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Etz Chaim Synagogue of Turkish Jews, Ramla, Israel, 2019

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Etz Chaim synagogue of Turkish Jews, Ramla, Israel, 2019
Shaphardi Nusach (Sephardi rite).
Levi Eshkol street, Ramla
Photo: Michael Strimban
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People

ID Number:
21374390
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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Turkey

Türkiye Cumhuriyeti - Republic of Turkey

A country in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe. 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 15,000 out of 82,000,000 (0.01%).  Main Jewish organization:

Jewish Community of Turkey
Website: www.turkyahudileri.com

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Turkey

1923 | Father of the Turkish Nation

WW1 heralded the end of the great empires era – the Czarist Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the enormous Ottoman Turkish Empire, which at various times stretched from Southeastern Europe to North Africa.
The collapse of the Turkish giant and the disintegration of the empire were fertile ground for mayhem and friction between many different ethnic groups, mostly Turks and Greeks.
On July 24th, 1923, in the picturesque Swiss city of Lausanne representatives of the Turks, the British, the French, the Italians and the Greeks met to put the Asia Minor puzzle back together again following the end of the Ottoman Empire.
The Treaty of Lausanne set the borders of modern Turkey, which turned from an Empire with a religious and traditional character to a democratic, secular, and national, even nationalistic state.
Under the new ruler, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey underwent an aggressive process of modernization and secularization. The institution of the caliphate, the title of Pasha, the madrassas (religious schools) and Sharia, or Islamic law, were all abolished and relegated to the past. Ataturk (which means “Father of the Turks” in Turkish) believed in ethnic homogeneity, and therefore the Lausanne treaty included mass population exchanges, in which over two million Greeks and Turks were uprooted from their homes.
Under the treaty, the Turkish regime was required to allow minorities the right to maintain their culture. Ataturk was not impressed by this obligation. He banned the display of religious symbols in public and among other steps, restricted the teaching of Hebrew at schools. Despite this, many of the Jews of Turkey identified with the patriotic wave washing over the country and gave up the characteristics that defined them as a minority.

1926 | Princes of High Tide and Low

The US Consul in Istanbul, Bey Randall, aptly described the state of the Jews in the early years of Ataturk's rule: “During the Ottoman period”, he wrote, “while Jews managed to obtain basic political rights, they were generally treated as one of the lowest groups in the empire. Upon the establishment of modern Turkey Jews won a place in all walks of Turkish life: as stock brokers, bankers, practitioners of free professions, clerks and officials, and even won key positions in the trade unions.” However, historians mark 1926 as the end of the high tide for Turkish Jews and the beginning in the low, reaching a nadir during WW2.
Like any country during a war, let alone a world war, even neutral Turkey needed cash. To that end, the Turkish authorities levied a differential tax upon its populace – a tax not set by a citizen's income, but by their ethnicity. Muslims paid less. Others – and most of all the Jews – paid more. Much more.
The tax laid very heavily on the Jews and expedited their departure from the country, and in addition, the Turkish press at the time was pro-Nazi and claimed that the Jews have “foreign blood” and are “Turkish in name only”. Expressions of anti-Semitism soon followed. And yet, during WW2 Turkey gave shelter to a small number of Jewish refugees.
Towards the end of the war, as it became clear that the Axis Powers were facing defeat, the discriminatory tax was repealed and the remaining debts incurred under it were expunged.

1948 | We Hereby Declare!

In 1948 David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the State of Israel and the Turkish government declared another expansion of religious freedoms. Some 35,000 Jews made aliyah from Turkey that year; the children of those who stayed were allowed to study basic Hebrew at one of the five Jewish schools in Istanbul. However teaching of general studies was permitted only in Turkish.
In those years the Jewish cultural circle in Turkey expanded, including among other manifestations three Jewish periodicals. Two of them - “Shalom” and “La Vera Luz” were printed in Ladino, and the third, “HaMenorah”, was published by the Bnei Brith organization and was distributed in three languages: Hebrew, French and Ladino. These were also the years that saw the work of Jewish poet Joseph Habib Gerez, whose writing extolled the greatness of Istanbul, and Avraham Galanti – a columnist, historian and prolific researcher, who wrote many books about the Jews of Turkey.
Turkish Jews also left a mark on the country's plastic arts. In the first half of the 20th century Ataturk invited painting teacher Leopold Levy to head the Istanbul Art Institute. Levy, who believed in the heritage of European impressionism and expressionism, breathed life into the moribund art world of Istanbul, and the greatest Turkish painter owe him a great debt for doing so.
The economic situation of the Jews also improved markedly compared to that during WW2. Many of them engaged in commerce and art, served as government officials and practiced various free professions. In the 1950s and 1960s the Jews of Turkey lived with their neighbors in peace, save for a few anti-Semitic outbursts following Israel's victory over the Arab states in the Six Day War of 1967.

1970 | Wanted: A Language Reviver

In the early 1970s there were 30-35,000 Jews living in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul. 95% of them were descendants of the Spanish Expulsion, and the rest scions of Jews who immigrated from Poland and Austria in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Austrian-descended Jews, who were considered the elite of the community, founded the great synagogue of Istanbul among others, which was known as the “Austrian Synagogue”. In 1951 the Sephardi community founded another famous Istanbul synagogue, Neve Shalom, which in 1986 was the scene of a horrific attack, when two terrorists entered it in the guise of reporters and murdered 22 worshipers.
For hundreds of years, the heart and soul of the Sephardi community in Turkey was the Ladino language, but nothing lasts forever. While in 1927 84% of Jews in Turkey declared Ladino to be their mother tongue, in a 1955 survey that figure dropped to 64%, and in 2013 Jewish-Turkish author Mario Levy told the daily “Israel Hayom” that his twin daughters, then 25 years old, do not know a word of Ladino. As of 2015, Ladino culture in Turkey is dying out.

2015 | Tense Relations

In 2014 Turkey was home to approximately 17,000 Jews, most in Istanbul and about 2,000 people in Izmir and other cities. Many of the Jews of Turkey maintain the flames of Jewish tradition to this day. Istanbul has 16 synagogues and a well-kept cemetery, tightly guarded from hostile actions.
Due to the harsh relations between Israel and Turkey in the past ten years, especially since the “Mavi Marmara” affair in 2010 and the recalling of the Turkish Ambassador from Israel, anti-Semitism has been on the rise in the country. Jews report a growing fear of walking the streets in clothing indicative of their Jewish origins, and many are leaving the country, mostly to the United States and Europe.

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Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions
Etz Chaim Synagogue of Turkish Jews, Ramla, Israel, 2019

Etz Chaim synagogue of Turkish Jews, Ramla, Israel, 2019
Shaphardi Nusach (Sephardi rite).
Levi Eshkol street, Ramla
Photo: Michael Strimban
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People

Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

Turkey

Turkey

Türkiye Cumhuriyeti - Republic of Turkey

A country in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe. 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 15,000 out of 82,000,000 (0.01%).  Main Jewish organization:

Jewish Community of Turkey
Website: www.turkyahudileri.com

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Turkey

1923 | Father of the Turkish Nation

WW1 heralded the end of the great empires era – the Czarist Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the enormous Ottoman Turkish Empire, which at various times stretched from Southeastern Europe to North Africa.
The collapse of the Turkish giant and the disintegration of the empire were fertile ground for mayhem and friction between many different ethnic groups, mostly Turks and Greeks.
On July 24th, 1923, in the picturesque Swiss city of Lausanne representatives of the Turks, the British, the French, the Italians and the Greeks met to put the Asia Minor puzzle back together again following the end of the Ottoman Empire.
The Treaty of Lausanne set the borders of modern Turkey, which turned from an Empire with a religious and traditional character to a democratic, secular, and national, even nationalistic state.
Under the new ruler, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey underwent an aggressive process of modernization and secularization. The institution of the caliphate, the title of Pasha, the madrassas (religious schools) and Sharia, or Islamic law, were all abolished and relegated to the past. Ataturk (which means “Father of the Turks” in Turkish) believed in ethnic homogeneity, and therefore the Lausanne treaty included mass population exchanges, in which over two million Greeks and Turks were uprooted from their homes.
Under the treaty, the Turkish regime was required to allow minorities the right to maintain their culture. Ataturk was not impressed by this obligation. He banned the display of religious symbols in public and among other steps, restricted the teaching of Hebrew at schools. Despite this, many of the Jews of Turkey identified with the patriotic wave washing over the country and gave up the characteristics that defined them as a minority.

1926 | Princes of High Tide and Low

The US Consul in Istanbul, Bey Randall, aptly described the state of the Jews in the early years of Ataturk's rule: “During the Ottoman period”, he wrote, “while Jews managed to obtain basic political rights, they were generally treated as one of the lowest groups in the empire. Upon the establishment of modern Turkey Jews won a place in all walks of Turkish life: as stock brokers, bankers, practitioners of free professions, clerks and officials, and even won key positions in the trade unions.” However, historians mark 1926 as the end of the high tide for Turkish Jews and the beginning in the low, reaching a nadir during WW2.
Like any country during a war, let alone a world war, even neutral Turkey needed cash. To that end, the Turkish authorities levied a differential tax upon its populace – a tax not set by a citizen's income, but by their ethnicity. Muslims paid less. Others – and most of all the Jews – paid more. Much more.
The tax laid very heavily on the Jews and expedited their departure from the country, and in addition, the Turkish press at the time was pro-Nazi and claimed that the Jews have “foreign blood” and are “Turkish in name only”. Expressions of anti-Semitism soon followed. And yet, during WW2 Turkey gave shelter to a small number of Jewish refugees.
Towards the end of the war, as it became clear that the Axis Powers were facing defeat, the discriminatory tax was repealed and the remaining debts incurred under it were expunged.

1948 | We Hereby Declare!

In 1948 David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the State of Israel and the Turkish government declared another expansion of religious freedoms. Some 35,000 Jews made aliyah from Turkey that year; the children of those who stayed were allowed to study basic Hebrew at one of the five Jewish schools in Istanbul. However teaching of general studies was permitted only in Turkish.
In those years the Jewish cultural circle in Turkey expanded, including among other manifestations three Jewish periodicals. Two of them - “Shalom” and “La Vera Luz” were printed in Ladino, and the third, “HaMenorah”, was published by the Bnei Brith organization and was distributed in three languages: Hebrew, French and Ladino. These were also the years that saw the work of Jewish poet Joseph Habib Gerez, whose writing extolled the greatness of Istanbul, and Avraham Galanti – a columnist, historian and prolific researcher, who wrote many books about the Jews of Turkey.
Turkish Jews also left a mark on the country's plastic arts. In the first half of the 20th century Ataturk invited painting teacher Leopold Levy to head the Istanbul Art Institute. Levy, who believed in the heritage of European impressionism and expressionism, breathed life into the moribund art world of Istanbul, and the greatest Turkish painter owe him a great debt for doing so.
The economic situation of the Jews also improved markedly compared to that during WW2. Many of them engaged in commerce and art, served as government officials and practiced various free professions. In the 1950s and 1960s the Jews of Turkey lived with their neighbors in peace, save for a few anti-Semitic outbursts following Israel's victory over the Arab states in the Six Day War of 1967.

1970 | Wanted: A Language Reviver

In the early 1970s there were 30-35,000 Jews living in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul. 95% of them were descendants of the Spanish Expulsion, and the rest scions of Jews who immigrated from Poland and Austria in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Austrian-descended Jews, who were considered the elite of the community, founded the great synagogue of Istanbul among others, which was known as the “Austrian Synagogue”. In 1951 the Sephardi community founded another famous Istanbul synagogue, Neve Shalom, which in 1986 was the scene of a horrific attack, when two terrorists entered it in the guise of reporters and murdered 22 worshipers.
For hundreds of years, the heart and soul of the Sephardi community in Turkey was the Ladino language, but nothing lasts forever. While in 1927 84% of Jews in Turkey declared Ladino to be their mother tongue, in a 1955 survey that figure dropped to 64%, and in 2013 Jewish-Turkish author Mario Levy told the daily “Israel Hayom” that his twin daughters, then 25 years old, do not know a word of Ladino. As of 2015, Ladino culture in Turkey is dying out.

2015 | Tense Relations

In 2014 Turkey was home to approximately 17,000 Jews, most in Istanbul and about 2,000 people in Izmir and other cities. Many of the Jews of Turkey maintain the flames of Jewish tradition to this day. Istanbul has 16 synagogues and a well-kept cemetery, tightly guarded from hostile actions.
Due to the harsh relations between Israel and Turkey in the past ten years, especially since the “Mavi Marmara” affair in 2010 and the recalling of the Turkish Ambassador from Israel, anti-Semitism has been on the rise in the country. Jews report a growing fear of walking the streets in clothing indicative of their Jewish origins, and many are leaving the country, mostly to the United States and Europe.