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TURKEY, modern republic in Asia Minor and S.E. Europe (see *Ottoman Empire for previous period). In the peace treaty of Lausanne (July 24, 1923), Turkey established complete sovereignty in Anatolia, the southeastern part of Thrace, and some islands in its territorial waters. The international status of the Turkish republic established in 1923 was secured, and in the following year the caliphate was abolished. The Treaty of Lausanne secured the rights of the religious and ethnic minorities (par. 39), who were permitted to have their own social institutions, funds, and schools (par. 40). In paragraph 41 the Turkish government assured the minorities their personal status as provided by their religious canons. The Jews showed their Turkish patriotism in the new republic: they relinquished the claims connected with their rights as a minority, and many renounced their foreign nationality and became Turkish citizens. Turkish Jewry was represented in parliament by Solomon Adato (from 1946 until his death in 1953) and by Henry Suriano (from 1954). The Turkish republic was declared a secular state, and Mustafa *Kemal Atatürk, its founder, attempted to erase all signs of the religious-institutional influence of Islam and also to maintain equality of Christianity and Judaism in public life. Even the wearing of "clerical" garb was prohibited and permitted only to the heads of the autonomous churches. For the Jews the prohibition on teaching Hebrew in schools was a hard blow. After Atatürk's death in 1938 many of the prohibitions he introduced were eased (e.g., the use of Arabic during the call for prayer in the mosques), but the general attitude toward religious minorities remained unchanged.

Economic Activities

In 1926 G. Bie Raondal, the U.S. consul general in Istanbul, wrote: "In the former Ottoman Empire they [the Jews] occupied important government positions, but the tendency of the new nationalism, ushered in by the republic, has been to put them in the same relative position as other non-Muslims, although they have never been persecuted in Turkey. [Now they] have carved out for themselves a place in every branch of the national life and are found as traders, bankers, professional men, office workers, and even laborers" (Turkey, 1926). Since 1926 many changes have occurred in modern Turkey, and the Jewish community has dwindled to an almost insignificant minority from the economic aspect. Although the severe blow of the capital tax (see below) was only temporary, it had a psychological effect on the Jewish community and was one of the causes of Jewish emigration from the country.

Jewish national life did not develop in *Istanbul and the towns which remained within the boundaries of Turkey; the Zionist idea had only few followers in the capital. The negative attitude of the Turkish government to Zionism was a heritage from Young Turk and Ottoman times, and influenced Turkish Jews. However, the idea of full integration in the Turkish state appeared to be unrealistic. The Jews, like the Greeks and the Armenians, unofficially remained second-class citizens. This was both demonstrated and felt in particular during World War II, so long as Hitler's antisemitic propaganda gained ground and it seemed that the Axis powers were moving toward victory. To meet wartime needs in the neutral Turkish republic a capital tax (varlik vergisi) was approved (1942) which was to be levied on owners of large farms (Muslims) and other taxpayers. However, it soon became apparent that the really important determinants of a taxpayer's assessment were his religion and nationality. The taxpayers' lists were prepared according to denominational indications. M (for Muslims) had to pay 5% of their capital or income (the same grade was accorded to foreign citizens); the tax rate for D (*Doenmeh) was about twice as much as for Muslims; for G (Gayri Muslims, non-Muslims) assessments would be made by special commissions, in accordance with their opinions. In fact the poorest among the non-Muslims, especially Jewish artisans, wage earners, and others, were taxed at figures wildly beyond their ability to pay. Members of the minorities who had retained or obtained foreign protection at the time of the armistice and Allied occupation (1919–23) were able to have their assessments reduced to the Muslim level. The Jews who had trusted

Jewish communities in Turkey in 1930. Names in boldface indicate those still in existence in 2005. Jewish communities in Turkey in 1930. Names in boldface indicate those still in existence in 2005.

in the new republic and thrown their lot in with it were subject to victimization and punishment. Through the spring and summer of 1943 the continuing arrests, seizures, and deportations to labor camps were almost all of non-Muslims, the majority of whom were Jews. Many businessmen were ruined by assessments higher than their total possessions; others, though wealthy enough to pay, went bankrupt because no time was allowed them to find sufficient liquid money. The pro-Axis press expressed cordial approval of these developments, and denounced people of "alien blood," "Turks by name only," who should be punished for their disloyalty and ingratitude. With the decline of German power, as the downfall of the Axis became evident, a law was passed (1944) releasing all defaulters still detained and canceling all amounts still unpaid. The Democratic Party even promised compensation for damages caused to health and wealth.

After the end of the war the general economic situation and its structure changed for the better. Primarily, the reforms introduced after the establishment of the republic began to be felt. In addition, the aid given by the United States, aimed to strengthen the social structure of the population and hence the strategic value of the country, showed its efficacy. The Jewish population also took part in this recovery. In 1968 the economic situation of Turkish Jewry was good and the community contained some wealthy men. Most Jews were merchants, employees (very few of them in government service), or artisans. There were few underprivileged since most of the needy had settled in Israel soon after the establishment of the state.

Minor discrimination against Jews in Istanbul occurred, however, influenced by the tension between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus. During the anti-Greek riots in 1955 and 1964 the Jews were among the victims. The *Six-Day War (1967) also aroused anti-Jewish feelings and led to some small-scale incidents. The Turkish government, which had established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949, always attempted to quell mob turbulence, but not with full effect. As the government's attitude toward Muslim religious activities became more tolerant, the rightist parties used it as a cover for anti-Jewish propaganda. Antisemitism being prohibited by law, anti-leftist and anti-Communist slogans were employed demagogically. By use of these tactics a small daily, Bugün, raised its circulation from 10,000 copies to 60,000. Some Turkish newspapers published articles in 1948 and later condemning emigration to Israel, and a few attacked the government for allowing it. They argued that the exodus of Jews would undermine the economy, and that communists were helping to organize emigration. Later, the amount of anti-Jewish material published in Turkey was reduced. Among those continuing to publish such material was Cevat Rifat Atilhan, who wrote Le Sionisme, Danger pour l'Islamisme (1951; almost all copies were seized by the authorities) and "Turks, Here is Your Enemy" (Turkish, 1959). Atilhan also wrote anti-Jewish articles in the newspaper Yeni Istiklal. Between 1951 and 1961 the newspaper Büyük Dogˇu ("Great East"), whose editor was Necip Fazil Kisakürek, printed many anti-Jewish articles.


The first census of the Turkish republic, held in 1927, showed some 79,454 Jews in a total population of over 13.5 million (see Table: Distribution of Jewish Population in Turkey), of whom half were in Istanbul. By 1945, the total Jewish population had decreased to 76,965, and in 1955 to 40,345. Immediately after the establishment of the State of Israel there was large-scale emigration of Turkish Jews. However, in November 1948, as the result of pressure exerted by the Arab states, emigration was forbidden until early 1949. Later in that year Turkey recognized the State of Israel de jure, and Jews were again permitted to emigrate. The government even put ships of its merchant shipping line at the disposal of the emigrants, but forbade Israel representatives to organize emigration (until 1950). A total of 4,362 Turkish Jews went to Israel in 1948, and 26,295 in 1949–50. After 1950 the number of emigrants fell, although the Turkish government made no difficulties for those wishing to leave, except for the prohibition of taking out money. Between 1952 and 1955 only 2,182 Jews went to Israel. It is presumed that about 37,000 Jews left Turkey for Israel between 1948 and 1970; however about ten percent of these, principally from Istanbul and Izmir (peddlers, bootblacks, small wage earners, etc.), returned to Turkey, as conditions had improved in the country. Since 1960 the official Turkish census commission has not compiled statistics by religion, hence it is impossible to know precise figures for Turkey's Jews. Estimates are 38,000 for 1965, and about 20,000 in 2005: some 17,000 in Istanbul, 2,000 in Izmir, and smaller groups in Ankara, Adana, Çanakkale, Bursa, and Kirklareli.

Distribution of Jewish Population in Turkey Distribution of Jewish Population in Turkey

Year 1927 official census Year 1965 chief rabbinate estimates1 Year 1965–70 Jewish institutions estimates2
1 According to letter Aug. 3, 1965
2 World Jewish Congress; Jewish Agency
1. Adana 159 60 70
2. Ankara 663 800 3,200
3. Antakya (Antioch) 100 6
4. Bursa (Brusa) 1,915 350 400
5. Çanakkale 420 300
6. Çoclu 592 40 20
7. Dardanelles 1,109
8. Edirne (Adrianople) 6,098 400 120–400
9. Gallipoli 736 200 200
10. Gaziantep 742 160
11. Iskenderun 60 60
12. Istanbul 47,035 35,000 30,000
13. Izmir (Smyrna) 17,094 5,000 4,800–4,000
14. Kirklareli 978 90 67–35
15. Mersin 122 90 50
16. Milas 259 79
17. Tekirdag (Rodosto) 889 170 120
18. Tire 1063 100
Total 79,454 42,940 40,000

Cultural, Religious, and Social Life

There was a dramatic decline of interest in Judaism and Jewish culture among Turkish Jewry in the period between the two world wars and for a few years after it. The last Hebrew press closed in 1944, when its proprietor emigrated to Ereẓ Israel. After the death in 1931 of the ḥakham bashi R. Be khor Ḥayyim *Bejarano, the official representative of Turkish Jewry, the community did not even feel an immediate necessity to appoint a successor. This absence of a spiritual leader not only led to religious indifference but also to apathy. As the ḥakham bashi was responsible for leading all activities of all Jewish communities in the Turkish republic, his absence was felt in every field of Jewish life. After a long interval Turkish Jewry decided to elect another ḥakham bashi, and R. Raphael David Saban was appointed to head the chief rabbinate (1953–60). He was succeeded by R. David *Asseo in 1960 and R. Isak *Haleva. The ḥakham bashi is assisted by a religious council consisting of a rosh bet din (also bearing the title mara de-atra) and four ḥakhamim. The lay council of the ḥakham bashi deals with secular-social matters concerning the Jewish community; it consists of 19 members (Sephardim and Ashkenazim). Together they support communal institutions such as synagogues, hospitals, cemeteries, old age homes, and schools.

Jewish Communal Schools

Turkish Jewry maintained its own educational institutions. However, the syllabus in all of them was the same as in government schools. When state opposition to religion was reduced (1948), Jews were permitted to teach Hebrew and religion in their schools (for following the prayers). The Turkish government forbade all Zionist activity as well as the existence of organizations with centers abroad which propagated non-Turkish nationalism. Since most Jewish children attended school, illiteracy fell, and almost all of them spoke and read Turkish, although most of them also spoke Ladino.

In the 1920s and 1930s Istanbul had eight Jewish communal schools for boys and girls together and one high school (founded in 1922 as Lycée Juif by the *B'nai B'rith Lodge); their number has decreased since. The Turkish language was the compulsory medium of instruction in all state schools, and in private schools at the primary level. The Jewish schools obtained permission to give one course in elementary Hebrew, needed for reciting the prayers, but not to give instruction in Jewish history and literature. Hebrew studies were de-emphasized as a result of a 1932 law which forbade religious instruction in all Turkish schools.

Abraham *Galanté was one of the enthusiastic supporters of the spread of Turkish and one of the sponsors of replacing the Arabic script by the Latin alphabet (1928). Ladino periodicals, which had previously appeared in Hebrew script, began to be printed in Latin characters; one, in Istanbul, was La Vera Luz (edited by Eliezer Menda), later closed down. Shalom, first edited by Avram Leyon, continues, but only some of its articles were in Ladino, the rest in Turkish. A third, Etoile du Lévant, published in French, ceased in 1948. The monthly periodical (later a quarterly) Hamenorah, published by the B'nai B'rith (1923–38) and edited by David Marcus in three languages (Hebrew, Ladino, and French), carried many important articles concerning the history of Ottoman Jewry. Present-day Jewish writers publish their works in Turkish or French. The Jewish poet Joseph Habib *Gerez wrote in Turkish and described the glories of Istanbul. The library of the chief rabbinate was little used, and Italian Jews made efforts to promote interest in religion and culture. The Turkish authorities did not hinder Jews from religious observance. Nevertheless, most of the younger generation by the 1960s was not observant, and some young people were entirely ignorant of Judaism. The number of marriages to non-Jews increased too.

The Maḥazikei Torah institutions provided religious instruction (and elementary Hebrew language courses) in the evenings and Sunday mornings (Sunday being the official rest day in the Turkish republic) for Jewish boys and girls who attended the Turkish state schools where no Hebrew was taught. There were about 2,000 pupils in these institutions. The Maḥazikei Torah also trained religious functionaries: ḥazzanim, shoḥatim, mohalim. Turkish Jewry also had a rabbinical seminary. It was established in Istanbul in 1955, and about 50 students were registered in the mid-1960s, some of whom were awarded rabbinic ordination. After years of general decline in Jewish life this indicated noticeable progress and a reaction to the general apathy in Jewish education. Izmir is the second largest Jewish community in modern Turkey, with approximately 2,000 Jewish inhabitants (2005). It had two Jewish elementary schools and a secondary one. Other communities were too small to have their own schools.

The usual Jewish philanthropic and social institutions also existed in Istanbul and Izmir: orphanages, hospitals, assistance for poor, etc., all supervised by the Türkiye Hahambashiligˇi, the chief rabbinate of Turkey (letter from the ḥakham bashi dated Aug. 3, 1965).

Ashkenazim and Sephardim

Of Turkey's Jews in 1969, about 95 percent were Sephardim, the rest Ashkenazim, called lehli, the Turkish name for Poles, because during the 17th and 18th centuries the Ashkenazi immigrants had come from Poland. Later, however, there was Ashkenazi immigration from Austria; the German-speaking Austrian Jews formed the elite of the community, and the Great Synagogue built by them became known as the "Oesterreichischer Tempel." Their last officiating rabbi, David Marcus, was born in Russia, studied in Germany, and then settled in Istanbul (1900–44). After his death the congregation remained without a rabbi and went into a decline, being in danger of complete disintegration, although their percentage in the Jewish population increased somewhat. The older generation of Sephardi Jews continued to speak *Ladino, in which language they produced sacred literature, and since the 19th century published many periodicals. In the 1955 census 64 percent among the Jews declared that their mother tongue was Yahudice (Ladino) compared with 84 percent in 1927, but knowledge of Ladino decreased. Neither the Jews nor the Greeks mastered the Turkish language until, under the new regime, it was introduced into the schools and the younger generation learned to speak, read, and write it fluently.


Since all the *Karaite Jews of Egypt left for Israel during the 1950s, as did the remnants of the Karaite community in Hith (Iraq), the Karaite community in Istanbul remained the last in non-Communist Europe. There were about 200 Karaite families (1,000 persons) in Hasköy, a suburb of Istanbul, whose forefathers settled in the city in Byzantine times. They established their own synagogue and cemetery and were completely separated from the Jewish Rabbanite community. They did not intermarry with Rabbanites, with whom the only link was a Rabbanite mohel whom they too employed for circumcisions. Their rabbi, Isaac Kerimi, came from the Crimea. Many Karaites spoke Greek. Their attitude toward Israel was neutral, or even unfriendly.


Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 1–2 (1937–39); D.J. Elazar (ed.) et al., Balkan Jewish Communities: Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey (1984); N. Nathan, in: JJSO, 6 (1964), 172–89; B. Lewis, Emergence of Modern Turkey (1961); Revue encyclopédique juive, 4:18 (1970); N. Robinson, in: J. Freid (ed.), Jews in Modern World, 1 (1962), 50–90; A. Tartakower, Shivtei Yisrael 3 (1969), 253–8. ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: The best bibliography on Jews in the Republic of Turkey is R.N. Bali, Türkiye'de Yayinlanmiş Yahudilikle ilgili kitab, tez ve makaleler bibliyografyasi 1923–2003 (2004). See also: B. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (1960); J.M. Landau, Tekinalp: Turkish Patriot (1984); idem, "Comments on the Jewish Press in Istanbul," in: Etudes Balkaniques, 2 (1990), 78–82; idem, "Turkish-Israeli Cultural and Scientific Relations," in: Ali Ihsan Bagiş (ed.), Actual Situation and Prospects of Turkey's Bilateral Relations with Israel (1992), 85–96; S.J. Shaw, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic (1991); A. Levi, Toledot ha-Yehudim ba-Republikah ha-Turkit (1992); N. Güleryüz, Türk Yahudileri tarihi (1993); E.J. Zürcher, Turkey: A Modern History (1997); R.N. Bali, Cummhuriyet yillarinda Türkiye Yahudileri (1999); idem, Les Relations entre Turcs et Tuifs dans la Turquie moderne (2001); M. Tütüneü (ed.), Turkish-Jewish Encounters (2001); G.E. Gruen, "Turkey," in: R.S. Simon et al. (eds.), The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times (2003), 303–15; Sh. Tuval, Ha-Kehillah ha-Yehudit be-Istanbul 19481992 (2004); A. Nachmani, Turkey Facing A New Millennium (2003); O. Bengio, The Turkish-Israeli Relationship (2004). JEWISH MUSICAL TRADITION: A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 2 vols. (Istanbul, 1937); E. Seroussi, Mizimrat Qedem: The Life and Music of Isaac Algazi from Turkey (1989); idem, "From the Court and Tarikat to the Synagogue: Ottoman Art Music and Hebrew Sacred Song," in: Sufism, Music and Society in Turkey and the Middle East, papers edited by A. Hammarlund, T. Olsson, E. Özdalga, Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, Transactions, vol. 10 (2001), 81–93; P. Dorn, Change and Ideology: The Ethnomusicology of Turkish Jewry, UMI Dissertation Services (2001).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.