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National Archives
[February 2009]

Jewish Museum - Naim Avigdor Guleryuz is curator of the museum. Ketubot and genealogical trees can be found there. [February 2009]

Daniel Kazez developed research: February 2009]

REFERENCES: [February 2009]

Brewer, J. 1830. A Residence at Constantinople, in the Year 1827. Durrie & Peck, New Haven.

Rozen, M. 2002. For a history of Istanbul's Jewish Community, check The Formative Years, 1453-1566. Brill, Leiden.

Genealogy resources The Istanbul Jewish community holds nearly 100,000 records of genealogical insterest, including more than 35,000 marriage records (Chief Rabbinate 1887-, Ashkenazi Community 1923-, Italian Congregation 1870s-) and 30,000 burial records (Hemdat Israel 1899-, Italian burial list 1918-, Italian Şişli Cemetery 1800s-, Kuzguncuk Cemetery 1913-, Ortaköy Cemetery 1939-, Yuksekkaldirim Synagogue 1916-). [February 2009]

When the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmet II encouraged immigration to repopulate, inviting the Jews to live at Hasköy on the east bank of the Golden Horn. Sultan Beyazit II (1481-1512) invited Jews escaping the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal to Istanbul where they mostly settled near the Balat quarter, the west bank of the Golden Horn. That Jewish community had existed since Byzantine times, as did a Jewish settlement of villages along the western Bosphorus shore. Under Sultan Beyazit II (1481-1512), Jews persecuted in Spain and Portugal were encouraged to establish themselves in the Ottoman Empire. In Istanbul the new immigrants settled mostly near the Balat quarter on the western bank of the Golden Horn where a Jewish community had existed since Byzantine times. Jews also settled in villages along the western shore of the Bosphorus. [February 2009]

The older European side, more devout, contains most of Istanbul's commerce and history.The Jewish community was centered on the European side in the neighborhood where Neve Shalom, Istanbul's largest and most famous synagogue, is located. A small Jewish school near the synagogue moved to a larger, more modern campus in Ulus, a suburb to the north. Now, most of the Jewish community lives near the school or on the newer Asian side, more modern and less traditional than the European side. The Asian side's cafes operate during Ramadan with the muezzin's call less prevalent. Chief Rabbi of Turkey is Isak Haleva. Ben Zion Pinto is the president of the 20,000 Jewish Community. The office has been here since 1876. Turkey's Chief Rabbi (Hahambasi, hah-HAHM-bah-shuh) contact is Yemenici Abdullatif Sokak No. 23, 80050 Istanbul, Turkey. (tel +90 212 243 5166, fax +90 212 244 1980; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ). You must make arrangements with the Chief Rabbinate for access only by prior arrangement to Jewish-interest sites. [February 2009]

Jewish History of Istanbul with photos: "Jewish communities sprang up along the Golden Horn, near Galata, Balat and Haskoy.Of the 25,000 Jews living in Turkey, 22,000 of them reside in Istanbul. Most of them are ancestors of those expelled from Spain in 1492. Although they are Orthodox Jews, their practices are a bit different. They do not belong to a synagogue - only to the Jewish community.Overall, there are 17 synagogues in Istanbul and most of them are still active. The most important of these are the Neve Salom Synagogue, the Askenazi Synagogue, the Ahrida (Ohrida) Synagogue, the Sisli (Beth Israel Synagogue) and Ortakoy Synagogues. There is also the Jewish Museum in the Galata Karakoy area."[February 2009]

Jewish History [February 2009]

The Other Secret Jews. book explores the rich history of Turkey's Dönme, Sephardic Jews who converted to Islam in the 1600s [Apr 2014]


BALAT SECTION: On the southern shore of the Golden Horn, Balat, another of the quarters in which Jews settled after expulsion from Spain, enlarging a community which had lived here since Byzantine times, .After the expulsion from Spain, this Jewish section increased. Today, this working-class area has only two remaining, but important, synagogues. The Jewish school and hospital are nearby. Macedonian Jews founded these synagogues centuries ago.

Ahrida Synagogue (a.k.a. Okhrida) at 9 Vodina Caddesi (a.k.a. Kürkçü Çesme Sokak) beautifully restored.

Yanbol Synagogue at 16 Vodina Caddesi. Korin Hanim, "Madame Corinne," holds the keys to Yanbol.

GALATA SECTION: (EASTERN SIDE) now called Karaköy. The area around the Galata Tower (now a restaurant) in Beyoglu has bustling street life with great historical and artistic value such as the Kamondo staircase within easy walking distance of one another. This area of Istanbul around the cylindrical, conical-roofed Galata Tower on a steep hillside has manyy Jewish sites as well as electronics shops and gentrified classic Ottoman houses. The bustling neighborhood between Karaköoy on the Golden Horn and Beyoglu on the heights began in Byzantine times when Galata was a walled city separate from Constantinople, inhabited and ruled by the Genoese, with numerous Jewish families. After 1453, the Jewish population in Galata increased, particularly under Sultan Beyazit II. From then on until a few decades ago, Galata was mostly Jewish. Today's Jewish population, mostly living in other parts of the city now, still attend Galata's synagogues such as

Neve Shalom Synagogue (means "oasis of Peace" in Hebrew). Although Jews no longer live close to it, Neve Shalom maintains its status as the largest and most famous synagogue in the city. (Article about reopening of Neve Shalom after terrorist bombing. Büyük Hendek Caddesi no. 67, midway between the Galata Tower and Sishane Square. [February 2009])

Italian Synagogue: Beautiful on the inside accessible through a nondescript door next to textile stores on a stretch of Istanbul's shopping district. More a local synagogue, many community members live/d within walking distance.Founded in the 1880s by Istanbul Jews with factional disputes within the community, who placed themselves under the protection of the Italian ambassador. Two entrances to the synagogue: the main (front) entrance on Sair Ziya Pasa Sokak with a Gothic-like facade and marble staircase, and a side entrance at Laleli Cesme Sokak No 8. The appealing, harmonious, and well preserved interior has with double hanging arches in the balcony, a deep dome with stars and stained glass windows, and Turkish carpets on the floor.

Zülfaris Synagogue Museum as well as the office of the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey, located at Yemenici Abdüllatif Sokak No. 23.

Schneider Synagogue (Terziler Havrasi, now an art gallery)

HASKÖY SECTION: Tourism and photo. Vineyards and forests covered these gentle slopes on the northeast shore of the Golden Horn in Byzantine times. A royal preserve after the Ottoman conquest, centuries later an imperial shipyard and arsenal were built on the shore. Residential areas developed farther up the slope. This northeast shore is now mainly shipbuilding. Hasköy, a district of this shore, holds the Jewish Home for the Aged, the Kamondo Mansion (wealthy Jewish family), and a large Jewish cemetery housing the Kamondo mausoleum, now a Turkish Navy headquarters. Jewish communities were invited to take up residence at Hasköy, on the eastern bank of the Golden Horn in 1453 by Sultan Mehmet II ("the Conqueror," 1451-1481). between 1583 and 1647, Hasköy was a district inhabited for the most part by Ashkenazi Jews, indicating also that the majority of these Ashkenazi arrived in Istanbul in the 15 th , 16 th and 17 th centuries. Moreover, Hasköy was a centre for Karaite Jews in the 16 th century and around 1524, the Karaite Josef Rabizi founded a vakıf (pious foundation) in order to build and maintain a fountain, key monument in the life of a district. This foundation implied that the Karaite group had a high degree of integration in Hasköy.

HAYDARPASA (HI-dar-pah-shah): Asian side suburb of Haydarpasa  is famous for Haydarpasa Station, the Asian terminus of trains from Anatolia to Istanbul, and as the site of the historic Selimiye Barracks, where Florence Nightingale nursed the wounded of the Crimean War.

Beautiful Hemdat Israel Synagogue on the eastern shore of the Bosphorus is set in the quiet residential area of Yeldegirmeni Mahallesi on Izzettin Sokak at Süngertasi Sokak and dedicated on September 3, 1899.In the late 19th century, the Jewish community suffered from attacks by Greek Orthodox factions, one of which maneuvered to have a military unit sent from the Selimiye Barracks to halt construction of the synagogue. Sultan Abdulhamit II ended the harrassment so in his honor the synagogue was named Hemdat, "He who is compassionate (to Israel)," a play on the sultan's name "Hamid," which means compassionate. The  large, harmonious space with arabesque painting and a marble ark and large crystal chandeliers. The arabesque painting was refreshed in 1990-91. On the north side of the synagogue is a lovely garden. [Febriary 2009]

KUZGUNCUK SECTION: Kuzguncuk is a residential suburb just south of the eastern pylon of the southernmost Bosphorus Bridge and north of Üsküdar.

Currently two synagogues in Kuzguncuk: Bet Yaakov Synagogue (built 1878) and Bet Nissim Synagogue (built in the 1840s). The Merkez Synagogue is at 9 Icadiye Caddesi (a.k.a. Beth Yaakov Synagogue.) On Icadiye Caddesi are Merkez and the Virane synagogues, known as the Kal de Abaso ("Lower Synagogue," the Merkez) and Kal de Ariva ("Upper Synagogue," the Virane). The Virane Synagogue is at 8 Yakup Sokak. Farther east is the still-active Kuzguncuk Jewish Cemetery. [February 2009]

ORTAKÖY SECTION: Nineteenth century Ortaköy, a Bosporus village, was the summer residence of wealthy Istanbul families. Today, Ortaköy is a fashionable part of metropolitan Istanbul.

An orphanage existed here. Etz Ahayim Synagogue at 38 Muallim Naci Caddesi on the shore road was built in 1660 and destroyed by fire October 1941. The marble ark survived and remains in situ in the garden as a historic monument.

Yukeskkaldirim Synagogue book with a list of burials associated with the synagogue, from 1916 to 2001 with nearly 3000 entries. Book A Hundred Year Old Synagogue in Yuksekkaldirim , by Erdal Frayman, Mose Grosman, and Robert Schild (published in 2000). This book is available at the JewishGen Mall. Source: Daniel Kazez [June 2001].

An ongoing dispute between Sephardi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews (5% of Turkish Jews) concerning burial sites in cemeteries: The office of the Hakham Bashi (chief rabbi) put an ad in the daily Şalom stating that the Sephardis were reserving burial places in Ashkenazi cemeteries and the Ashkenazis were doing the same in Sephardi cemeteries. The Hakham Bashi warned the community that this posed a "big problem" and asked people reserving burial plots in the other's cemeteries to consult him first. The Ashkenazi Foundation gave a statement that their "door is open to everyone" after the ad was published and called its acting board to an emergency meeting. Sephardi cemeteries were running out of room. Until now, intermarried Sephardis and Ashkenazis were buried side by side either in the six cemeteries for Sephardi Jews or the one for Ashkenazi Jews. Ulus Cemetery was more popular in the community. [May 2011]

Hasköy Jewish Cemetery: Beyoğlu Jewish Cemetery.  Also see Balat Quarter in the old city on the southern shore of the Golden Horn where the historic Jewish ghetto was located. Haskoy Cemetery, at the northern tip of the Golden Horn, the oldest burial ground in European Turkey, has tombstones from the 15th century. The expressway, which skirts the center of the northern part of the city, passes directly through the large Hasköy Jewish Cemetery. There are near 22,000 graves in this cemetery. Surnames Indexed from the book: Haskoy Cemetery.

Italian Jewish Cemetery: Sisli (SHEESH-lee) is a prosperous residential and commercial district, 2.5 km north of Taksim Square. Şişli one of 39 districts of Istanbul, is located on the European side of the city.

Sisli Beth Israel Synagogue and the Italian Jewish Cemetery are in Sisli section. (If the gate is not open, look for the caretaker.) Behind the Baroque entrance to the cemetery are tombstones inscribed with names and epitaphs in Italian, English, French, German, Russian and Latin. Many nineteenth century burials are here. The cemetery was founded to serve 400 Jewish families who had emigrated from the Crimea to Istanbul in 1854-55, but was later dedicated to the use of the Italian Jewish Association by order of Sultan Abdulaziz.The cemetery is well kept by resident custodians and still active for burials.[February 2009]

Kuzguncuk Jewish Cemetery: Nakkaştepe Jewish Cemetery or Kuzguncuk Nakkestepe Cemetery. On Icadiye Caddesi and one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in the city, the Beit Yaakov Synagogue Foundation is responsible for maintenance of the cemetery and burials. Jews apparently built a settlement in Kuzguncuk before the Ottoman period. [February 2009].

Ortakoy Jewish Cemetery: burial listings [February 2009]

Star Over Istanbul Jewish Cemetery: "In 1992, Sephardic Jews of Turkey celebrated 500 years of life in the Ottoman-Turkish domain."

[UPDATE] Photos by Edgar Hauster of Ulus Sephardi Cemetery [August 2015]

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 03:41
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