Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Jews of Turkey

Nadene Goldfoot                                              
Ottoman Empire
The 1st Ottoman Sultan was Osman I from 1299 to 1326.
 After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans the Ottoman Beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.
The struggle between the Muslim caliphate and the Byzantine Empire saw the Emperor Diogenes prisoner. Sultan Suleiman (1520-1566) with 100,000 men marched towards Vienna, winning a battle on August 31, 1526 at Mohacs, Hungary.  He then captured Buda and Pest on both sides of the Danube River.  His rule was the most glorious in Ottoman history.  He failed to cope with the greed of his own retinue or the ambitions of his own officers.
Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha led a huge army to attempt a second Ottoman siege of Vienna in the Great Turkish War of 1683–1699. The final assault being fatally delayed, the Ottoman forces were swept away by allied Habsburg, German and Polish forces spearheaded by the Polish king Jan III Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna.
Turkic Crimean Jew of Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire.  Palestine became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517, but Jews were living in Turkey almost 200 years earlier in 1326 when their synagogue was authorized to be built in Brusa, the old capital of Turkey.  Brusa was a city in Anatolia, Turkey, where Jews had lived since the 1st Century BCE.  There were 3,500 Jews in Brusa before WWI, and only 200 by 1990 due to emigration.  Anatolia is another name for Asia Minor, a Peninsula in SW Asia where Jews were settled before it passed under Roman rule in the 2nd century BCE.  Important communities existed in all the principal towns, such as Ephesus and Pergamum.  The Roman, Flaccus in 59 BCE was the Propraetor of Asia and he stole the money from the Jews they had collected for the Temple in Jerusalem.

"The ancient Israelites were known to have imported honeybees from Anatolia, the Asian part of present-day Turkey. A team of Israeli archaeologists found some 30 intact hives made of straw and unbaked clay, and evidence that there had been over 100-200 more, on the site of the joint Israelite-Canaanite city of Tel Rehov. According to some evidence, the bees were probably imported from the region because they were easier to handle than the bees of the Israelites, which had proved to be extremely aggressive."

Many other Jewish communities were incorporated in Turkey, especially when Salonica was captured in 1430 and Constantinople in 1453.  Salonica was a port in Greece and its Jewish community dated back to biblical days.  Paul, the apostle, visited there in 50 CE. The Greeks and immigrants  adopted Spanish from the Jewish refugees.  40 different congregations and synagogues reflected the rites of the cities and provinces of origin.  By the 16th century, many Portuguese Marranos came.  They had large numbers of academies, printing presses from 1515 on and schools of poetry.

After 1492 (when Columbus sailed the ocean blue) and the Spanish Inquisition caused many Jews to leave Spain or convert, the sultans of Turkey opened their gates generously to these refugees from Spain and later on from Portugal and other lands that were Jewish.  This was something to note.  A Muslim country was welcoming the Jewish refugees from Christian lands.  Jews from Spain and Portugal are called Sephardim.  The Turkish Jews we have met in this generation most likely were from the Spanish refugees.

Why were Jews wanted in Turkey?  They were favored as a valuable trading and artisan element and also as a counterpoise to the potentially disloyal Christian minorities.  Very successful communities were Istanbul (Constantinople), Adrianople, Smyrna (Izmir), and especially Salonica where the intellectual traditions of Sephardi Jewry were centered.

Egypt, Yemen, and Iraq became part of the Ottoman Empire after 1517 as well as Palestine.  All Jews in Muslim lands were put under the Muslim code of Dhimmi making them 2nd class citizens but the Sultan of Turkey did not apply it strictly.  That's why Jews such as Joseph Nasi and Solomon Ashkenazi were able to be very influencial people in Turkey.  
1779 Jew of Ottoman Empire
Things changed after the 16th century.  This follows the 1492 Spanish Inquisition and just seems to be catching up in Turkey now.  Anti-Jewish restrictions were being applied more rigidly.  This was when a pseudo-messianic movement of Shabbetai Tzevi came about in the 17th century but didn't affect the position of Turkish Jews in Turkey. This was when many Jews of Salonica followed Shabbetai Tzevi into a form of insincere Islam, thus creating the sect of the DONMEH, whose main center was in Salonica.  It did affect the Jews, however and weakened them spiritually.

The position of the Jews didn't change through the 19th century.  The Jews of Turkey were the 3rd largest group in the world after Russia and Austro-Hungary, numbering 350,000 in 1900. This brought the Jews living in the Balkans under other authorities which meant a worse change for them.  The process culminated with the 1st Balkan War and WWI.  By 1914 WWI started with the Ottoman Empire on the Axis side, losing the world war.  The war ended in 1917 and the empire disintegrated.  

Our family has married into a Turkish Jewish family that immigrated to Portland, Oregon in 1903 from Marmora and Constantinople, Turkey.  They opened a fish market.  Others of their family settled in Seattle, Washington. "The Sephardic Synagogue Sephardic Bikur Holim in Seattle, Washington was formed by Jews from Turkey, and still uses Ladino in some portions of the Shabbat services. They created a siddur called Zehut Yosef, written by HazzanIsaac Azose, to preserve their unique traditions."  Some went into the wholesale fruit business.  They spoke Spanish or Ladino.  

The Ottomans conquered Greece in 1912, and Salonica, with 80,000 Jews, remained predominantly Jewish.  Ships were not allowed to unload their cargo on a Saturday in the harbor.  There was this interchange of population between Greece and Turkey after WWI that resulted in the emigration of the Donmeh and a large Greek influx.  The Jewish population was reduced by 1940 to under 20% to about 5,000 with many going to Palestine, France and USA.  

During the German occupation of 1941-1944, almost all the community, after being despoiled, was deported in 19 convoys to Poland for extermination.  By 1990 there were only 1,100 Jews in Salonica.  

Turkey had to reorganize on nationalist lines.  Former minorities largely disappeared through the exchanges of population with Greece.  Jews were no longer a favored minority and were thought to have become a recalcitrant one in a more difficult position.  There was some discrimination, actual instead of legal.  

A most interesting fact I read while researching the Jews of Turkey was the Greek and Turkish population exchange that occurred after WWI.  It came about in 1923.  
 It involved approximately 2 million people (around 1.2 million Greeks from Asia MinorEastern ThraceTrabzon, the Pontic Alpsand the Caucasus, and 400,000 Muslims in Greece), most of whom were forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from their homelands.  It was based on religious identity.  It " involved nearly all the Orthodox Christian citizens of Turkey, including its native Turkish-speaking Orthodox citizens, and most of the Muslim citizens of Greece, including its native Greek-speaking Muslim citizens."In 1906, nearly 20 percent of the population of present-day Turkey was non-Muslim, but by 1927, only 2.6 percent was. This was the work of the League of Nations.  
37,000 Jews emigrated to Israel after 1948.   

There was a notorious Istanbul pogrom against Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in 1955— so many started to leave for Israel.  They were there for the Sinai War that lasted from October 29 until November 6, 1956.  

Today, Turkish Jews in Israel number about 77,000.  
2015 was the first time Jews in Turkey celebrated Chanukah with a public Menorah

By 1990, there were 20,000 Jews living in Turkey with about 18,00 in Istanbul, 1,500 in Izmir, and others living in Edirne, Brusa and Ankara.  By 2017, there are about 17,200 Jews living in Turkey.  
The spiritual and cultural distinction of former days, had ended.  

The president of Turkey is Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  I note that he has become  harsher with Israel than previously.  While a mayor of Istanbul, , " during a June 1997 celebration of the mass murderous 1453 jihad conquest of then Byzantine Constantinople, Erdogan declared: “The Jews have begun to crush the Muslims of Palestine, in the name of Zionism. Today, the image of the Jews is no different from that of the Nazis.”  That wasn't noted by regular newspapers.  This was on Breitbart. 
In 2010, Turkey turned against Israel with the flotilla incident.  "The Gaza flotilla raid with lead ship, Mavi Marmara, was a military operation by Israel against six civilian ships of the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" on 31 May 2010 in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Nine activists were killed in the raid. The flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the TurkishFoundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, with the intention of breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.  Israel has offered Turkey $20 million in compensation for the raid. On 22 March 2013, in a half-hour telephone exchange between Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the former apologized on behalf of his nation; Erdoğan accepted the apology and both agreed to enter into further discussions.  On June 29, 2016 the agreement was finalized and approved by the Israeli government."

In 2012, it was reported that the number of Jews expressing interest in moving to Israel rose by 100%, a large number of Jewish business owners were seeking to relocate their businesses to Israel, and that hundreds were moving every year.
Currently,  the Jewish community is feeling increasingly threatened by extremists. In addition to safety concerns, some Turkish Jews also immigrated to Israel to find a Jewish spouse due to the increasing difficulty of finding one in the small Turkish Jewish community. 

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

No comments:

Post a Comment