the International Film and Video Festival in CA. B’nai Birth Canada honored me with The Global Excellence in the Arts Award in 2004. Desperate Hours has also been broadcast in Europe and the Middle East, including Israel Channel One and CNN-Turk. The film has had many festival screenings as well as special screenings internationally. Could you tell us about your current projects? As far as I know, you had starring roles in some films as well. Projects in development include a full-length documentary on the Pentagon and 9-11, a story that has largely been overshadowed by media attention on other tragedies of that day, and “The Guilt of the Innocent” a documentary on Pope John XXIII and his rescue of Jews during the Holocaust as well as his transformation of Catholic teachings towards Jews. For the U.S. Agency for International Development, I produced and directed an educational series about the role of religion in developing countries and how it impacts US foreign assistance programs, especially in conflict areas. As an actor, my films include starring roles in Russian Roulette, Three Kinds of Heat, America 2000 and Over the Brooklyn Bridge. I was a guest star on the hit television program Cheers. Can you tell us how you came about wanting to shoot the Desperate Hours documentary? I heard about the stories of the Turkish diplomats involved in rescues. I realized that this was a little known chapter of the Holocaust, and given the age of those involved, that the story needed to be documented – and soon. What made you want to do this, and what was going through your mind the first day you picked up the camera? I was inspired and humbled by the actions of those that I had now researched. On the first day, I was hoping to truly capture these remarkable individuals telling their own stories and preserve it for history. What is your own movie background and how does this tie into the subject of your documentary? As an actress I had filmed in Israel, living there for months. I had been living in Turkey for several years when I started Desperate Hours, so I felt connected to both countries. How many people did you chronicle? I interviewed about 50 people. Can you define Desperate Hours in one sentence? Desperate Hours tells the little known story from World War II of Turkey and the Holocaust - a rare moment when Muslims, Jews and Christians all work together to save lives. The story is told by the people that lived it in interviews filmed in five countries. They tell their stories of bravery, rescue and hope during some of the darkest hours of human existence. From this time come future world figures - from Pope John XXIII to leaders of Israel and Turkey. What was the most unforgettable shot on your documentary? Why? I don’t think there is just one shot. However, the section on Ambassador Kent always gets a strong reaction from audiences. At the end, after this remarkable story is told by Ambassador Kent and Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, Head of the Department of Righteous of the Nations of the Earth at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, the audience is usually emotional. Ambassador Kent modestly says: Anyhow, I got all the Turks out. That’s about all.

You also conducted interviews with Jews who were rescued by Turkish diplomats? What was your first reaction when you first listened to their stories? I was saddened by the horrible things done to the Jews, but hopeful for humanity by the actions of the diplomats and others involved in rescue. Did Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent contact you? You had an interview with his father Diplomat Necdet Kent. Yes, I’ve spoken with Muhtar several times. I spoke with him right after his father died, marveling at what an amazing life the Ambassador had led and that it was my honor to have met him and told some of it. What did you want people to take away from your documentary? Hope but to never forget the past. What kind of feedback did you receive from Jews and Jewish-American organizations? They have been very kind to me and in their praise of the film. Many did not know about this particular chapter of history in the Holocaust. Do you think you received a satisfactory response in Turkish, Israeli & American media on your documentary? I was very happy to have Desperate Hours air nationally on PBS. It is still playing. However, I would have liked more news coverage of the film. Where do you see the Turkish and Israeli relationship in 2009? The relationship between the Turks and the Jews is a very old one. In any long relationship there are ups and downs. I hope that 2009 brings “ups”. Are you planning or working on a project? Projects in development include a full-length documentary on the Pentagon and 9-11, a story that has largely been overshadowed by media attention on other tragedies of that day, and “The Guilt of the Innocent” a documentary on Pope John XXIII and his rescue of Jews during the Holocaust as well as his transformation of Catholic teachings towards Jews. Any final words? Making this documentary, the many screenings around the world that followed and the wonderful people I have met have greatly affected my life. I hope it has made me a little better person. Thank you so much, Victoria Barrett.  TurkofAmerica • 39


The Ottoman Jews: The›r Mus›cal Trad›t›ons, Influences and Contr›but›ons By Dr. Mehmet Ali SANLIKOL*

shared urban folk music tradition from the Near and the Middle East; therefore these songs often had their counterparts in Turkish, Greek and Arabic. To this day some of these urban folk songs are performed and loved by the people who live in these countries. One can easily give songs such as Kante katife (Kadifeden kesesi) as well-known examples of the shared repertoire. On the other hand, as stated before, some songs recorded by famous Ottoman Jewish artists (during the early 20th c.) were considered to have roots in Medieval Spain (romansa is the word that is used to define this repertoire). Even though these pieces weren’t a part of a larger shared repertoire, most of them still employed the unmistakable sound of the Middle East. A good example for this repertoire is the wonderful La rosa enfloresse recorded by Haim Efendi around 1907.

‹sak Algazi with his hazzan clothes. (Courtesy of the Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews)

A number of Ottoman Jews became famous and very influential in classical Ottoman music. We can easily mention Musi (Haham Mofle Faro), Tanburi ‹sak, M›s›rl› ‹brahim Efendi (Avram Abut) and ‹zak Algazi as some of the more notable names. 40 • TurkofAmerica

he Jewish presence in Asia Minor predates the Ottoman

TEmpire (the presence of Jews in Asia Minor as early as the 4th c. BC is known). However, the story of the Ottoman Jews really starts around the 15th century. Unlike other states the Ottoman Empire welcomed the Sephardic Jews into their lands and a lot of Jewish people settled in the countries that are now Greece, Turkey, Iraq, and others. To this day as their native language Sephardic Jews speak Ladino, a Romance language containing elements of Medieval Spanish, Hebrew, and languages such as Turkish, Greek, and Arabic, depending on where they lived. Ladino also happens to be the language which the secular music of the Sephardic Jews used. Some of this repertoire has its roots in urban music from pre-15th c. Spain. However, a good deal of it was part of a larger

Aside from their influence in the urban folk music traditions, a number of Ottoman Jews became famous and very influential in classical Ottoman music. We can easily mention Musi (Haham Mofle Faro), Tanburi ‹sak, M›s›rl› ‹brahim Efendi (Avram Abut) and ‹zak Algazi as some of the more notable names. One of the first Ottoman Jewish musicians we know is Musi (d. 1776). His instrumental Ottoman classical music compositions are still performed and respected greatly. However, unquestionably the most respected Ottoman Jewish musician of all times is Tanburi ‹sak (18th cc.). When compared to his contemporaries quite a large number of his instrumental and vocal music compositions survive to this day, and he is considered one of the most influential Ottoman classical composers of all time. He is also respected as one of the creators of the stylistic performance aesthetics of the classical tanbur (long necked lute). More recent Ottoman Jewish musicians such as M›s›rl› ‹brahim Efendi (1872-1933) became famous as the composer of classical Ottoman vocal songs. It is most likely that he came from Egypt to Istanbul where the ud (short necked lute) was a popular instrument. He is regarded as one of the ud players that helped this instrument become famous in Turkey once again after over three hundred years of disappearance (the ud was a popular instrument in Ottoman classical music until the mid 17th c.; however, later it was replaced by the tanbur). Finally one has to mention the legendary singer ‹zak Algazi (1889-1950) whose recordings from the early 20th c. demonstrate the incredible vocal range and mastery of classical Ottoman music he had. Other important musical contributions of the Ottoman

M›s›rl› ‹brahim Efendi, second row sixth from left, sitting with his ud (short necked lute). (Courtesy of the Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews)

Jews are found in sacred music traditions, one of which is entitled maftirim. This choir tradition of the 16th to 20th centuries, in which Hebrew poetry was sung to the melodies of secular Ottoman court music and Sufi devotional music, follows the tradition of the famous Rabbi and mystic Israel Najara (1555-1625), the legendary founder of the maftirim. In this tradition it’s common to find piyutim (Hebrew liturgical poems) by famous Jewish mystics like Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1092-1167), set to the melodies of well-known Turkish Sufi songs (such as the ones commonly associated with the words of the 13th century Muslim mystic, Yunus Emre), and espe-

cially instrumental Ottoman classical music that was composed by the Mevlevis (commonly known as “whirling dervishes” in the West). Since the synagogue wouldn’t allow instruments, the maftirim choir tradition would simply take classic Mevlevi instrumental music (such as Segah peflrev by Neyzen Yusuf Pafla, 1820-1884) and use it to set vocal pieces with Hebrew texts. The close relationships between Jewish and Muslim mystics were more visible in the Mevlevi and Bektafli Sufi orders particularly. It was common to find Mevlevi and Bektafli tekkes (dervish lodges) built next to synagogues in the Ottoman Empire. And musically, as it was discussed above, the maftirim choir tradition displays clear influences of the Mevlevi dervishes. Bektafli dervishes, however, had a more intricate relationship with Jews. The Sufi order that represented a heterodox form of Islam with strong Shiite tendencies in the Ottoman society was the Bektafli order, which was incredibly influential and popular. Bektafli traditions put special emphasis on numerology, which brings them close to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism which gives special meanings to letters and the numbers that are associated with them). It is very common to find nefes—a song type characteristic of Bektafli Sufism—to have poetry which display these shared characteristics. However, unlike Mevlevi music it’s harder to find clear traces of Jews in the music of the Bektafli. * Mehmet Ali Sanl›kol, Emerson College, Professor DÜNYA, President,

European Day of Jew›sh Culture ›n Istanbul

or the past 10 years, on the first Sunday of September, from Germany

Fto Portugal, from France to Russia, from England to Spain with 30 differ-

ent European countries participating, the European Day of Jewish Culture has been held. The purpose of the organization running, which comes up with a different theme each year, is to share the cultural and historical heritage of the Jews with the rest of the people in these countries. The European Day of Jewish Culture has been held for eight years in ‹stanbul. The events for that day, Sept. 6, took place in ‹stanbul’s Galata district and aimed to help the public at large discover the cultural and historical heritage of Judaism. The events in ‹stanbul included exhibitions, concerts and panels. The highlight was the symbolic circumcision ceremony, along with the iftar, or Ramadan dinner, that took place at Beyo¤lu’s Municipality Building. As the European Day of Jewish Culture has coincided with Ramadan this year, the iftar was held as a symbol of unity between cultures.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT TURKISH JEWS – The site has all you’d want to know Turkish Jews. The site was designed by Beyoglu Musevi Hahamhanesi Vakfi. – The official web site of the Chief Rabbinate of Turkish Jews. All information about cemeteries, synagogues, holidays, eating kosher in ‹stanbul, and obituaries. – The official web site of first Turkish Jewish museum. – The oldest Jewish hospital in ‹stanbul, which was founded in 1896 as a small home clinic with the contributions of idealist physicians and philanthropists, with the mandate of Sultan Abdulhamid II. – The only Jewish weekly newspaper published in Turkey. Its name is the Turkish spelling of the Hebrew word Shalom. It was established on 17 Jan. 1947. – The official web site of Neve Shalom Synagogue Foundation. Neve Shalom is the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in ‹stanbul. – The official web site of the annual European Day of Jewish Culture in ‹stanbul. TurkofAmerica • 41

Traces of Sepharad Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), a form of medieval Spanish spoken even today by descendents of the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, is endangered. Shanker says proverbs are an oral tradition used to pass knowledge and wisdom gleaned from the experiences of preceding generations. Traces of Sepharad, by Marc Shanker, features more than 40 interpretive etchings of Judeo-Spanish proverbs, offering a unique window into Sephardic culture and thinking. A recording of the proverbs by a native Ladino speaker will give viewers a sense of the sound and meter of the language. Traces of Sepharad, is the first book to use Ladino proverbs as the basis of a large body of serious visual art. Mr. Shanker’s etchings are accompanied by essays by the artist, Mr. Antonio Muñoz Molina, an internationally known novelist and critic, and by Professor T.A. Perry, a respected Sephardic and Biblical scholar. Marc Shanker’s family moved to United States in 1917 from Salonica. They came to the U.S. as a result of World War I, because his grandfather did not want to go to war. The family first lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, then moved to Brooklyn. They lived together with a group of Turkish Jewish families. eople sharing the same soil and having the same problem in daily life use similar phrases. Sometimes something that many pages of words cannot explain, a two-word phrase can describe. Proverbs are the wisdom of the common people.


Marc Shanker, self-taught artist and a Sephardic Jew, is the first artist to tap the rich source of Judeo-Spanish proverbs as the basis of a large body of fine art. The sheer breadth and number of interpretive etchings –line etchings and aquatints --with their many faceted levels of meaning, appeal to a broad audience, even those unfamiliar with Sephardic culture.

His first try at etching was six years ago. After multiple drafts he gave up and put it down. A year later he was really eager to learn etching. He had no artist friend but he had passion. It took a year to learn etching. Shanker took some classes and thousand drawings later, he succeed in expressing himself. He says that in the first six months of his work, he was able to finish only three etchings. His Traces of Sepharad book has 45 etchings. The 62 year-old artist nowadays has been writing his own proverbs. 

BDG Adv›ses A Deal between Turkey and Israel stanbul - BDG Financial Advisory Services Compay, which concentrates on providing in-house services to domestic and international companies, has recently advised and completed a Merger and Acquisition deal between Turkey and Israel. In this deal, an Istanbul-based human resource company (Metropol Human Resources) was acquired through purchase of majority shares by the Israeli based human resource group Tigbur Limited –Temporary Help & Professional Placement. On the Israeli side, Tigbur was represented by Etgar -Strategic solutions & Entrepreneurship Company.

BDG Financial Advisory Services Ltd., was founded by Bayram Tuncer, Durmufl Çavdar and Ahmet Gözitök in 2000, in Istanbul, Turkey. The 42 • TurkofAmerica

managing partners and members of the company have been active professionally in the management of major private and public sector institutions. The group members’ previous work experience includes fund raising, public offerings, financial rehabilitation, budgeting and financial planning, asset valuation and other finance related issues. During the 8 years of its operations, the company has provided consultancy services to some of the leading Turkish companies, which are classified in top 100 of the industry, as well as small to mid-sized companies operating in the country. These companies are active in sectors such as sugar, cement, paper, plastics, agriculture, durable goods, automotive, logistics and iron and steel manufacturing.


The Sephard› D›aspora

By Randall C. Belinfante*

Legend has it that the Sultan Bayezid questioned the wisdom of Christian rulers who would expel their Jews, only to have them enrich his Empire.

he exodus of the Jews from Spain began not in 1492, as many believe, but in 1391, when serious anti-Jewish riots broke out in Toledo and Seville. In striving to convert the entire nation to the Catholic Christian faith, the Spanish leaders forced thousands of Jews to convert. Many others fled the country. Those that had converted came to be known as New Christians or Marranos (meaning “pig”). It was this group that was to become a target of the Inquisition, an organization charged with ensuring adherence to orthodox practice among Catholics but which also set about preventing people from backsliding into their “heathen” faiths. After Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile united their kingdoms in 1491 they succeeded, with the financial assistance of Jews, in driving the Moors out of Spain at the beginning of 1492. They then set their sights on removing the remaining heathens, the Jews, from Spain. This move was partly motivated by the desire to keep Jews from influencing the New Christians; but there were also financial reasons since the Spanish leadership saw an opportunity to seize the assets of the fleeing Jews. Nevertheless, Spain was to witness the decay of its economy from the time of the expulsion. Even though a great deal of wealth flowed into the country from the empire overseas, the nation was never to perform quite as well as it did prior to 1492.


As for the Jews, one can read about their expulsion in Samuel Usque’s Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel. They fled in different directions. Many left for Portugal, where they were at first received with open arms, only to be forced into conversion a few years later. When the new Portuguese king decided to marry a Spanish princess in hopes of uniting the two kingdoms, he was obliged to accept the Inquisition and ba-

nish his Jews. However, his economy could not afford the loss of Jewish revenue, and so he forced the Jews to convert. First he took their children in hope that the elders would not wish to let go of their offspring. Later he forced the elders into conversion. Others fled across the Mediterranean to Morocco. There again they were accepted at first, but as their numbers increased they became subject to oppression. They were forced into cramped areas of the cities called Mellahs. In many cases the Jews developed an interdependent relationship with the Moroccan rulers, wherein the refugees were protected by the leaders of the country while becoming their collectors of customs, minters of coins, and diplomats. TO UNDERSTAND THE LIVES OF THE SEPHARDIM The luckiest among the refugees were those who went to Greece, the Balkans, and other lands controlled by the Ottoman Empire. Legend has it that the Sultan Bayezid questioned the wisdom of Christian rulers who would expel their Jews, only to have them enrich his Empire. Among the Ottomans, the Sephardim carried on a brisk trade, and prospered in many areas. They were constrained by certain laws imposed upon non-Muslims, but they did quite well for themselves, serving as tax farmers, traders, and tradesmen. Over the next 350 years the Jews developed semi-autonomous communities in Rhodes, Istanbul, and especially Thessaloniki, where a third of the population (nearly 80,000) were Jews. To understand the lives of the Sephardim in this area, one might wish to read Rabbi Marc Angel’s Foundations of Sephardic Spirituality. From the Ottoman Empire, the Sephardim were to spread out over much of the world. Many joined other Sephardi refugees who traveled to and settled in the trading capitals of Europe in Amsterdam and Antwerp. There they developed small but prosperous communities, dealing in book publishing, diamond cutting, stock trading, and a variety of other occupations. Some also found their way from Europe to the New World. A good book on this subject is Arbell’s Jewish Nation of the Caribbean. The Jews established communities in the Caribbean, Central America, and even small settlements in Northern Brazil. A few writers have even suggested that Columbus bore a few “New Christians”, if not Jews along with him on his early voyages to America. Unfortunately, the Inquisition followed them to these locations, and there are numerous cases of trials and burnings of “New Christians” in the New World. When the Portuguese recaptured Brazil in 1654, a small group of twenty-three Dutch Jews fleeing from the Brazilian town of Recife were blown off course. They went through a whole series of adventures, and ended up in the tiny village of New Amsterdam (later to be called New York). There they established the first Jewish community in North America, Shearith Israel (Remnant of Israel). To get some idea about the dispersion of Sephardim around the globe today, one might wish to look at Elazar’s book The Other Jews. * Randall C. Belinfante is Librarian and Archivist at the American Sephardi Federation, New York City.

 TurkofAmerica • 43


Ottoman Jews ›n the Context of Geograph›cal D›str›but›on, Populat›on & Hous›ng or 300 years following the expulsion, the prosper-

Fity and creativity of the Ottoman Jews rivaled that

of the Golden Age of Spain. After 1492 and the edict of Alhambra which forced Jews to choose By Assistant between leaving Spain or converting to Christianity, Prof. Göknur Akçada¤* the Ottoman Empire – especially cities like Istanbul or Salonika – became one of the main place of refuges for these Iberian Jews but also for Jews from Central Europe who fled anti-Jewish politics. At the A letter – original other chronological extremity, during the Second World War, Turkey would greet an important number held at National of Jewish people who fled Western Europe. So, there is a particular link between the history of the Library in Paris - Ottoman Empire and then the Turkish Republic and the history of the Jewish Diaspora.

sent by Rabbi Yitzhak

Sarfati who migrated to Turkey in the first part of 15th century to Jewish communities in Germany and Hungary inviting his

The Jews, lived under the rule of Christianity for three centuries, began to break up after the peninsula was removed from Islamic Rule, which had conquered and dominated it for three and half centuries. After 1095 the Jews were begging fearfully for protection as the German Jews suffered from oppression, converting to Christianity and being killed. The Jews were massacred by the Crusaders in Germany and Hungary. The first comers from Europe were the Ashkenazi who came from France (1394 Exile), Hungary (1376), and Sicily and Italy. The biggest Jewish immigration to the Ottoman Empire was the Sephardim exiled from Spain in 15th Century.

co-religionists to leave the torments they were enduring in Christendom and to seek safety and prosperity in Turkey. His few words in his letter tell us a lot.

44 • TurkofAmerica

THE KINGDOM OF POLAND AND OTTOMAN EMPIRE The Jews were living in the land of two big countries in the 16th and 17th centuries: The Kingdom of Poland and the Ottoman Empire. Additionally there were three Jewish groups, namely, the Jewish community speaking Farsi in Iran, the Jews speaking Arabic in lands from Iraq to Morocco and old Jewish communities from the Byzantine Period speaking Turkish or Greek. But they were eclipsed by the old Jewish communities established by migrations. In the beginning of Ottoman conquests they were the Italian Jews under the Italian Merchant Unions and those settled in the Balkans. The Jewish minority in Salonika had existed there before those who migrated from Spain.

The Jews had been living in Anatolia and Rumelia, the southern Balkan regions of the Ottoman Empire, since the Roman Empire. But thanks to the encouragement of freedom granted by Mehmet II to the non-Muslim subjects, Jews from Western Europe and Austria came to the Ottoman land, too. As is seen, the Jewish migration to the Ottoman Empire did not start in 1492. The origins of those who migrated were not only Spain. Most of the Jews who came were from Spain, though some migrated from Italy and Central Europe, which were under the rule of Spain. The Sephardim Ottoman Jews migrated from Spain, and the Mediterranean was the community that spread over the largest area geographically in the Ottoman land. They were in Arabian provinces, Maghreb, Egypt, Tripoli, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine as well as Mesopotamia, Southeastern Anatolia, Central Anatolia and almost in all city centers in Western Anatolia. They were living in Izmir as a big community. It was even possible to see the Jewish communities in the Balkans, Edirne, Salonika, Gallipoli, Bosnia, Southern Bulgaria and Macedonia. “IMPOSSIBLE TO COMPARE THE CONDITIONS” The Ashkenazi Jewish communities drew attention everywhere when they migrated from Eastern Europe and Russia. The crowded community coming from Spain spoke different languages in different areas in addition to Judeo-Espagnol (Ladino) language. There were Italian Jewish communities having separate synagogues in the big port cities such as Istanbul, Izmir and Salonika. They had synagogues in Yaz›c› Street in Istanbul and Zülfam Street in Karaköy. A separate cemetery was appropriated for the Italian Jews in fiiflli. For example the number of Jews living in Balat in 1477 was about 7200 according to the census carried out after the conquest of Istanbul. F. Babinger states that it is impossible to compare the conditions of Ottoman Jews with the Jews living in the West in every respect. What the Jewish suffered caused them to act with solidarity with the Turks. There was an example witnessed in 1480 during the Siege of Rhodes. According to Johannes Adelpus, while the siege was going on and extending in difficulty, the Ottoman Army banded their troops in the Jewish quarters and started to act. The Ottoman troops organized their siege and fights according to the locations of Jews. The Jews, who dreaded the religious oppressions and persecutions, wished the Ottomans to conquer Rhodes but this did not come true. Therefore the Jews continued to live there under the same difficulties. When the decree was enacted regarding the deportation of the Jews in Castilia and Aragon, this affected approximately 200 thousand Jews, about 50 thousand of them baptized. First 100 thousand of them took refuge in Portugal. About the 50 thousand migrated from Almeria to Northern Africa and later found another way to Italy and the Ottoman Empire from Valencia and Barcelona. 50 years later nuevos cristianos- Marranos-Conversos, that is those who converted, migrated from Portugal. Most of them went to the Ottoman land. Among the cities they went to, Salonika especially became a center of attraction and there was a Portuguese colony in the late 16th century. Eva Groepler wrote her book, Jews in Islam and Ottoman World, among the Marranos migrated two important figures who gained political power: Yosef Nasi, who converted again to Judaism in Istanbul, became one of the leading diplomats of Bab-› Ali (Ottoman

Government). He was appointed as the Naksos Duke by the Ottoman Sultan. Alvaro Mendes was appointed as the Midilli Duke. The Jews chose an Islamic country on purpose. Defecting to Christianity in any Christian country and converting again to Judaism meant to be sentenced to death. But according to Islamic law, people have a right to choose their religion and convert. In 1555-56 a group of Jews in Ancona subject to the Pontificate were accused of “being marrano” and stood trial. Finally those who quitted Judaism were sentenced to hard labor for life. 24 men and 1 woman were strangled to death by the authorities. Though the Ottoman Sultan carried out an intensive diplomatic attempt he could not secure their freedom. JEWS FROM ISTANBUL TO DIYARBAKIR, BUDAPEST TO JERUSALEM The Jews in Istanbul lived in and around Yeni Mosque, Balat, Hasköy, Ortaköy and Kuzguncuk. There was a Jewish cemetery in E¤rikap›. The number of the Jewish families was 1647 in 1477. The number of families in total in Istanbul was 16,324. According to Joseph Hutter, there were 5000 Christians and about 1000 Jews out of 25 thousand in the mid 19th century in Vidin, which is situated to the right of the River Danube. There were about 500 Jews in Shumen, a Balkan city. Philllip Kom in his memoirs mentions that the Christians and Jews had their own temples and schools in Vidin and Shumen. Famous Turkish historian Kemal Karpat says in his book, Ottoman Population 1830-1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics, that there was a “Yahudiyan” (Jews) District in Diyarbakir, is the largest city in southeastern Turkey, according to the eighteenth and nineteenth century registers. There were also co-districts where they lived together with the Muslims. There were about 80 families in 1804. Their number decreased as they migrated to the cities such as Istanbul, Baghdad and Aleppo. Their number was reported to be 1170 in the second half of the nineteenth century. Buckingam, who visited Diyarbakir, writes that there were just a few Jews in 1815 and they migrated to other cities. According to the findings of P. Dumont there were 7000 Jews in Silivri during the years of the Second Constitutionalist Period (II. Meflrutiyet). B.Lewis gives some important information related to the existence of Sephardic Jews in Budapest. He states that the Hebrew inscriptions he saw in the Buda Castle were in the writing style of the Ottoman Sephardic Jews. The Ottoman archives belonging to that period prove that the Ottoman Empire settled some Jews from its land after it conquered some parts of Hungary in the early 16th century. It took its Jewish subject back when it left this area in 1686. There are some Sultan firmans (decrees) concerning protection and settlement of Jews in new places in the Ottoman lands. There are some documents suggesting the existence of Jews in Bursa before the Turkish conquest. Orhan Gazi brought his people from the neighboring countries to develop Bursa. The Jews, who disliked the Byzantine rule, settled in Bursa and constructed a synagogue by the permission of the Sultan. Therefore a Jewish district in Bursa appeared. Evliya Çelebi writes in his travel book that there were 6 Jewish quarters in the Alt›parmak District. The Jewish population and the number of districts increased in Bursa after Bayezid II and Kanuni Süleyman TurkofAmerica • 45


accepted the Jewish people in the Ottoman lands. For example, in one district there weren’t any Jews 1487; this number increased to 117 in 1521 and 308 in 1573. It was also possible to determine in which city they had lived before they arrived in another city. For example according to a Tahrir Book register dated 1573 the Kuruçeflme Jews (Baber-G›ruz communities) stayed in Bal›kesir before coming to Bursa. They came to Bursa at least 20 years before this date. The Jews had an important place in the ethnical and religious structure of Bursa and did business extensively with Istanbul Jews. There was a document proving cultural interaction and sharing between the Muslims and Jews. This document tells that Muslims stopped working and participated in a Jewish Holiday in 6-7 May called Shavuot (Gül Donanmas› Holiday) symbolizing the returning of Moses from Mount Sinai (Though this document is about a theft which occurred as there was no one at home since they were celebrating). Gaza, Safed and Jerusalem became some cities where the Jews settled after these cities were included in the Ottoman lands. This was one of the reasons affecting the growing of the cities. The Ottoman approach to the Jews and Christian communities in Jerusalem was not different from that of their approach to Muslims. Therefore that helped them integrate into the Ottoman Empire. One of the evidence of that is that they applied to the Ottoman Kadi in their judicial matters and asked a verdict according to the Ottoman laws though it was not obligatory to do so.

discrimination by the Orthodox Christians against them. The Ottoman state settled them in Anatolia, bearing their transportation costs. Several Jews were killed in Nifl by the Serbians in 1878. The Bulgarians, armed by the Russians, killed Turks and Jews. They were free to migrate to the Ottoman land or Palestine. This explains the existence of Jews in Palestine after 1914. According to Kemal Karpat’s findings the Southeastern Europe Region harbored the 25.27% of all the Ottoman Jews. 21.63% settled in Anatolia, 14.61% in Istanbul, 23.88 in Iraq and Palestine as well as about 14.61% in Syria. An important finding of Karpat must be recalled here: Both Jews and Muslims invented their national identity brands, which would unite their migrated people in their motherland, as a reaction to the nationalism mixed with the ethnicized Orthodox belief of Southeastern Europe, dominated by Poland and Russia. Ben Gurion and Itzak Ben Zvi, the real ideologists and nation builders of Jewish nationalism, established their ideological formations not only in Poland but also in Turkey. Both of them could speak Turkish. Gurion studied in the Faculty of Law in Turkey. The Jews and Turks experienced similar historical courses as the Turkish identity originated from the Ottoman identity and Jewish nationalism was born out of the Jewish identity. * SUNY- Binghamton University- Fernand Braudel Center former scholar, Yildiz Technical University, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Turkey / Inonu University, Department of History.

MIGRATIONS AND POPULATIONS OF JEWS AS OTTOMAN SUBJECTS The Jewish community, when considered generally, became a society living in scattered parts of the Ottoman Empire in different language and cultural environments and mainly an urbanized one. So it did not interact much with European Judaism. An important issue to be addressed is that the Jews were the community which suffered from the land loss of the Ottoman Empire together with the Muslims and became émigrés. Historical records show that the Jews, who did not please the Christian rulers, had the same troubles as the Muslim people did when the Ottomans lost their land. For example during the Crimean War it was thought that they supported the Ottoman troops together with the local Muslim people. Therefore the Crimean Jews had to migrate together with the Muslims. In a document dated 15 November 1856 it reads “Upon a petition submitted to the Sultan by the people, who were from Crimea and Jewish and migrated to the Dersaated, they were settled in Rumelia and proper places there as they are from Crimea…” In other documents there are some provisions for these émigrés to be granted land to establish a life and tax exemption if they take Ottoman citizenship. These kinds of migrations later continued. The Jews together with the Muslims migrated from Rumelia after the 1877-78 Ottoman-Russia and 1912 Balkan War. Though the the separation movements started among the communities breeding hostility against each other in the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century none of them could establish a majority to found a state in a specific region. During these separation movements the Muslims and Jews were on the one side while the Orthodox Christians were on the opposite side. The Ottomans retreat from the Balkans starting in 1877 caused many people to emigrate until 1914. The Jews preferred to live under Ottoman rule as there was a risk of 46 • TurkofAmerica


The Jew›sh Museum of Turkey

he Jewish Museum of Turkey was established by the

TQuincentennial Foundation in the former Zulfaris Synagogue (Kal Kadosh Galata) situated in the Karakoy district of ‹stanbul, not far from the Golden Horn shore.

It aims to promote the story of 700 years of amity between Turks and Jews, beginning with the Ottoman conquest of Bursa (1326), to show how through the past seven centuries the two cultures influenced each other, and to display the humanitarian spirit of the Turkish nation. The Museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret and disseminate knowledge about the cultural heritage of the Turkish Jews.

The Museum was made possible by the financial backing of the Kamhi Family and the valuable contributions of Mr Jak Kamhi and the vision and dedication of Mr Naim Güleryüz.

There is evidence that this synagogue existed in 1671. However, the current building was erected over its original foundations presumably in the early 19th Century. The Zulfaris Synagogue remained in service until Jews living in the area moved to other neighborhoods, around 1985. After that it was assigned to the Quincentennial Foundation, which restored the building as a Museum without altering its appearance as a synagogue. The Museum was made possible by the financial backing of the Kamhi Family and the valuable contributions of Mr Jak Kamhi (President of the Foundation) and the vision and dedication of Mr Naim Güleryüz. The exhibition in the Main Hall explores, through artifacts, documents and photos, the cultural heritage of Turkish Jews, their common life and interaction with the Muslim majority, and their contribution to the social, intellectual and political life of the country. In the Azara (former wo-

50 • TurkofAmerica

men’s gallery) photos are displayed and case histories depicted. On the ground floor, arranged as an Ethnographic Section, inheritance becomes cultural heritage. Through scenes such as birth and circumcision, trousseau and wedding, this section summarizes the customs of Turkish Jews and explores the influence of the broader society. The display concept is intended to be dynamic; case histories change from time to time. The Museum is open from Monday to Thursday (10:00 to 16:00), Friday and Sunday (10:00 to 14:00), but is closed on Saturdays and High Holidays. Address : Karaköy Meydani (Square), Percemli Sokak Karaköy Phones : (0212) 292 6333 and 2926334 Fax : (0212) 244 4474 E-mail :, THE QUINCENTENNIAL FOUNDATION 1992 marked the five hundredth anniversary of this most gracious welcome of Sephardim to Turkish lands. Turkish Jews felt it was both fitting and proper to launch an extensive celebration in Turkey, in the United States and in Europe. The Quincentennial Foundation was established in 1989 by a group of 113 Turkish citizens, Jews and Muslims alike. Founded and headquartered in Istanbu,l the Quincentennial Foundation planned a three-year (1990 - 1992) cultural and academic program both within Turkey and abroad - mainly in the U.S, Canada and Mexico on the American continent; France, the United Kingdom and different countries in Europe.


Sephard›c Jews Commun›ty and The›r Role ›n Istanbul’s Commerc›al L›fe

From Guild to Chamber, ITO Publications

istinguished Readers, It is truly exciting for me to address the members of the Sephardic community living in the USA in this special issue of TURKOFAMERICA, which is an important communication channel between the two countries.


By Dr. Murat Yalç›ntafl*

Among the administrative body and the staff of ‹stanbul Chamber of Commerce, it is quite possible to come across names such as Monsieur Bernar, Monsieur Vital, Moiz Levi, Vitali Kamhi.

52 • TurkofAmerica

It is exciting because the role of the ancestors of this community in the history of the Turkish business world is indispensable. A glance over the archives of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, which sheds light on our commercial life over its 127 years of history, will tell us that the trade carried out in the Ottoman lands from the 16th century on would be unthinkable without the non-Muslim communities made up of Sephardim, as well as Levantine, Greek, and Armenian citizens. Therefore, I will try to evaluate the outcomes of this immigration in the 15th century which brought us together and had so many social, cultural, and political aspects from the perspective of the segment I represent, namely the economic and commercial perspective. When expelled from the lands they had lived in for centuries and arriving in their new home, their knowledge, skills, and entrepreneurship were the only assets they were able to carry with them to enable them to start from scratch and establish new and productive lives. They became masters in many sectors, especially handicrafst such as tannery, copperwork, fabric painting, jewelry, shoemaking, and ship building. They even manufactured fabric for the uniforms for the Ottoman Army. More importantly, they did not keep these skills to themselves; on the contrary they preferred to share them with their hosts in order to produce and to add value to the lands they

had started to live in. In this respect, they have been a complementary factor for the native Ottomans who had traditionally been engaged mostly in agriculture. At the same time, they started to introduce Western civilization to these lands. As they were familiar with printing, which was marking a new era in Europe in those days, they (the Nahmias Brothers) first opened a printing house in Istanbul and made the city the center of supply for publications, especially for those of their own language and culture. By doing so, they also developed a new business and contributed to welfare and employment. THE MEMBERS OF SEPHARDIC COMMUNITY In addition to production in various sectors, they occupied crucial places in government, economy, and social life, as well. Many Sephardic people worked in high positions such as diplomats, school governors, religious leaders, judges, etc. For instance, Josef Nasi served Sultan Selim, the second most important man in the palace, as a leading person in Ottoman foreign politics in the 1550’s. Medicine was another field the Jewish community was famous in with their specialization. Doctor Yakup, Jozef Amon, Mofle Amon were well-known names among the doctors serving the royal family in the palace. Moreover, the members of this community played a vital role not only in domestic trade, but they were also in the center of our commercial relations with Europe thanks to their language and culture familiarity easing their communication with the outer world. Their affiliation with their relatives in Arabia, Africa, and even in Eastern Asia contributed to the foreign trade of the Ottoman Empire, as well. Not surprisingly, the places these communities settled were all located on centers or arteries of commerce such as Istanbul, Thessalonica, Bursa, Damascus, Cairo, the Balkan cities, the Aegean region and islands, and some centers in Anatolia.

SEPHARDIC MEMBERS OF THE CHAMBER In particular, the habitations they resided in Istanbul were Eminönü, Sirkeci, and the Golden Horn covering also the Ottoman Palace –recently called Historical Peninsula- which was considered to be the cradle of trade and still maintains this characteristic. This is also the region which has been hosting our Chamber since its establishment 127 years ago. Therefore, the affiliation of this community with trade is quite expected. What best indicates this affiliation is the records of our Chamber -then called Dersaadet (port of happiness or gate to heaven, referring to Istanbul) Chamber of Commerce- established with the initiative of successful merchants in 1882. Among the administrative body and the staff of this institution, which has been the most important representative of commercial life since then, it is quite possible to come across names such as Monsieur Bernar, Monsieur Vital, Moiz Levi, Vitali Kamhi. The allocation of industrialists in the Empire at the beginning of the 20th century points to the same conclusion. According to our archives; 10 percent of the capital belonged to foreigners and 15 percent to native Turks, while 85 percent was possessed by the non-Muslim minorities of Armenian, Jewish, and mostly Greek origin. Sultan Bayezid II explained their contribution to the Ottoman Empire with the following words: “How can one call such a King (Ferdinand) bright? He impoverishes his own lands while enriching mine.” And today with 20,000 Sephardic brothers we live together, we work together, we produce together, and we earn together in our country. Although this number is very low relative to the population of Turkey, now 70 million, their impact and prominence in many fields such as business, arts, and social and cultural life is far more noticeable than their numbers would indicate. Unfortunately at the beginning of the 20th century, part of this community, which was one of the most important parts of the cultural mosaic and one of the most active actors in the business community in this country had to move to various parts of the world, mainly North America, due to various reasons. Just like their ancestors did centuries ago, they started a new life in this new country out of nothing thanks to their entrepreneurship and skills. We still consider that a part of them belong to Turkey and proudly listen to their success stories in their new homelands.

As the President of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, representing the giant economy of Turkey, I want to make a call to these brothers of ours: Come and rediscover the lands in which your ancestors found peace, see the opportunities these lands offer to you so that we can strengthen our connection. By leaning on each other, we will also overcome the crisis shaking the whole world currently. The USA, which is still the “land of opportunities” despite all the economic inconveniences, is the most important target market of our Chamber for improving commercial relations. It is our goal to increase our trade volume of 16 billion to much higher levels and to expand our cooperation, which is mainly limited to the military area, to a much broader scope. To pursue this goal, our Chamber informs the business people in both countries about the mutual interests they may have and lobbies the US Congress and its partner entities there in order to overcome the obstacles in front of closer relations arising from prejudices and lack of information. THE HISTORICAL MISSION Now, we are willing to support this economic mission with a historical mission by re-connecting the Sephardic community living in the US to their old homeland, because we know that our Sephardic fellows who successfully hold important positions in the US have much to contribute to the promotion of our country. As the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, hosting numerous foreign trade delegations every year and participating in many international and domestic fairs, we are ready to put our facilities and experience at their disposal. Such a cooperation will both give them the opportunity to get to know their roots in Turkey and help us to establish a new communication channel for our promotion efforts. 500 years ago, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror opened his lands to these communities with the invitation “to ascend the site of the Imperial Throne, to dwell in the best of the land, each under the shadow of this vine and his fig tree, with silver and with gold, with wealth and with cattle...". Likewise, our doors are still wide open to them. Finally, I would like to thank TURKOFAMERICA for this special issue bringing us back together on these pages and announce that we are committed to go into further cooperation in this regard with them. Yours Sincerely, *President of the Executive Board Istanbul Chamber of Commerce.

Ottoman Hospitality and Its Impact on Europe, ITO Publications

An Ottoman ship carrying Jews from Spain to Ottoman Empire. (Painting by Mevlut Akyildiz)

An Istanbulese Jewish Merchant Woman.

An Istanbulese Merchant.

An Istanbulese Jew.

A Jewish Woman Playing the Violin.

Ottoman Hospitality and Its Impact on Europe, ITO Publications

TurkofAmerica • 53


By Erol Haker *

From the mid 17th through mid 19th centuries, Edirne was an important center of rabbinical law whose writ covered the Jewish communities of Edirne Vilayet and beyond. (Courtesy of Erol Haker)

According to Jewish sources, there were 12,000 Jews living in Edirne in 1873 and 17,000 in 1902. Their numbers reached a peak of 20,000 in 1912 on the eve of the first Balkan War.

54 • TurkofAmerica

Edirne and Its Jewish Community at the Turn of the 19th Century dirne (Adrianople) is a city in the Balkans in the Turkish Republic, located at the confluence of the Meriç River and its two principal tributaries, the Tunca and the Varda. The town had a population of 99,000 in 1901, consisting of 40,000 Turks, 6,000 Albanians, 30,000 Greeks, 10,000 Bulgarians, 9,000 Jews and 4,000 Armenians.


Jewish public life was organized around sub-communities, 13 in number, each with its own synagogue. The first synagogue was the Poli Yashan, belonging to Romaniots Jews of Byzantine origin. There were two synagogues of European Ashkenazi Jewish origin, namely Budun of Hungary and Küçük Alman or Ashkenazi belonging to Jews that immigrated to Edirne from France and Germany over the centuries. The remaining ten were those of the communities of the Spanish exile, named after the town or region they hailed from, such as Toledo, Cordova and Catalonia. According to Jewish sources, there were 12,000 Jews living in Edirne in 1873 and 17,000 in 1902. Their numbers reached a peak of 20,000 in 1912 on the eve of the first Balkan War.

The community elected its own Chief Rabbi and so did the Edirne Community. In fact, between 1722 and 1902 there were two of them that officiated simultaneously, with one representing seven of the thirteen sub-communities and the second the remaining six. The provincial Governors informally recognized the Chief Rabbis of the Edirne Province as the heads of their communities. Their election by the Jewish community was only a formality as there were two ruling rabbinical dynasties, the first the Givret, and the second the Behmoires from whose rank the chief Rabbis always came. Chief Rabbis played a dominant role in shaping the affairs of their communities. This was because all community members observed their religion and most believed in its written word. Against any one committing transgressions, the Chief Rabbi had a powerful instrument at his disposal, called herem. Literally translated it means boycott. The community members would ostracize a person who was subjected to such punishment. He would not be admitted to a synagogue. No one except possibly close members of his family would socialize with him, and worst of all he could not earn a living, as no one would buy his products and services, or employ him. Enforcing a herem was not difficult in a society where everyone was religiously observant. In such a society the threat of a herem was sufficient to cause strict religious observance to a Chief Rabbi’s ruling. JEWISH ASSOCIATIONS The community established, for the first time in its history, a council (Meclis-i-Cismani) to run the affairs of the community.

During the first years of the 20th century The Community Council of the Edirne Jewish Community was composed of 36 members. The males of the community above a certain age that held regular employment, elected thirty-three of them. The remaining three were Rabbis, including of course, the Chief Rabbis. An Executive Council of seven members elected by the Community Council ran its daily affairs. The senior one of the two Chief Rabbis was appointed in an ex-officio capacity to the Municipal Council of the city and was formally recognized as the head of the Jewish Community that lived in Edirne. In this capacity he had the authority to countersign all the decisions of the municipal council on subjects that were of common interest to the different Millets (ethnic groups) that made up the city population, for example infrastructure projects, their location and scope. During the second half of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, many associations were established and flourished. In each such association three main activity types merged with varying emphasis in any one of them. They were welfare, social life, and intellectual or ideology related activities.

A Jewish family in Edirne. (Courtesy of Erol Haker)

JEWISH INTELLECTUAL LIFE IN EDIRNE Most of the Spanish exiles that settled in the Ottoman Empire congregated in large numbers in relatively few centers, bringing together scholars who in the Iberian Peninsula would have been scattered in many localities. Istanbul, Salonika, Edirne, and later Izmir emerged as the sites of a rich intellectual and cultural life. Under the liberal disposition the Ottoman State showed towards Jews, Edirne became a center of a blossoming Jewish intellectual life. The following were some outstanding contributors that lived in Edirne. Hekim Yakup became the personal physician of Sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror, when Edirne was still the capital of the Ottoman Empire. In addition to his professional function, he made available to the Ottoman court his extensive diplomatic connections. With the conquest of Byzantium, he settled in it and became a member of the Sultan’s court. Salamon Ibn Verga, who lived in Edirne during the second half of the 15th century and the first quarter of the 16th, was a Rabbi, judge, and historian, and became widely known for his history of the persecution of Jews in Christian countries. Joseph Caro came to Edirne from Toledo as a young person and wrote part of his book Beit Joseph (The house of Joseph) in which he codified Jewish Rabbinical Law in all its intricacies and practice across centuries. A summary of the book, called Shulhan Aruh (The Set Table), was adopted by all the Jews of the world as the most authoritative statement on the practice of the Jewish religion. MUSIC AND PRESS Edirne was a center of Jewish music. A choral society was founded in Edirne in the 17th century. The society succeeded in making the city a center for hymn writers. The best known among them was Aron Isaac Hamon, known as Yahudi Hamon in Turkish musical circles. Hamon composed Turkish music after the style of the Dervish brotherhoods, though still retaining Iberian themes in his compositions, and this makes him unique. The first Hebrew press in the Ottoman Empire was established in Istanbul in 1493, and was followed by the presses in Salonika in 1510, in Edirne in 1554, and in Izmir in 1646. The Ottoman Levant emerged as a major center for Jewish publishing, printing a multitude of works composed by Jews outside the Ottoman Empire.

A Jewish family in Edirne. (Courtesy of Erol Haker)

EDUCATION The Torah academies in Salonika, Edirne, Istanbul, Tsfat and Jerusalem provided the institutional setting in which sages could discuss and debate the wide range of issues deeply embedded in the various layers of rabbinical culture. From the TurkofAmerica • 55


Jewish students in Edirne in May 1912. (Courtesy of Erol Haker)

mid 17th through mid 19th centuries, Edirne was an important center of rabbinical law whose writ covered the Jewish communities of Edirne Vilayet and beyond. In the mid 19th century, an intelligentsia appeared on the scene, consisting of a small group of educated persons that aimed at extricating the Jewish religion out of the rut it had got itself into. The Haskalah movement that was doing the same thing on a European scale was their source of inspiration, but the one located in Edirne was more nationally oriented, as expressed in their support for the revival of Hebrew as a living language, for day-to-day use, and to express thinking not always associated with religion.

rabbinical family in Edirne. Avraham Danon began his public life in 1878; a year after he had established the Hevrat Dorshei Haskalah referred to earlier. Avraham Danon translated the poems of Virgil, Hugo, and Saadi… and also Jewish Historian Reinach’s Histoire des Juifs into Hebrew and published this version with extra additions by himself under the title of Toldot Bnei Avraham (The History of the Children of Abraham, Pressburg 1897). He wrote many of his works on the folklore of the Jews of the Spanish exile. Also, he published in Hebrew a history of the Jews of the Spanish exile.

One of the earliest on record was Yehuda Nehama, [who] wrote in Hebrew and Ladino, producing biographies, poetry, and history. He corresponded with other maskilim in Europe, and created a newspaper in Judeo-Spanish, El Lunar (1865/66,) which aimed to educate people. After him, the two leading lights among those who were active during the third quarter of the 19th century were Joseph Halevi and Baruch Mitrani. A generation later Avraham Danon appeared. Joseph Halevi was a maskil who was a leading force behind the movement for a new school. Halevi was a Hungarian Jew who made Edirne his home for some years. He started his public life in Edirne in 1856. Halevi became the director of the Talmud Torah of the Portuguese congregation of the town. He slowly began to introduce reforms at his school, teaching Hebrew grammar systematically, and introducing the teaching of French. A group of reformers coalesced around him. Baruh Mitrani: This student of Halevi in Edirne was passionately concerned with the revival of the Hebrew language as a living medium. He combined religious, messianic, and moderate Haskalah ideas into an ideology which prefigured many of the elements of religious Zionism. “Baruh Mitrani fought for modern methods of education, founded a school for this purpose in Edirne, Akedat Yitzhak, and devoted many years of his life to teaching. He wrote books on education in Hebrew and a grammar of spoken Judeo-Spanish, contributed to Hebrew periodicals such as Hamagid (1856-1913) and Havatselet (1863-1914) published in Istanbul. He also wrote poetry”. Avraham Danon: A later figure, to whom the title of “Giant” can be rightfully attributed, is Avraham Danon. He was born in 1857 and belonged to an important 56 • TurkofAmerica

Grand Synagogue in Edirne. (Courtesy of Erol Haker)

PERIODICALS In a publication containing a bibliography of newspapers and periodicals in Hebrew and Ladino published in the Ottoman Empire, a newspaper and three periodicals published in Edirne are mentioned. Their contents are briefly presented below.

and close to modern Hebrew! That the authors of these articles and many of their readers must have spoken Hebrew fluently, and with whom any educated Israeli person of our time would feel entirely at home with, there is no doubt. The Ladino used in the articles written in the language is rich in vocabulary and clear in its style.

Yosef Deat (The Knowledge of Joseph): This is a remarkable periodical, which Avraham Danon published starting in 1888. Two main types of articles appeared in the periodical. The first was articles on Ottoman history and they were written in Hebrew. The second covered the history of the Jewish Community of the Ottoman Empire. These were invariably in Ladino, written in Rashi script. A few of the articles were in Turkish using the Arabic alphabet as it was written during those years.

La Boz de la Verdad, Andrianople, (Kol Haemet): The paper was published in Ladino using the Rashi script. The headings over the various news items, articles and commentary, though mostly of secular content, were invariably in Hebrew written in Hebrew letters. This suggests that both the newspaper staff that wrote them and the readers who read them knew Hebrew to a satisfactory extent, and not just prayer Hebrew. Its publication started in 1910 and ended in1922. This was a newspaper that assumed the role of spokesman for the ”Haskalah” movement of Edirne. The paper supported education reform but of a variety which gave more weight to the learning of Hebrew, including its spoken variety, and to the study of Turkish, and was not in favor of completely abandoning Ladino as both a spoken language and one of learning. The paper had Zionist leanings.

Some characteristics are worth noting about both types of articles. Preceding each article there was an abstract of usually two to three short sentences describing in succinct form what the article was about. Unlike traditional Jewish scripts, all dates appearing in the article were reported in the Julian calendar while their Hebrew equivalent was given only occasionally. Abbreviations and exclamations with religious meaning were almost entirely missing in them. The articles contained orderly footnotes, including references in Latin and sometimes in Greek script. The outlook of the articles, though strongly Jewish and traditional, was essentially secular. The Hebrew used was rich in vocabulary, concise, and clear, almost identical with contemporary Hebrew used by Israeli scholars of our present day. At the time of their publication a battle was raging among the ranks of the Alliance and the Jewish Community of Edirne, and in fact all over the world, as to whether Hebrew should be taught as a living language or a language of prayer only; and here was a periodical publishing articles in perfect,

Like everywhere else in the Empire, Jews were perceived by Christian communities as part of the Ottoman adversary from whom Greeks, Bulgarians and later Armenians were trying to win their independence. The Christian religion’s “You killed Jesus” tack added fuel to this perception which at times caused much trouble for Jews in general, and more specifically, to those living in Edirne. As mentioned earlier, the dominant community in the economic life of the city was the Greek one. Relations between Jews and Greeks showed much ambivalence. Jews had close trade ties with Greeks. Members of the Greek Community supplied the majority of the professional services in the city as physicians, various craftsmen, skilled workers, household help, retail food outlets and restaurants. A few Greeks sent their children to the Alliance schools even without the school having to solicit them. The reverse movement, namely Jews sending their children to Greek schools and in particular their girls, was several-fold larger. The Alliance Girls’ School could not do without Greek teachers and other staff, during its early years. In some of these years the director of the school was a Greek woman Members of the Jewish Community were in daily contact with Greeks, and seemed to get on well with them. An indication as to how close relations were is that among middle to upper class Jews there were many who could speak Greek as well as Turkish. The Jewish Community establishment invited Greek grandee, to all major public and social events, and those invited inevitably attended. During the Balkan wars, when Edirne was under siege, the Community assisted in the war effort by operating the Girls School of the Alliance as a workshop to produce bandages and nightgowns for hospitalized wounded soldiers of the Ottoman army. The school won an award for meritorious conduct from the Governor of Edirne. “The Jews of Edirne welcomed the return of Ottoman rule with delirious joy.” It is not to be wondered that Jews acquired the title of “en sad›k millet” (the most faithful nation) among the Ottoman establishment. Concerning anti-Semitism manifested by the Turkish people or by the Turkish community, generally speaking, compared to European countries and even among the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the phenomenon was a rare and muted one. “Relations between Jews and Muslims were on the whole much more satisfactory… The documents examined covering a thirty-year period note only three cases of anti-Jewish riots on the part of Turks.” TurkofAmerica • 57


Oldest Dwellers of Bursa: Jews lthough it is written in numerous sources that

AJews had come to and settled in Istanbul and Bursa after being expelled from Spain during the reign of Ferdinard V, it is also indicated in several documents that Sultan Orhan, the second chief of the nascent Ottoman Empire, donated a channel of water to the Jew-house. By Raif Kaplano¤lu

And this shows us that Jews have actually lived in Bursa since the time of Sultan Orhan. It is documented that Jews did not leave the city of Bursa when Sultan Orhan took over that city and that Sultan Orhan, in fact, invited the Jews from nearing cities to Bursa and established a town for them.

Jews did not leave the city of Bursa when Sultan Orhan took over that city. Sultan gave permission for the building of the Efs Ehaim synagogue –the first synagogue in the Ottoman state- in what today is called Arapsukru Street in

According to some sources, there was a colony of Jews in Bursa in the year of 79 B.C. It is understood from the presence of an inscription in Zindankapi belonging to the year 580 A.D. and the mentioning of Jewish names in certain Greek inscriptions that Jews had lived in Bursa even prior to the Turks’ settlement in the region. Sultan Orhan not only allotted a town for the Jews in Bursa in order to ensure their safety but he also let them be free in practicing their religion. For this reason, he gave permission for the building of the Efs Ehaim synagogue –the first synagogue in the Ottoman state- in what today is called Arapsukru Street in the Jewish town. Unfortunately, this oldest synagogue in Anatolia burned down in a fire in 1802 and roads have covered its ruins. Only the door of this structure remains. ‘Romanoflar’ are the Anatolian Jews, who are the oldest Jewish dwellers of the region. After the year 1492, a significant number of Jews expelled from Spain came to Bursa. These groups formed a separate community and established the ‘Gerisue’ synagogue, the name of which meant ‘those who are expelled.’ The ‘Gerisue’ synagogue is still active today. Those who came from Mayorka established the Mayor synagogue, which is also currently active.

the Jewish town. According to a judicial file from the year 1496, a group of Jews from Bursa was moved to Istanbul. Possibly, these groups, who were invited by Fatih Sultan Mehmet to Istanbul, revived the economy in Istanbul. There is also a Jewish bath in Bursa. When the three synagogues burned down during the big fire in 1801, their restoration was allowed by the state. The state inspected the construction of these synagogues. Additionally, there are also synagogues in Karacabey and M.Kemalpasa. 58 • TurkofAmerica

While other minorities in Bursa lived in scattered neighborhoods, it is interesting that Jews lived together in only one town, in Kurucesme. This must have been so because of the privileges Sultan Orhan gave to the town and the value Jews gave to communal solidarity. In the south of Bursa, between Maksem and Hamzabey, there is a 160- acre recreational area called The Old Jewry. As this place is mentioned even in the journals of 1934, it is probably the oldest Jewish settlement in the area. The Jewish cemetery, though, is located in Merinos, quite distant from the Old Jewry. The Jews were mostly living in the towns and cities of Bursa. There were not any Jews living in the villages. The most significant reason for this is, undoubtedly, the kind of work that Jews did. As artisans and merchants, Jews were not sent to the fields in the villages under Ottoman rule. THE POPULATION OF JEWS IN BURSA The population of Jews in Bursa continuously increased over the years. In 1530, there were only 117 households in the Hudavendigar province. In 1573, this number increased to 128; in 1590 to 370; in 1594 to 403; in 1620 to 683; and in 1831 to 627. In 1885, the total population of Jews was 2,450; in 1888 2,559; in 1890 3,000; in 1908 3,514; in 1911 4,622; and in 1914 it was 4,126. According to the French traveler Cuinet, during the 1880’s there were 73 Jews in Mihalic and 80 in Kirmasti. Around the whole city the total number was 2,704; and in the center of Bursa it was 2,548. There is also a Jewish school in Karacabey. While other minorities left the region after the WWI, Jews remained. After the establishment of the Republic, there were 1,915 Jews living there in 1927, and 1,900 – 880 female and 1020 male- in 1935, in the city center. In M.Kemalpasa, there were 90 Jews. During these years, of the Jews living in the center, 159 were industrialists, 242 were merchants, 18 were carters, 31 were self-employed, and 10 were interested in house-maintenance. The occupations of 410 people are not clearly known. 750 Jews spoke Turkish and 355 spoke Hebrew. All of the women stated that they did not speak Turkish. The president of the Bursa Turkish-Jewish Community Foundation, Izra Venturero, is the son of a family from M. Kemalpasa. During the early years of the Republic, his family migrated to Bursa, as other Jews did as well, because of shrinking in their communities. Today, there are only 70 Jews in Bursa. The contribution of the Jews in Bursa to the Ottoman economy is significant. Just in the year of 1571, the

amount of tax they paid was ‘26,000 akca.’ For this reason, they were always protected by the state; and the Jews likewise were thoroughly committed to the state. Jews have lived in the area called The Jewry in Bursa for centuries and been able to practice their religious and economic freedoms in comfort. Thus, it is even observed in a judiciary record from the year 1522 that Jews in Bursa were given privileges as any trials regarding them were to take place in Istanbul instead of Bursa. Additionally, it is also understood that Jews in Bursa were not charged tariffs. As it is seen in the articles ‘Jewish Patriotism’ (1924, Ertugrul; No.751) and ‘The Devotion of the Jewish Community’, appearing in old newspapers from Bursa, Jews had given a helping hand to the immigrants from Rumelia, and sided with the state during the war (Hudavendigar Newspaper, 1914). CONTRIBUTION OF JEWS TO THE ECONOMY Jews contributed to the Turkish society through their expertise especially in medical, technical, commercial, and diplomatic issues. For example, in the year of 1493, the first printing house in Ottoman Empire was built by Jews. During Ottoman rule, in Bursa, it was almost as though the minorities had chosen specific sectors as their occupation consciously. While the Jews would work as jewelers, tailors, and bankers; Greeks would be in the bar and restaurant business and sericulture. Muslims, on the other hand, were engaged in governing and agriculture. These diverse groups not only avoided bickering but rather complimented each other and had a relationship of mutual dependence. It is also understood that Jews conducted important activities in Bursa Kapalicarsi since the 16th century and they were protected by the state. It is observable that they were active in the bazaar for a long time. According to a document that is from the year 1573, there was an attempt made to take away some of the stores owned by Jews because they were located near a masjid. The order of the state on this regard was that it was wrong to do such thing and that Jews could also open stores even next to the masjids. In addition to their role in managing the mint and the banks, Jews also were responsible for collecting silk taxes. In the 19th century, Jews regulated 38 of the 71 silk guilds in Bursa. A. Galanti claims that it was Jews that brought the silk industry to Bursa. And Paul Lucas, who came to Bursa in 1714, wrote about how the entire silk sector was in the hands of Jews in Bursa and Britain. Mari Dolone came to Bursa in 1880’s and wrote his observations about the Jews in Bursa: “Cities with advanced commerce are known for their specific characteristics. A significant number of these cities are dwelled in by Jews. It is natural that in Bursa, as a city famous for its industry and commerce, an important portion of the population is Jewish. Some of the Jews are in commerce, banking, and the jewelry business. They generally engage in itinerant trade and commissions, and live in a separate town.” As a result of their communal solidarity, they had a common cash register for the town; and as part of this tradition, wealthy Jewish families used to leave copper pots with molasses and wine by their doors for the use of the poor. TurkofAmerica • 59


There were two Jewish schools in Bursa, and, in the 19th century, there were 150 male students. Celal Bayar, third President of Turkish Republic, also had attended Bursa Alyans Izrailit Musevi Okulu. To exemplify the integration among the three sacred religions, there is an interesting temple in the Karacabey town of Bursa. The structure that is known as the Tumbekli Mosque is actually composed of

two sections. The first section is a structure with a dome and there is a cross placed on the tip of the poles, which are by the entrance of the building. From this entrance there is gateway to another building and that is an old synagogue. In its garden, there are still Hebrew tomb inscriptions. So, this building, which carries within a synagogue and a cross, is also an active mosque today. For these special features, the Tumbekli Mosque is monument of religious tolerance.

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✩ ✮ ✣ ✯ ✭ ✥ 60 • TurkofAmerica

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F›rst Ch›ef Rabb› ›n Istanbul:

Rabb› Moshe Capsal› fter arriving in Istanbul, Sephardic Jews would

Amove out to their permanent homes, which the various communal organizations found for them, settling in the different districts of Constantinople such as Ortakoy and Kuzguncuk, as well as Haskoy and Balat.

In 1453, when the Turkish Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul from the Byzantine Empire, he selected Rabbi Moshe to guide the affairs of all the Jews living in the vast Ottoman Empire, most of whom were Greekspeaking Jews known as Romaniotes. This was thirty-nine years prior to the Sephardim’s arrival in Turkey after the Spanish Expulsion of 1492.

61 • TurkofAmerica

Rabbi Capsali became the official representative of the Jewish people and had a seat in the Divan (Imperial Council). Rabbi Moshe Capsali's rank was higher than that of the Christian patriarch, being next to the chief spiritual leader of the Muslims. He was born in Candia on the Island of Crete (Girit) in 1420. Not much is known about Rabbi Moshe Capsali's earlier life, except that he came from a prominent Jewish family, and that he studied the Torah in several important Yeshiva in Germany and other places. When he came to Constantinople, the community was small and poor. He was appointed a Dayyan (member of the Jewish Beth-Din, or Court). But, as we have seen above, after the city was conquered by the Turks, he became the Chief Rabbi, and his great gifts of leadership made him famous. Rabbi Moshe Capsali used his high office wisely, and he did much to help the growth of the Jewish communities in the Turkish empire. He appointed qualified rabbis and communal leaders, and personally supervised all the affairs of the Jewish communities. He was also responsible for the taxes which the Jews had to pay to the Sultan. This was an important source of revenue for the Sultan; as the Jews had done well in developing the industry and commerce of the country. Despite his high. position, Rabbi Moshe Capsali was always very humble, and he lived very simply and modestly. He spent much time in fasting and praying, and it was small wonder that he was loved and respected by all who knew him. Towards the last years of his life, the great tragedy of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain took place (in 1492). Rabbi Moshe Capsali, his advanced age notwithstanding, threw himself body and soul into a great effort to help the victims. He personally traveled to various Jewish communities in his country to collect funds for Pidyon Shvuim, to redeem the Jewish refugees from Spain who had been captured by pirates and threatened with slavery. He also imposed a special tax, by the authority granted him by the Sultan, on Jewish communities in the Turkish empire, for the purpose of helping the Jewish refugees from Spain. Many of them were brought to Constantinople and welcomed with open arms by their more fortunate brethren.

Rabbi Moshe Capsali, at the age of 75, died three years after these first refugees arrived in Istanbul, and after his death, the work was continued by his successor as Haham Bashi, who was Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi. In 1497, when the kingdom of Portugal also expelled all of the Jews, it fell on Rabbi Mizrahi to make these converted or Portuguese refugees welcome and comfortable. (Source: By Nissan Mindel, Kehot Publication Society) CHIEF RABBIS OF ISTANBUL (1453 – 1835) * Mofle Kapsali Eliyau Mizrahi Tam ben Yahya Eli Benjamen Ha-Levi Menahem Behar Samuel Eli Ben Haim Yahiel Bassan Yasef Mitrani Yomtov Ben Yaefl Yomtov Ben Hananya ben Yakar Haim Kamhi Yuda Ben Rey Samuel Levi Abraham ben Haim Rosanes Salamon Haim Alfandari Meir ‹shaki Eliyau Palombo Haim Yaakov Ben Yakar

1453 1496 ? ? ? 1575 ? ? 1639 1660 ? ? 1727 ? 1757? ? 1762 ?

1496 1526 1542 ? ? 1602 1625 1639 1660 1677 1730 ? ? 1743 ? ? ? ?

Source: Compiled and prepared by Naim A. Güleryüz


Abraham Levi Samuel Haim Mofle Fresko Yaakov Behar David Haim Ha-Kohen Yaakov Avigdor Yakir Geron (1) Mofle Levi (1) Haim Nahum Efendi Sabetay Levi (2) ‹sak Ariel (2)

1835 1836 1837 1839 1839 1841 1841 1854 1854 1860 1860 1863 1863 1872 1872 1908 1908 1920 May 1910 and September 1912 November 1918 and September 1919

(1) Kaimakam of Chief Rabbi (Locum Tenens) (2) Interim position

REPUBLIC OF TURKEY Haim Mofle Becerano (3) Haim ‹sak fiaki (4) Rafael David Saban (4) Rafael David Saban (5) David Asseo (6) ‹shak Haleva (7)

1920 1931 1940 1952 1961 2002

(3) Kaimakam of Chief Rabbi (Locum Tenens) (4) As president of Bet Din (5) First Chief Rabbi of Turkish Republic (6) Second Chief Rabbi of Turkish Republic (7) Third Chief Rabbi of Turkish Republic Source: Compiled and prepared by Naim A. Güleryüz

1931 1940 1952 1960 2002 Present


Inseparable Part of M›las

lthough it is widely known that Jews lived in Milas, an

Aancient city in southwestern Turkey, part of Mu¤la Jews in Milas used to live in the oldest areas of the city, in the Hoca Bedrettin and Hisarbasi neighborhoods. Because of this,

Province and it was the ancient capital of Caria and of the Anatolian Turkish Beylik of Mentefle, the territory of Milas district contains a remarkable twenty-seven archaeological sites. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the history of Jews in the region is older. In certain historical sources, it is shown that in the ancient port city of Iasos, which was within Milas, there was a Jewish community in the centuries before the common era. It is also understood from a Hebrew tomb inscription in Port Gumusluk of Bodrum, which is again near Milas, that Jews lived in the area in 6 B.C. During the Mentese Principality, which ruled in Anatolia and had Milas as its capital city, Jews lived in Milas during 1300’s.

the Hoca Bedrettin neighborhood is also known as ‘Jewish Town’ among many.

62 • TurkofAmerica

Among the minorities living in Milas, Greeks were the largest group. Jews and Armenians followed them in order. The Greek population was the greatest. As a result of the 1924 Turkish-Greek Population Exchange, about 3000 Greeks migrated from Milas to Greek islands. Jews were the second largest minority group in Milas after Greeks. There are no official records indicating the presence of Jews in Milas until the 19th century. Jews came to Milas in the 19th century from Rodos, Aydin, and Izmir.

JEWISH POPULATION IN MILAS During the first half of the 19th century, there was a Jewish community consisting of ten families. The population of the Jewish community in Milas was 542 between 1904 and 1905; and it increased to 1005 between 1914-1915. According to Ottoman records, on March 14, 1914, there were 1615 Jews living in Mentese, in the Mugla province. During these years, the most densely populated Jewish communities of Mugla were in the city of Milas. There were two reasons for this. One of the reasons is that some of the Jewish communities moved to Milas because of the possibility of bomb attacks from ships in Bodrum during the First World War. Another reason is the commercial potential in Milas and the liveliness of economic life there. This liveliness made Milas attractive. Jews in Milas used to live in the oldest areas of the city, in the Hoca Bedrettin and Hisarbasi neighborhoods. Because of this, the Hoca Bedrettin neighborhood is also known as ‘Jewish Town’ among many. Mostly Jews lived in these areas. They worshiped in the two synagogues on Cicek Street in the Hoca Bedrettin neighborhood. One of these synagogues were built in 1850, and the other in 1897. The location of these synagogues is now used for the Societal Education Center Directorate building.

The first governor of the community, Haham Abraham Amato, who received his education in the traditional Jewish school Yeshiva in Rodos in the year 1835, came to Milas and took over the duties from his father and managed community affairs for 30 consecutive years. Over the years, as the population of the Jewish community increased, so did the number of their rulers. Celebi Mordehai Levi from Izmir, Morcado Abaof from Rodos, and Celebi Nissim Soriano from Aydin came to Milas and had influence over the management of the community. JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS IN MILAS At the beginning of the 20th century, the organization called Juven Union (Youth Assembly) took over all of the institutions of the community. The board of the Juven Union included Nissim J. Tarika, Hizkia Franco, Rahamim S. Tarika, Gad Franco, Marco Israel and Alabuf. The ‘Women’s Assembly,’ which was established in 1927 by Rebecca Benettar, Kadum Notrica, Rachel Amato, Birlante Israel, Elvira Pisante, Maria Alhedef and Estreilla Amato, would arrange sewing classes especially for the orphaned and needy Jewish girls in order to help them prepare for life. Certain other women’s organizations, as well, used to organize parties and balls to fund the needy. The Milas Jewish community would try to meet the needs of the orphanage in Izmir and the Jewish Hospital. The reforms of the early years of the Republic did not cause any discomfort among the Jews in Milas. Jews welcomed the modern reforms, such as the replacement of the Arabic alphabet with Latin letters; wearing of hats instead of the fez; and abolishment of the usage of the veil. Under the 1934 surname law, many Jews took Turkish last names. There was great admiration felt towards Ataturk among the Jews of Milas. In November 10, 1938, when Ataturk passed away, Jewish stores in Milas were closed down and a mourning atmosphere took over in the homes.

no opposition against Jews in Milas as there was in other regions. There were 157 Jewish families in Milas in the year of 1910. After that year, groups of Jews in Milas began to migrate to Izmir and continued their involvement in commerce there. Young students did not return to Milas and continued their lives in big cities such as Izmir and Istanbul. In addition to Izmir and Istanbul, there were those who moved to Aydin, Soke, Bursa, Ankara, Datca, Bandirma, Canakkale, Edirne, Corlu, Tekirdag, Mersin, and Adana. Some others moved to European countries, America, and Africa (Congo).

The education of the children of the Milas Jewish community was initially provided in schools such as Talmud Torah, which had Torah lessons. Avram Galanti speaks of the presence of Talmud Torah in Milas in 1851. At the end of the 19th century, ‘Alliance Israelite Universelle’ schools came into place for the Jews. In the Jewish school next to the synagogue there were 49 students in 1897 and 95 in 1908. There was a separate school for the girls. The Jewish school in Milas continued its function under the management of the Alliance schools. Also, there were groups of Jewish children who received their education in schools providing education in Turkish; such as Mentese Elementary School and Milas Secondary School.

PERIOD OF REPUBLIC OF TURKEY There were 80 Jewish families remaining in Milas in the year 1927. Their population decreased after 1932. The real migration of Jews from Milas took place in 1948 when the state of Israel was established. Firstly, the young ones went to Israel for military service. Later, the elderly and the women migrated to Israel through Izmir. The houses they stayed in; a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Mount Sodra in southern Milas; and a Hebrew inscription -consisting of 5640 letters- by the entrance of Miner Nissim Tarica’s house in Park Street in the Hoca Bedrettin neighborhood are among the traces Jewish communities left in the region. Jews from Milas used to gather by the Yarkon Bridge near Tel Aviv every year, from the year 1948 till 1980, in order to celebrate ‘The day of Milasians.’ Jews of Milas who gathered here would commemorate their friends and neighbors from Milas by chatting and singing. In the years to follow, these gatherings could not take place because of age and health issues.

BUSINESS LIFE Jews in Milas mostly were engaged in commerce. Commerce-related factors are among the primary reasons for Jews’ settlement in Milas. In particular, the trade of certain agricultural products such as tobacco and cotton, and olive and olive oil, as well as the drapery and jewelry business, were almost completely carried out by Jews. Mining was also under their management. They ran workshops in which ‘Milas rugs’ were woven. Of the 45 draperies in Milas, 42 belonged to Jews. Jewish merchants in Milas used to export goods to Izmir and European countries from Gulluk Port. The ‘wealth tax’ of November 11, 1942 did not cause Jews to experience much hardship. What is, in fact, not forgotten by the Jews in Milas is that the officials in Milas actually cut this tax to the amount that Jews could afford to pay. There was

The contribution of the Jews of Milas to the societal make-up of Milas is great. Men and women in Milas learned tailoring from the Jewish community. They taught their merchants and artisans to love what they did, to claim their work, and to have discipline. They used to wear their most precious clothing as though they were going to a wedding or a holiday celebration and take ‘ornament strolls.’ (This strolling used to take place in the city center and along the long and wide avenue by the city park.) The native society learned a great deal about commerce from Jews. Although they are now leading their lives far from Milas, their love for Milas and their longing for Turkey never ends. They come back to Milas to visit, to see their old houses, to meet with their old friends and neighbors who are still alive. They are an inseparable part of Milas and also our fellow countrymen.  TurkofAmerica • 63


FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO GROW UP IN MILAS JEWISH COMMUNITY Jakop Tarika (treasurer), Joseph Franco (treasurer), Jacop Messeri (treasurer), Hiziko Amato (treasurer), Moise Franco (Rabbi). Haim Franco, Jacop Tarica, Rabenou Amato, Rahamim Franco ve Jacop Amato, (members of Bidayet Court, one of the court system in Ottoman Empire law). Dr. Elie de Ciavés and Dr. Raphael Pérahya (doctors of municipal), Jakoup Bérou (Chief of Land Registry), Albert Cadranel (Assistant Manager of Revenue Service), Behor ‹srael (Member of Milas Municipal Assembly, editor of philosophy magazine, chief editor of Hadise Newspaper), Behor Bensoussan (France teacher), Marco ‹srael (Milas Middle School France teacher), Joseph Tarica (Deputy Consul of France in Milas), Joseph Tarica (interpreter of ‹zmir U.S. Consul), Sara Cadranel (alumna of Paris Allience ‹sraelite Universelle), Rafael Amato (Alumni of Istanbul Law Faculty and executive manager of Levant newspaper in Izmir), Albert Tarica (Lawyer in ‹zmir, he wrote business law in Hebrew and English, he was president of General Assembly of Bene Berith Hospital in ‹zmir), Marcel Franco (He studied law in Switzerland. He was a president of Jewish community in ‹stanbul), Dr. Gad Franco Milasli (Graduated from Turk College in Rhodes Island. Moved to ‹zmir in 1902 and worked for Hikmet ve Ahenk newspaper. He was a lawyer and he had a Phd. from Paris Law School and wrote a lot of book about law), Hizkia Franco (Founder of Franco printing house in ‹zmir. With his cousin Gad Franco, he printed El Commercial Newspaper. He was a leader of ‹zmir Jewish community. He published Selam and El Boletin newspapers. He wrote a book, Empresiones J. Reflexiones), Leon Danon (principal of Milas Jewish School and Bene Berith School in ‹zmir), Behor Amato (Lawyer), Dr. Sara fiikar (Asaf Arofe Hospital), Dr. Jaakov Beja (He was a President of Israeli Doctors Union), Jaakov Varol (NASA), Jontov Levy (He was a member of France Language Academia) 64 • TurkofAmerica


Jews of Salon›ca and the Jew›sh Cemetery By Neval Konuk

ews had no more than a walk-on role in the story of

Jmodern Greece’s appearance on the international stage. Even as late as 1912, Jews made up the largest ethnic group in Salonica, Greece; and, Saturdays, which is the day of Shabbat, used to be a holiday on the pier. A few Jews were wealthy businessmen; however, many others were porters, tailors, street vendors, beggars, fishers, and workers in the tobacco business. The marks remaining from those days to our times are the gravestones with inscribed with Hebrew writing, which are scattered around.

The most significant incident that took place in Salonica during the years of the First World War was the fire that occurred on August 5, 1917 and destroyed, within a few hours, the Muslim and Jewish towns in the city completely.

During the time period when Greece was on the path of gaining independence from the Ottoman Empire, Jews, along with Muslims, suffered due to the Greek revolt. Starting in the second half of the 18th century, Greek rebels and gangsters carried out systemic attacks against both Muslim and Jewish populations. As a result of such acts, the Jews of Egriboz (Chalkis), Istifa (Thebes), and Inebahti (Navpaktos) were completely annihilated. A Greek delegation, which was given the responsibility of activating the ‘Megali Idea’ in 1908, visited Salonica, investigated the economic and social make-up of the city and determined the main principles of the policy that was to be followed in case of a Greek invasion. According to the reports that the delegation prepared, Greeks did not have much of a voice in the economic life of Salonica. Turning this situation around and enabling Greeks to become the real rulers of the city were indispensable for the sake of Greece’s interests. Salonica was to be extricated from being a Turkish and Jewish city. Following the preparation of this report, Greek officials began to make efforts at reaching their goals and making Greeks the rulers of the city. With this aim, some Greek banks were established in Salonica during that period. Propaganda intended to keep the agricultural products of Greek farmers from being sold to Jewish commissioners was spread. The Harostis Thessalonikis newspaper, which was published by the Greeks of Salonica, included articles about the necessity of starting off an economic war against the Jews by the Greeks. Jews, on the other hand, formed a union called ‘Club des Intimes’ in order to oppose this Greece-sponsored campaign. Becoming worried about the possibility of the tensions between the communities resulting in a clash, the Turkish officials of the city prohibited the Greek newspapers from publishing articles that targeted Jews.

66 • TurkofAmerica

EXPLOSION OF THE BALKAN WAR With the explosion of the Balkan War in 1912, the atmosphere of peace and security atmosphere in the Balkan countries disappeared and nationalism based on racism and religious intolerance took its place. One of the groups that were harmed due to this situation was the Jews in Salonica. Immediately following the Greek invasion, the Greeks that made up one-third of the population of Salonica attempted to take violent acts against Jews and Turks. The actual incidents began with the entrance of first the Greek troops and then the Bulgarian troops into the city, after the Turkish commander of Salonica surrendered on November 9, 1912. Turning this situation into an opportunity, the Greeks displayed great fanaticism and began to attack Jewish and Turkish neighborhoods. The Greek troops, most of the time, acted along with the fanatic Greeks, instead of preventing the attacks. Over fifty women were raped. Four hundred stores and three hundred houses belonging to Jews were looted and those who resisted were killed. The newspaper that followed up on the events most closely and reflected on them in detail was the The Jewish Chronicle, which was a newspaper published by English Jews in London. In the reports this newspaper provided, on a regular basis, from 1913 on, the following scenes were reflected on: “The Jewish towns of Salonica, which were once in prosperity, are in absolute appearance of ruins. The mass migration of Jews from the city is continuing. It is impossible to see even a tiny sparkle of hope. Speculations about how this situation came about were mostly directed on the new rulers of the city” (May 29, 1914). Incidents that took place during the invasion caused international reactions from Jewish communities in other countries, as well. The committee that was established, jointly, by The Anglo-Jewish Association and German Hilfverein, as well as by Paul Nathan, Elkan Adler and Bernard Kahn, came to the region in January 1913 and determined the situation of the Jews on the spot. The committee indicated in its report that the situation in the lands under Greek invasion, especially in Salonica, was much worse than the situation under Serbian and Bulgarian control. The wide coverage of the pressures inflicted upon Jews by the Greeks by the world media caused certain powerful states, especially England and France, to attempt initiatives against the Greek government and to desire the

ending of this situation. The Venizelos administration promptly made statements and took measures against actions aimed at Jews. Jewish prisoners of war and those who were held in prisons for no reason were released. THE FIRE During the years between 1912 and 1919, Greece followed a soft policy towards the Jews in order to gain the support of Jews who were especially dominant in the social, economic, and cultural life of Salonica. Around 70,000 – 75,000 Jews that lived in and near Salonica made up the social, economic, and political dynamics of the region. Although the Jews of Salonica did not, initially, reject the allegedly peaceful hand of Greece, they realized, in time, that such cooperation was to be against them. The autonomy of Greece over Salonica meant that the bonds between Jews and the Balkans would break apart. Also, on the other hand, this situation meant that Salonica was to become ‘Hellenic’, and, consequently, for the Jewish culture and existence to be ousted. The most significant incident that took place in Salonica during the years of the First World War was the fire that occurred on August 5, 1917 and destroyed, within a few hours, the Muslim and Jewish towns in the city completely. During this fire, which also caused the commercial centers of the city to perish, 52,000 Jews and 11,000 Turks lost their houses and work places. The real cause of the fire and how it spread so quickly is still not clear. Regardless of what caused the fire to start, events in its aftermath showed that this incident worked not on the side of the Jews but for the advantage of the Greeks. A week after the fire, the government made all of the areas damaged public and designed a plan to re-develop the city. However, under the framework of this plan, Jews and Muslims who were harmed in the fire did not receive equal rights when the new buildings were being constructed, and they were cast out of Salonica. The government purposefully slowed down the progress of Jews that wanted to rebuild their towns on their own. And all of this caused the tension between the government and the Jews to reach high levels. The Hellenization policy, which aimed to gain control in Salonica where Jews predominantly lived, sped up its pace after WWI ended, especially after Greek’s ‘Asia minor Expedition’ in 1922 resulted in defeat. The lives of the Jews in Greece, which were already inconvenient, became even more difficult when a great number of Greeks living in Turkey began to move to Greece as a result of an exchange agreement between Turkey and Greece. This new population was settled in the towns where Turks lived; and they became neighbors with Jews. The number of Greeks who moved to Salonica through this agreement was over 100,000 and this situation turned the population distribution of the city upside down. Although Jews had possessed an unchallenged superiority in commerce and handicrafts for centuries, they began to regress in the face of the newcomers, who, with the encouragement of the government, became active in the same sectors.

decisions the Greek government made between the years 1924 and 1936 resulted in the exclusion of Jews from economic life. The increase of the customs tariffs on products coming from abroad limited the opportunities of cross-border trade for the Jews. The regulation that requested the setup of the bazaar on Saturdays was a blow to Jews’ commercial affairs since they were not permitted to work on Saturdays, the sacred day. Furthermore, government’s favoritism towards Orthodox Greeks in the distribution of import licenses was another blow to Jews. Lastly, as the government placed the shipping companies from Pire into Salonica, Jews lost control over port regulations, which they had uninterruptedly managed for 400 years. On the political stage, the Greek government under the leadership of Venizelos put up barriers against the political empowerment of minorities

JEWS LOST CONTROL OVER PORT REGULATIONS The time period when the migrants from Anatolia settled in Salonica and nearby was also the years when Greeks were trying to heal the wounds they received in their defeat by the Turks. Those who looked for excuses for their unsuccessful outcome started to blame the Jews that took side with the Turks during the Anatolian resistance. Jews in Salonica also were subjected to these accusations. Under these circumstances, some TurkofAmerica • 67


and against their ability to send a representative to the parliament and form an active opposition by placing the Jews of Salonica and the Turks of Western Thrace in separate electoral districts. Empowered by Venizelos’ anti-Semitic policies, certain groups organized a great demonstration on June 29 1931 in Salonica. Nearly 2000 Greeks that participated in the demonstration headed towards Kampbell town in Salonica, where 220 Jewish families resided, and set numerous buildings on fire, including the synagogue, school, community center and the residencies of the rabbi and the doctor. The fire turned the centuries-old Jewish town into ashes in a very short period. Shortly after, a synagogue in the town of Harilaos, in Salonica, was also set on fire in July of 1931; and this was followed by an attack by Greek groups on the Jews of Sefardim in town #15. Those who attacked Jewish towns were tried before the courts. However, all of them were then set free. To avoid the spreading of the word about the actions against Jews to people in foreign lands, letters sent abroad by Jews in Greece were confiscated. A new era began in Greece in 1936 when Venizelos was removed from office, the republican government was dismantled, George II was crowned, and the monarchy was re-established. During the dictatorial administration of Prime Minister Metaxas, Jews achieved a somewhat eased situation. However, with the start of WWII, one of the most painful pages in the history of Jews in Greece was opened. GERMAN TOOK OVER CONTROL For the 56,000 Jews living Salonica, the actual negative events began when Greece was occupied by the Germans. Immediately after entering Salonica, as one of their first actions there, the Germans closed down all of the newspapers that Jews were publishing. Organizations of republican Jews were disbanded. On July 11, 1942, the general of the German troops in northern Greece, General von Krenzki, ordered all Jewish males in Salonica to gather in the city center. Jews were told they were to receive workers’ card in order to work. That day, around 10,000 Jews were beaten by German soldiers until the evening. The next day, they were sent to the swamps on the western side of the city. A majority of them got malaria there. When the Nazi SS commanders took over control in the German-occupied regions in February of 1943, Jews were sent to the camps. Areas that were vacated by the Jews were handed over to the Greeks by the Germans. 68 • TurkofAmerica

In the month of 1942, the old Jewish cemetery, which had a history going back to the 15th century and had 50,000 gravestones, was expropriated. The major Jewish cemetery in Salonica was given to the control of the municipality with the excuse of the need to enlarge the university. In a short period, Greeks demolished this cemetery. The gravestones were broken down; and some of them were used in the construction of houses. Today, it is possible to see Jewish gravestones from those years placed as upholstery in the Agios Dimitrios church in Salonica and as roadblocks across from the university. Attacks on Jewish cemeteries have taken place again in recent years in various parts of Greece. Some of these incidents are as follows: Greek extremist nationalists destroying the Jewish cemetery in Trikala on March 18, 1997; an unidentified group entering the 3rd section of the Jewish cemetery in Egaleo, Athens on May 27, 2000 and drawing crosses with gamma designs and writing anti-Semitic slogans on gravestones and the Jewish Genocide Monument with spray paint; and the incident on October 18, 2003, during which the gravestones in the Jewish cemetery in Yanya were soiled and neo-Nazi slogans and crosses with gammas were written on them. Today, the population of the Jewish minority living in different parts of Greece is about 6,000. There are two reasons for the further decrease in the Jewish population, which was actually nearly 10,000 following the genocide of the WWII. One of them is due to Greek-Jews, just like many other Jews in various parts of the world, leaving the lands they lived in for hundreds of years and migrating to Israel after the state of Israel was established in 1948. The second and the more interesting reason is the fact that many Jewish people had to leave these lands due to the antiSemitism that prevailed in Greece not only before the war but also in its aftermath. In 1997, a small Jewish school was opened in Salonica, where 1000 Jews live. In our day, this continues in the same way. In 2000, a group of Jews began to search for ways to retain the community’s wealth, which is worth $2.4 million.


By Naim “Avigdor” Güleryüz – Researcher

The Turk›sh-Jew›sh Commun›ty and the Synagogue ›n V›enna behalf of Franz-Josef I and Abdulhamid II and for the permanence and success of the country and the head of state; then the Austrian and Turkish national anthems were played. The Sefarad synagogue, which had large pictures of the two rulers in its central hall, was a temple Ashkenazis continuously visited with pleasure for years and enjoyed its wonderful music, which was modernized without the changing of its authentic Eastern-Spanish melodies, and its excellence in religious services. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, the aforementioned pictures were removed and replaced by large mirrors.

The synagogue, which had Turkish and Austrian flags swaying by its door, was officially opened on Sunday, September 17, 1887 in Vienna. The birthday of Sultan Abdulhamid II used to be celebrated in this synagogue, every year, through a special ceremony.

n November 16, 1885 in Vienna, during the cer-

Oemony for the establishment of a new syna-

gogue in the Zirkusgasse Second District, No.22, the president of the Sefarad, Vienna Jew Marcos Russo spoke to the invitees as follows: “When his majesty Franz-Josef is the emperor of Austria and his majesty Sultan Abdulhamid II is the emperor of the Ottoman Empire, when Sadullah Pasha is the ambassador of Ottoman Empire in Vienna and Marcos Russo is the president of the TurkishJewish community…the construction of this building is started in order to meet the religious need of the Jews of Sefarad…” This synagogue, which had Turkish and Austrian flags swaying by its door, was officially opened on Sunday, September 17, 1887, at 7pm, and, during the opening ceremony, prayers in Judeo-Spanish were read, followed by the prayer (Anoten), on

70 • TurkofAmerica

Architect Ritter von Weidenfeld designed this building in maghrebi design, inspired by the architecture of the Granada Elhamra Palace; there were 314 seats for men and 100 for women and, additionally, there was a space for 500 people to stand. The birthday of Sultan Abdulhamid II used to be celebrated in this synagogue, every year, through a special ceremony. The ceremony, which would be attended by a senior official from the Foreign Ministry and a high-ranking general from the War Ministry representing the Austrian government, and by the Turkish Ambassador and senior embassy officials dressed in their uniforms, used to be remembered as the ‘Sultanfeirn’, the Festival of the Sultan. Since Austria and the Ottoman Empire were aligned on the same side during WWI, Austrian and Turkish flags continued to fly together at the door of this synagogue throughout this time. With the start of new racist movements around 1925, the Jews of Sefarad began to leave Vienna gradually. The 800th birthday ceremony of the great intellectual Maimonides (Musa bin Meymun), in 1935, is remembered to be the last magnificent event to take place in the synagogue.

NIGHT OF BROKEN GLASS On Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938 (November 9-10, 1938 is remembered as the ‘night of broken glass’ as hundreds of synagogues were destroyed and burned down in Germany and Austria by the Nazis), the Sefarad Synagogue also shared the fate of all other German and Austrian synagogues. It was burned down and destroyed. So, why is there such an interest in the Ottomans, in their rulers, in their flag and their national anthem in Vienna, although the Ottomans never ruled there and, actually, Vienna had, twice, faced attempted invasions, by Suleiman the Magnificent (1529) and Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha (1683), who were both turned away from the doors of the city? Now we should go back to the very beginning of the story, to the time when the Inquisition still was in power in Spain during the 18th century. According to the tale, a child named Mose Lopez Perera, in Madrid, is taken away from his family and is converted to Christianity. His name is changed to Diego d’Aguilar and he is trained as a priest. Diego, who speedily progresses in his education, becomes one of the passionate defenders of Inquisition and becomes a bishop. Mose Lopez’s mother and his sister are Marranos, converted Jews who secretly continue practicing their faith. His sister is caught as a result of denunciation, tried, and sentenced to be burned alive (Auto de Fe). One day before the execution, the hopeless and sorrowful mother visits Bishop Diego d’Aguilar and begs for the forgiveness of her daughter. However, the bishop rejects this request. In despair, the mother tells the Bishop the truth, that she is his mother, the convicted is his sister, and that his real name is Mose Lopez. This name instills many memories from childhood in the mind of the young priest. Sobbing greatly, the bishop leaves the palace running; however, it is already too late. His sister has lost her life in a tragic way. As he has taken off and thrown away his bishop’s clothes, Diego –or Mose -- can not stay in the country any longer. Escaping from there, he goes to Austria, where Maria-Teresa, who, as Archduchess, had given a golden chain to him during her visit to Madrid with her father Emperor Charles VI, is now reigning as Empress. The Empress allows Mose and a few more Jewish people that were able to escape with him to stay in and take refuge in her country and to practice their religion freely. ACCORDING TO THE ENCYLOPEDIA JUDAICA The plot of this story is different in the Encyclopedia Judaica and in historical research. According to the Encyclopedia, Mose Lopez Pereira was born in 1699 in Portugal as the son of a ‘Marrano’ banker. The father, Pereira, was privileged to hold the monopoly in the tobacco business. As it was difficult to secretly live as a Jew (this is referred to as being a ‘Marrano’) in Portugal, Diego first migrated to London in 1722, and, then, to Vienna. Renouncing Christianity, Diego returned to practicing Judaism

and using his birth name, Mose (Moses) Lopez Pereira. From 1723 to 1739, Mose Lopez had control of the Austrian State Tobacco Monopoly, acquired by the exchange of 7 million florins, and he received the title of Baron in 1726. Meanwhile, he contributed to the construction of the Schönbrunn Palace in the amount of 300,000 florins. Appointed to the Palace as a specialist consultant with the title of Hofjude (Jew in the Palace), Lopez used his influence not only in Austria but also in other countries in order to protect the lives and rights of his fellow coreligionists. He helped the Jews in Moravia in 1742, in Prague in 1744, in Mandua and Belgrade in 1752. There are Hebrew writings, which reads ‘Mose Lopez Pereire – 5498’ (1737-1738), on the decorations of a silver Sefer Torah crown that was found in the Vienna Synagogue. Until it was destroyed in 1938, prayers were read in the synagogue on behalf of him, as the founder of the community, on the major fasting day of Yom Kippur. Around the same time, several Spanish families, such as the Kamondo, Nisan, and Eskenazy families, began to settle in Vienna. Mose Lopez, his wife, Samuel Oppenheimer, and his nephew Samson Wertheimer organized the Jews in Sefarad and establisedh the first Sefarad Community in Vienna in 1736. The Jews of Sefarad, who mostly had Ottoman roots, were living in much better conditions, compared to other Austrian Jews, under the item in Pasarofca Treaty which allowed free residency and trade for those in business with Ottoman tobacco industry, and they used to conduct their worship in the building, inside the Ring walls, on lot number 307, which they used as a synagogue. SEFARAD IN VIENNA However, this tranquility and peace did not last long. Mose Lopez learned about the empire’s plans, which were influenced by the fanatic church, to expel Jews from the country in 1742, and he managed to receive the support of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I by telling him of the conditions through the help of his fellow coreligionists living in the Ottoman Empire, especially through the main goldsmith Yuda Baruh. Empress Maria-Teresa could not risk rejecting the memorandum of the Padishah and gives up on her decision. Around the 1750’s, there were several Jewish families from Sefarad in Vienna that came from Turkey due to business related manners. Most of these groups of Jews lived in Vienna, and others in Timisoara; and since they always protected their Ottoman identity and remained under the authority of the Sultan they were given the name ‘Turkish Jews’ and this reference was also officially recognized by Austrian offices and used in all decrees and documents. The titles ‘Turkish Jews’ and ‘Turkish-Jewish Community’ (‘Tukisch Israelitische Gemeinde’) appear in the decree which was published on June 17, 1778 and which had fourteen points determining the status of the Sefarad Community. During those TurkofAmerica • 71


years, Salamon Kapon and Israel B. Haim were the leaders of the community. When the synagogue of the Turkish Jews in Oberon Donaustrasse was burned down in 1824 by a reason unknown, they began to rent a building in Leopoldstadt-321; and the conducting of worship in rental buildings continued until the 1840’s. When the synagogue that was built in 1868 in place of the previously enlarged synagogue from the year 1848 did not any longer serve for the needs of the growing Ottoman-Jewish population of Vienna, under the leadership of Marcos Russo, who was elected as the Turkish-Jews’ President in 1881 and re-elected in 1885, it was decided in consensus that the existing synagogues were to be demolished and replaced by a large and new synagogue. THE GRAVESTONES OF VIENNA CENTRAL CEMETERY A few objects related to religious rituals remaining from the Vienna Synagogue, which was opened for service in 1887 and demolished in 1938, were placed in the Vienna Jewish Museum; and a paroheth (a decorated veil that was put over the ‘Ehal’ cabinet, which was used to contain the Sacred Torah Rolls) is protected in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Among those who were captured and sent to the Dachau concentration camp, only a few survived. The most valuable memories remain in our day from the times of the magnificent Turkish-Jews of Sefarad in Vienna are the gravestones in the Sefarad section of the Vienna Central Cemetery. Currently, the Sefarad community living in Vienna has no ties to the Ottoman-Turks of Sefarad as they are Jews with roots in Tashkent and Bukhara. In the aftermath of the perishing of thirteen synagogues in the Great Fire (Harik-I Kebir) of August 1905 in Edirne, construction of the Great Synagogue, in place of the ruined ones, in the town where the Mayor and Polya synagogues previously existed, was permitted; and French architect France Depre built the synagogue, inspired by the Vienna Synagogue. It opened for service in 1907 under the name of Kal Kados ha Gadol (The Great Sacred Synagogue). As there are no Jews residing in Edirne any more, despite the attempts of the Ministry of Culture, certain representatives, the University of Thrace, and the Turkish Haham Bashi 72 • TurkofAmerica

since 1979, it is so unfortunate that the roof of this magnificent synagogue collapsed due to the pressure of amassed snow; and, in the following years, its back and side facades were beaten by natural conditions bit by bit. Although efforts to ‘revive’ this historic synagogue and finalize the restoration project were not completed on its 100th anniversary, it is hoped that this completion will happen in near future. * President of The Quincentennial Foundation. 


Pera N Restaurant Sh›ps Its Meats Nat›onw›de

ew York – If you live in the rural United States and you don’t have any Turkish restaurants in your neighborhood, you do not need to worry anymore. One of the most prestigious Turkish restaurants in New York City, Pera Mediterranean Brasserie, now sells its meats online and ships it to customers nationwide. Pera Mediterranean Brasserie recently launched the Pera Online Store, which provides a nationwide distribution channel for its specialties to those guests who are located too far to travel to Pera on a regular basis. “We enjoy thinking about ways to make our guests' experience continually more convenient and interesting,” Burak Karaçam, Pera's managing partner, says. Pera Mediterranean Brasserie opened in November 2006. TURKOFAMERICA talked to Burak Karaçam about his almost three years of business experience with Pera.

Pera Online Store

Karaçam: “The one anecdote I can share is last year's filming of a scene from the movie "Duplicity" in our restaurant, starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.”

Could you tell us what Pera has achieved since its opening? What is Pera’s position in the New York ethnic restaurant market? We were quite careful from the beginning not to pigeonhole Pera as an ethnic restaurant per se, but rather as one that focuses on the cuisine of a particular region of the world. The distinction here is that from its ambiance to the presentation of its dishes, from the service standards to the musical selections accompanying one's meal, Pera presents a truly cosmopolitan setting and operation. I believe in doing so, Pera not only reaches out to those guests who are already favorably inclined towards eastern Mediterranean cuisine, but also to those who know little about the cuisine but are willing to experience it given the comfort provided to them by the familiarity of many other aspects of Pera. Having become a NYC restaurant, rather than an ethnic restaurant, is one of Pera's differentiating accomplishments.

We have several ongoing initiatives to keep our guests engaged in Pera throughout the year. Currently we are featuring our picnic baskets, which are very popular among Bryant Park movie goers as well as couples' or small group celebrations in Central Park or the East and Hudson River Parks. The Pera Online Store (, allowing our meats to be shipped nationwide, is another recent initiative. In this effort, we have also partnered with and created special combo packages that are featured on their website. Yet another one of our current initiatives is the Chef-for-Hire catering program whereby we cook and cater our guest's daytime or nighttime party at a venue of their choice, whether it be their home, garden or another venue. We want our brand to be accessible to our clients in more ways than simply having one or several restaurant locations.

Do you have a Pera clientele? At what frequency do these clients visit Pera? We have been quite fortunate in achieving a dedicated group of Pera clientele at a relatively early stage. This group is now a few hundred strong and their dining frequencies range from five times a week to once a month. Some guests come over and over again for their favorite dishes, and some are drawn by the generous selection on our menu, the seasonal adjustments to it and the daily specials, allowing them to experience something new and fresh on every visit.

Can you talk about the profile of Pera customers? Do you have any famous customers who like to dine at Pera? Our current clientele base is widely varied. Given our location and our private dining facilities, we have a significant base of corporate clients, ranging from large multinational companies and organizations to small- and mid-sized local ones. We also have a foodie following, appreciative of the traditional but also the new and innovative spin on those traditional dishes we offer. More recently, celebratory events have found a new home at Pera, whether it be baby or bridal showers, engagement/rehearsal dinners, graduation receptions, birthday get-togethers etc. And there is always the ever hungry and exploratory New Yorker looking for a new taste and place to become one of his/her favorite. While our policies do not permit the sharing of VIP and celebrity names who have dined at our restaurant, they include prominent figures of government, foreign dignitaries, top corporate executives, TV, movie and sports celebrities. The one anecdote I can share is last year's filming of a scene from the movie "Duplicity" in our restaurant, starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.

You're an executive who pursues continuous innovation. What are some of your current such initiatives and how do your customers react to them? We believe new initiatives keep our concept fresh and exciting in our guests' minds. Whether these be new dishes, new wines and cocktails, or avenues where we seek to extend our brand, like the picnic baskets or our recently launched Pera Online Store. We enjoy thinking about ways to make our guests' experience continually more convenient and interesting.

Would you like to add anything? Please do stay tuned in to Pera for other upcoming initiatives and programs. Guests can now become a fan of Pera on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, check out our pictures and videos on FlickR and YouTube and also sign up to receive periodic updates from Pera on our website, We have been receiving great feedback about some dishes and certain preparation methods, as well as in our music, and we will continue to work on new initiatives to make the Pera brand more accessible on these fronts. TurkofAmerica • 73


Sephard›c Cu›s›ne By Viki Koronya

In Sephardic cuisine, there are a greater number of vegetable dishes in comparison to meat dishes. We suppose that this is due to worries about remaining faithful to the rules of keeping kosher.

74 • TurkofAmerica

ephardic Jew brought along with them from Spain not

Sonly their customs and practices but also their cuisine. Going through a number of changes over the generations, these traditions are left to us as an inheratence. The changing conditions of life have caused them to begin to disappear. In our time, less time is spent in the kitchen. For example, instead of first boiling a certain food and, then, broiling or baking it in the oven, simpler dishes, such as a salad and grilled meat, are preferred. Our eating habits are changing, and the Sephardic cuisine, which is much richer, is taking a secondary place on our tables. The cooking of Sephardic dishes require very careful and time-consuming work. Certain dishes are prepared by firstly picking the vegetables and boiling them; and, then, followed by their being braised and cooked. For instance: Albondigas de Prasa (Turkish leek meatballs) 1.5 kg leeks (3.3 lb) 250 grams ground meat (8.8 oz) 1 slice of bread crumb (soaked) 1 egg Salt and pepper Trim and wash the leeks and cut them into pieces, then boil them until they are very soft. Drain, and when the vegetables are cool enough to handle, press them between your palms as hard as you can to get all the water out that you possibly can. Now put the leeks, bread crumb, meat and egg into the food processor with about 1 tsp of salt and pepper and blend to a soft paste. Shape into little round flat cakes and pan-fry in oil, turning them over once. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot. In Sephardic cuisine, there are a greater number of vegetable dishes in comparison to meat dishes. We sup-

pose that this is due to worries about remaining faithful to the rules of keeping kosher. In order for the meat to be declared kosher, the animal must be inspected by those who are coreligionists and educated. The animal is killed by a trained Jewish butcher without pain as they use a very special, sharp, and smooth knife and strike only once. Later, the internal organs of the animal are inspected one by one. If healthy, it is sold to the butcher shops that only sell kosher meat. Since eating the blood of the meat is forbidden in Judaism, the meat is taken through another process in the houses before it is cooked. This process involves washing the meat carefully and letting it sit in salted water for nearly an hour. This way, the pouring out of the blood is made possible. Once it is made sure that the meat is well cleaned, it is cooked. Meat and milk can not be cooked together. This is a religious rule. Among the other characteristics of the Sephardic cuisine that we can point out is the usage of multiple vegetables. Eggplant and zucchini could be used together in pastries. Onion, tomato, parsley, and lemon are used very often in order to add flavors. From different parts of a vegetable, different dishes may be cooked. For example, a dish could be prepared by using the inside of a zucchini and another by using its skin. While a certain kind of dish may be made from spinach leaves, a different kind may be made from spinach stems. There is a ‘plum sauce’, which is called ‘agristida’, that is one of the main ingredients in the this cuisines. Agristida: Water, lemon, oil, and salt are boiled together. Flour is dissolved in a small amount of cold water in a separate cup and added to the boiling water. When the mixture reaches a creamy stage, it is taken away from the heat, and a whipped egg is gradually added into it. This sauce is mainly used with grilled meat patties, boiled fish, and boiled brains.

KINDS OF ‘BOREK’ This cuisine has various, rich kinds of ‘borek’ (a kind of pastry). The different kinds of borek, made by rolling out dough, may be prepared with various vegetables and meat. Among the ones that are prepared by rolling dough, the ‘boreka’ is the most typical one. The ‘borekas’ may be stuffed with different ingredients such as cheese, eggplant, and potato. It could be claimed that the ones that are stuffed with eggplants are the most delicious ones. And the recipe for it is the following: Ingredients for the dough: 1 cup of sunflower oil, 1 cup of melted margarine, 1 cup of water, a pinch of salt, flour needed. Ingredients for the stuffing: 2 eggplants, 100 grams feta cheese, 1 cup of grated kosher or Gruyere cheese. Instructions: The eggplants are cooked over hot ashes; then, they are peeled, washed, and drained. The egglants are then blended very well in the blender and the cheeses are added into it. The ingredients for the dough are mixed together and it is kneaded until it reaches the thickness of an ear lobe. The dough is then rolled out with the rolling pin; the eggplant stuffing is spread over it and it is covered with dough. The pastries are given the form of a half-moon by using a coffee cup to press out the shapes. They are placed on a pan and whipped egg is spread over them. Grated cheese is sprinkled over them and they are baked in the oven. The vegetable boreks: Ençusa de espinaka (with spiniah), Ençusa de Berencene (with eggplant), Almodrote de Kalavasa (with zucchini). Encusa de espinaka: The spinach leaves of are washed and chopped finely. After this dries, bread crumbs, eggs, feta cheese, kosher cheese, sunflower oil, and salt are added and the mix is kneaded. This mixture is spread over an oiled pan and it is cooked in the oven after grated cheese is sprinkled over it. HOLIDAY FOOD We should mention a little about the holiday foods. (Friday evenings and Saturday days are considered holidays). In every Jewish household, Friday evenings have a special place. In general, there is a big family dinner. Youngsters gather in the homes of the elderly. The host looks after Friday evenings with great care. The table is prepared elegantly. There is a special way of table preparation: white table cloth, the Shabbat candle, Kiddush glass, a whole loaf of bread, and flowers are used. The menu is different from that of other evenings of the week. A few kinds of borek and fish (mostly ‘Gaya Kon Avramila’ with the ‘plum sauce’) are the general dishes of these evenings. We cannot go on without providing the recipe of the ‘plum sauce’: Sour plums are washed and boiled; after they are drained, they are squeezed through the strainer until their pulp is left over. The pulp is then cooked in a pan along with oil, sugar, salt, and a bit of water. When it begins to

boil, the fish is placed in it and cooked for about ten minutes. During the Friday dinners, after the fish, meat or chicken, a few types of vegetables, and rice are brought to the table. After this wonderful dinner, various types of desserts are eaten. On Saturdays, the males of the household go to the morning prayers. The women, on the other hand, prepare a grand breakfast for the men when they return. This is called ‘dezayuno.’ On the table, there would be bulemas (‘rose boreks’ that are made of phyllo and stuffed with eggplant, spinach, or cheese), borekas, tapadas (a pan borek that is made of dough), biskocos (biscuits), boiled eggs, various kinds of cheese, watermelon, and grapes. Among the important holidays, there is ‘Rosh Hashanah’ (New Year’s Eve in the Hebrew calender). This holiday is celebrated in the month of September and out-of-season fruits and vegetables are eaten throughout. Also on the table would be the leek patty, for which we gave the recipe earlier, spinach borek, fish, chicken or meat, vegetables, pumpkin pie, apple jam, pomagranates, dates, and wine. Immediately after this holiday, the ‘Yom Kippur Fasting’ is practiced. Throughout the fast, which lasts twenty six hours, nothing is eaten or drunk. Prior to the fast, a full course meal, without spices, is eaten. The fast is broken by eating small loaves of bread that are dipped in oil. Following this, coffee with milk is drunk and sweet and salty biscuits are eaten. After taking a short break, vermicelli soup with chicken is eaten. Another holiday celebrated by Jews is ‘Pesach’ (Passover), which is symbolized with a diet excluding leavening. The families gather around the table for the meal named a ‘seder.’ Before the seder, the story of the Jews’ escape from Egyptian captivity is read. On the seder table, the following is placed symbolically: Matzoh (bread without leavining), a leg of lamb (the sacrifice), hard-boiled eggs, celery leaf, charoset (a kind of spread prepared with grapes or dates; it sybolizes the mixture used in construction during the time of captivity), and vinegar. The meal, on the other hand, includes the following: densely boiled egg ‘bimuelos’ (boreks that are prepared without leavening), ‘fritadas’ (boreks with vegetables), fish, and lamb meat. The desserts that are special to this holiday are these; Marzipan (almond spread), Sarope blanko (white dessert), ‘tez pisti’ (a dessert with walnuts). Passover lasts for about a week. Only home-cooked meals are eaten. For this reason, this is a quite tiring holiday for the women. Sepharidic Jews settled in various parts of Turkey. Primarily, Bursa, Izmir, Canakkale, Tekirdag, Edirne, and Istanbul are the cities they live in. The cuisine of each region has its own characteristics. While same dishes could be named differently according to the region, dishes that have the same name could be prepared with different methods in different places. Currently, the Levi Restaurant, which is located behind the Istanbul Egyptian Bazaar, serves Sephardic food; it has provided service, especially to Jewish businessmen, for years. * This text has been taken from the September-October 2003 - 56th issue of the ‘Gorus Magazine’ of TUSIAD. 

TurkofAmerica • 75

Enjoy›ng the V›ew of the Bosporus w›th World Famous CAO C›gars party thrown by the popular cigar brand CAO and

ATURKOFAMERICA party brought together business, arts, sports and media celebrities in ‹stanbul. The event was held by TurkofAmerica Media Group and ‹stanbul Organization, one of biggest organization companies in ‹stanbul, at Lacivert Restaurant. SCANDINAVIAN TOBACCO GROUP At the event, Cano Özgener, founder of CAO, Peter Zwarte, Scandinavian Tobacco Group's export director, and Jensen Jesper Kjaergaard, the Group’s international business development manager welcomed the quests, along with Ömer Günefl, General Manager of TurkofAmerica, and Akif Koçyi¤it and Ali Çal›fl›r, executives of ‹stanbul Organization. Among the guests were U¤ur Terzio¤lu, President of Turkish American Business Associations, Zekeriya Y›ld›r›m, board member of Do¤an Holding, Producer Osman S›nav, Opera Singer Hakan Aysev, the brothers Ferhan and Muharrem Geylan, owners of Gilan Jewelry, and Burçak Akduman. Ömer Günefl said that bringing together the world famous CAO founder, Cano Özgener and his partners with cigar lovers in ‹stanbul was a very exciting occasion for TURKOFAMERICA. He said that they would continue to bring more American businessmen to Turkey and they would be happy to being a important figure involved in increasing Turkish-American business relations. CAO International was purchased by Henri Wintermans, a sister company of the European cigar giant Scandinavian Tobacco Group, in January 2007. 76 • TurkofAmerica


Turk›sh-Sephard›c Mus›c T By Karen Sarhon

Los Pasharos Sefaradis have constituted a milestone in the revival of the Turkish Sephardic culture by seriously researching and studying the language and the secular type of music of their ancestors.

urkish Sephardic Music is an adventure that starts in the year 1492. The Sephardic Jews had brought with them a specific language and musical culture. The language that they brought was basically 15th century Spanish. However, through the years this language developed on its own under the influences of the languages around it and finally it came to be known as “Judeo-Spanish”, the language of the Sephardic Jews. The Sephardic Jews were able to preserve most of the aspects of their language and culture in the atmosphere of tolerance that reigned in the Ottoman Empire. Today, Judeo-Spanish, in spite of all the efforts made to make it survive, is slowly declining because it has lost its basic function for the Sephardic Jews.

The musical culture that dominated 15th century Spain was a musical culture called the “Romansa”. The Romansas were, at first, epic songs that depicted tales of bravery and wars of the nobles. These tales were then adopted by the common people and the stories took on more everyday type of themes. The musical tradition that the Sephardic Jews brought to the Ottoman Empire was made up of basically this type of song. Down through the years, Sephardic music was greatly influenced by Turkish classical music and all the other musical genres around it. So in time, Sephardic music blended all these influences together and a lot of songs appeared with themes consisting of love, gossip, jealousy, the events of everyday life and all sorts of interpersonal relationships and feelings. The language used in these folk songs has always been Judeo-Spanish. In addition to the many original but anonymous compositions there are also many melodies borrowed from the popular ones of their day and to which lyrics in Judeo-Spanish have been written. Among the thousands of songs that were transmitted from mother to daughter through the years, there are certain melodies that have had many different lyrics written for them and there are also certain lyrics with many different melodies. Another aspect of Turkish Sephardic Music is liturgical music. A tradition of religious music performed in Turkish synagogues has also been transmitted from generation to generation. The lyrics of the Sephardic religious music have always been in Hebrew but the melodies have been performed with the Turkish classical music maqams. These melodies had not been recorded, or archived until 2002. The many musicologists and ethnomusicologists that have come to Turkey for research have mainly been interested in the folk songs in Judeo-Spanish. However, most of these researchers could not write the music of most of the melodies that had been composed under the influence of Turkish classical music because it has a different notation system altogether. Even though these researchers have compiled hundreds of songs, there are many more hundreds of songs composed in the Turkish classical music

Los Pasharos Sefaradis has four members: Karen Gerson fiarhon (voice), ‹. ‹zzet Bana (voice), S. Selim Hubefl (ud, guitar), Y. Yavuz Hubefl (kanun, ud, percussion).

mode. It is this particular part of the Sephardic heritage that the group Los Pasharos Sefaradis have made it their mission to preserve. LOS PASHAROS SEFARADIS Los Pasharos Sefaradis have constituted a milestone in the revival of the Turkish Sephardic culture by seriously researching and studying the language and the secular type of music of their ancestors. They have been doing research since 1978; have toured and performed at many of the Jewish and non-Jewish cultural centers throughout Europe, the U.S.A. and Mexico. One of the most important characteristics of Los Pasharos Sefaradis is the fact that, in contrast to all other interpreters of Sephardic music in the western world, they give a lot of importance to the lyrics of the songs and take great care to enunciate each word clearly. Their being the last generation of Turkish Sephardim to speak Judeo-Spanish well is a great asset. Another characteristic is that they make a special effort to sing in as authentic a manner as possible, the way their grandmothers used to do, with the oriental technique of using their voices and acting every song out, so as to leave their audience in no doubt as to what they are saying.

JEWISH COMPOSERS AND PERFORMERS OF TURKISH MUSIC Hayim Alazraki (?-1913): Composer, very famous for his “Yahudice Romans’›”. ‹sak Varon (1884-1962): Turkish songwriter and composer of Jewish origin. ‹sak Barikî (?-1850): Violin player, composer. M›s›rl› ‹brahim Efendi (Oud): M›s›rl› ‹brahim Efendi’s real name was Avram Levi. David Behar (?-1880?): Composer and musician Rabbi Semoil Mendil (?-1849): Rabbi and composer. Isak Algazi (1890-1960?): Composer and famous singer of Jewish origin. ‹sak Tanburi (1745-1814): A composer and player of the tambur. Musi (Rabbi Mufle Fao) (?-1760): A composer and player of the tanbur. Selim Efendi (?-1930?): Jewish ud player. Source:

TurkofAmerica • 77


The Historic Synagogues of Turkey, a 201-page book, published by The American Sephardi Federation, includes the pictures of 34 synagogues in Turkey. The other album book “Synagogues of Turkey” in which the photographs belong to the famous artist ‹zzet Keribar, the texts are written by researcher Naim A. Güleryüz, and the concept was carried out by Joelle ‹mamo¤lu is published by Gözlem Publishing.

The H›stor›c Synagogues of Turkey Photos by Izzet Keribar, Synagogues of Turkey by Gozlem Publishing

78 • TurkofAmerica

he synagogues in Turkey span from the 3rd centu-

Try C.E through the early twentieth century. Most

of the synagogues were influenced by local architectural designs. Among them is the synagogue of Sardis, discovered during excavations in the 1960s, that is believed to be one of the most grandiose synagogues of ancient times.

Over a period of two months, they traveled more than 6,000 miles to systematically document and study nearly 50 synagogues and former synagogues, resulting in 3,000 photographs and 150 measured architectural drawings, a small portion of which are included in the publication The Historic Synagogues of Turkey.

Joel A. Zack, architect, the founder of Heritage Tours Private Travel, set out with a research team in late 1996 to measure, draw, and photograph the synagogues of Turkey. His team included Devon Jarvis, a talented photographer from New York, Ceren Kahraman, then a graduate student in architecture in ‹stanbul, and Muharrem Zeybek, their driver and logistical facilitator. The Historic Synagogues of Turkey, a 201-page book, published by The American Sephardi Federation, includes the pictures of 34 synagogues in ‹stanbul, ‹zmir, Ankara, G. Antep, Bursa, Edirne, Antakya, K›rklareli, Çanakkale, Kilis, Samsun, Adana, Bergama, Turgutlu and Sardis. The federation also created, as part of the digital archives of the Center for Jewish History, an on-line archive of 2,827 of Devon Jarvis’s Turkish synagogue photographs. The project was funded by the Maurice Amado Foundation, the Mitrani Family Foundation and ‹zak fienbahar, a Turkish Jewish businessman in New York. The synagogue pictures were also exhibited at the Topkapi Museum in the fall of 2008. THE SYNAGOGUES IN TURKEY FROM TWO MASTERS: ‹ZZET KER‹BAR & NA‹M GÜLERYÜZ In 2005, the president of the Jewish community of Turkey, Mr. Silvyo Ovadia, approached Izzet Keribar, a world renowned photographer and winner of many international prizes, and offered him to document all the synagogues in Turkey as a legacy to future generations. ‹zzet Keribar embarked on his research by establishing contacts with leaders of various Jewish communities in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Bursa, Chanakkale, Edirne and elsewhere in Turkey. His research revealed more than sixty synagogues around Turkey. The texts are written by researcher Naim A.Guleryuz, and the concept was carried out by Joelle Imamoglu is published by Gozlem Publishing. Unfortunately, many of them suffered substantial deterioration, and others were used for different purposes or completely ruined. The photographer tirelessly set out to capture every detail of the glory and splendor of the synagogues that were once the pride and the heart of the Jewish community in Turkey, in order to preserve them for future memory before the deterioration of time takes its toll. The result of "The Synagogues of Turkey" project is consisting of more than 70 photographs. The book’s framework incorporates a ‘promenade course’. “Synagogues of Istanbul”, covering the areas from Balat to the shores of Marmara and the Princess Islands, the two banks of the Bosphorus on each side, and the neighborhoods of Shishli-BeyogluGalata and Haskoy-Kemerburgaz constitutes the first volume and “Synagogues of Thrace-Anatolia”, covering the areas starting with Edirne throughout Thrace, the shores of the Aegean and the Mediterranean, southeast Anatolia and the cities of Ankara and Bursa, constitutes the second volume. “Synagogues of Turkey” represents ‘the Turkish-Jewish Heritage’ in the best possible way was published on special paper, utilizing the most modern technology, in both Turkish and English.

SOME TURKISH SYNAGOGUES FROM THE BOOK Synagogue, 3rd century (Sardis) The famous synagogue at Sardis, outside Izmir, ranks among the oldest synagogue ruins in the world. Not originally built as a synagogue, it was converted from an earlier (unknown) function and served a sizable Jewish population. Although little remains, it was a large building preceded by a square courtyard. Featuring a number of mosaics, these ruins are under the protection of the government and part of a heavily touristic archaeological site. Synagogue Ahrida, 1430 (Balat Quarter, ‹stanbul) Although originally built as two separate synagogues by Romaniot Jews, this synagogue was later used by Jews who came from Spain via the Macedonian city of Ohrid (Ochrid). The synagogue was most recently restored in 1992; the accuracy of its restoration is a subject of controversy. The tevah is shaped like the prow of a ship, symbolic perhaps of travel. According to local legend, Sabetay Tzvi (Shabbetai Tsevi), the 17th century false Messiah from Izmir (Smyrna), preached in this synagogue. Synagogue of the Karaites (Hasköy Quarter, ‹stanbul) This humble wooden building is one of the few remaining Karaite synagogues in the world and the last in Turkey. Karaite Jews, who originally came to ‹stanbul from Baghdad, are a somewhat reculsive sect who follow only the Torah and maintain an identity distinct from mainstream (rabbinic) Judaism. In the 18th century, the Karaites had eight synagogues in ‹stanbul. This aged and sagging building, which local legend dates to the 12th century, has been rebuilt many times. Synagogue ‹stipol, early 17th century (Balat Quarter, ‹stanbul) One of a handful of remaining wooden synagogues in Turkey, this synagogue was originally founded by Jews who came from Spain to the Ottoman city of Stip (‹stip) in Macedonia. From Stip, they later resettled in Balat – the first in a series of Jewish quarters in ‹stanbul, located on the southern side of the Golden Horn. Synagogue Yanbol, 15th century (Balat Quarter, ‹stanbul) Originally built by Romaniot Jews (Jews of the Byzantine Empire who lived in Constantinople and elsewhere long before the arrival of the Sephardim), this synagogue was later used by the Jewish community that immigrated to ‹stanbul from the town of Yambol in Bulgaria. It is now used only on major holidays and some Shabat (Sabbath) services

THE HISTORIC SYNAGOGUES OF TURKEY Joel A. Zack, The Historic Synagogues of Turkey / Türkiye’nin Tarihi Sinagoglari ISBN: 978-0-615-23948-4 Library of Congress Control number: 2008936582 Gözlem Gazetecilik ISBN No: 978-9944-944-27-9 To buy: ($45)

THE SYNAGOGUES OF TURKEY ISBN: 9789944994255 Publication Date & Place: 2008, ‹stanbul Dimensions: 240x310mm, 3200 gr. Price: 250 TL (166.87 USD) ( /

TurkofAmerica • 79


To Be Jew›sh ›n a Greater Soc›ety By Assistant Prof. Göknur Akçada¤

onorary President of the Turkish-Jewish Commu-

Hnity Bensiyon Pinto’s book ‘Impossible for Me Not to Tell- To Be Jewish in a Greater Society,’ in which he tells about his life, was published in September of 2008 under the editorship of Tulay Gurler.

“Everyone was living so interconnected that we would not know or distinguish which holiday was Moris’s, which was Yorgo’s or Mustafa’s.”

As a person who has been a community leader, his life is full of striking events, opinions, and expositions. After serving as a community leader until 2004, he thought that passing on his memories to the new generations was the most righteous work to do, and, thus, this memoir came into existence. With certain quotations from the book, I aim to reflect on the valuable information from Pinto’s life that sheds light on Turkey, Turks, and the situation of Jewish society in Turkey. Loving Turkey as much as Turks and making efforts to introduce Turkey, B. Pinto tells in his memories that they were, as he mentioned in each platform, different in Turkey only as a religious minority and, aside from this, Jews were adapted to living as Turkish citizens in the greater society and the society also imbibed the Jews. THE HABIT OF ASKING FOR IDENTITY “We would not really understand that we were minority. The synagogue was under our nose. Everyone was an acquaintance. Probably because we lived in a small circle of people, both side by side with our fellow coreligionists and also in brotherhood with the other religious minority groups within the greater society, we did not think much about our identity. And nobody would make us think about it. Everyone was living so interconnected that we would not know or distinguish which holiday was Moris’s, which was Yorgo’s or Mustafa’s. A holiday was just a ‘holy day’ as its name says. Some holidays would pass with painted eggs, some with handkerchiefs filled with candy, and others with matzo. We would each get our share from all. Asking about their differences would not even occur to us. We were so used to living all together that we could not even imagine a town where we were not together. Nowadays, as soon as people hear of a different name, they automatically ask about the person’s religion. There was no habit of this sort back then. Maybe that is why that question sounds so absurd to me. It is really difficult for me to understand why there is such sensitivity in contemporary Turkey. In Europe or America, nobody asks others about their religion or nationality, because one’s faith is no one’s concern except

80 • TurkofAmerica

for the person. And, religion is also a concealed value. When I pray, I don’t announce it to the world; I do not say, ‘listen oh the people, I’m praying!’ My assistant draws back to somewhere and prays (Namaz), and no one is informed. Worship is a very personal thing. You cannot give an explanation for it to anyone. It’s not only the Muslims in Turkey that ask this question but also the Greeks, Jews, and the Armenians who ask as well. The people of this land have made a habit of asking this question recently.” TO BE JEWISH IN THE GREATER SOCIETY “I am someone who opposed the term ‘minority’ in Turkey and worded this out in various platforms as it was fitting. We are a religious minority. There is a very important and big different between ‘minority’ and ‘religious minority.’ I prefer referring to the group which is outside of the Jewish community and which is the Muslim group making up 99% of country’s population as the ‘Greater Society,’ and I have always tried to ensure that my community instilled it as well. A person has to follow up with the circumstances of his/her time and place and how they change and where they lead. The Jewish community learned how to do that very late. During the Ottomans, the religious minorities were in the lead with monetary guilds. They were a little more Western. They were enabling multiculturalism to live in the Empire and they were following up with foreign literature. Jewish doctors that came from Germany in the 1930’s are the best examples of this. Fortunately, we achieved change. These characteristics were also preferable for the greater society. Being a Jewish or Muslim Turk began to not matter as a priority. One of the main reasons for this was because the greater society adapted to embracing Jews and they never felt discomfort from it. To integrate with a society does not mean to lose one’s religion. Integration means to love and learn to live with the greater society. A person that protects his/her traditional customs also protects his/her identity. It is difficult to find a society like Turkish society. So long as the greater society was not incited, they did not take sides.” “My life is a story. This story was written in this country. If it weren’t for this country, I would not have anything to tell the youth of tomorrow. There wouldn’t have been correct punctuation in the correct spots within these memories. There is no other Turkey. There is one way we cannot renounce: communication. We must live by understanding the reality and value of the word ‘Turk’ in the title of ‘Turkish-Jewish Community.’ When we quit mixing up religious identity with citizen identity, then we can say we are modern.”

Volume 8 Issue 34 - 1st Edition - A Special Issue on Sephardic Jews  

Turkish Jews in the United States and their stories. Story of Sephardic Jews from Spain to Turkey, then Turkey to the USA. The issue about S...

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