On this page, I have included articles that explore
the Jews of Turkey.
Jews of Turkey
1) Saving Jews Throughout History
2) Views of Some Turkish Jews Today
3) "Who Said that All Jews were
Intelligent and Well-Informed?"
4) Loyalty to the Ottoman Empire
5) Establishment of the Ottoman Jewish
6) Christian Anti-Semitism in the
7) Jews Before Turkey
8) Azeri Jews Murdered by Armenians, 1918
9) The Jews of Ottoman Salonica
10) Opinion by Andrew Sacker
11) Turkish Jews Decry Armenian Genocide Bill
Page Bottom: A few links to spots on the TAT site
where Holdwater has "Jewish Reflections"
Here in the land of the Turks we
have nothing to complain of. We possess great fortunes; much gold and
silver are in our hands. We are not oppressed with heavy taxes and our
commerce is free and unhindered. Rich are the fruits of the earth.
Everything is cheap and every one of us lives in peace and freedom. Here
the Jew is not compelled to wear a yellow star as a badge of shame as is
the case in Germany where even wealth and great fortune are a curse for
a Jew because he therewith arouses jealousy among the Christians and
they devise all kind of slander against him to rob him of his gold.
Arise my brethren, gird up your loins, collect all your forces and come
1453 Jews were encouraged to immigrate from Europe. A letter from one
rabbi to his persecuted brethren in Europe burns with the fervour of a
Zionist immigration prospectus, urging settlement in the Promised
Land," Philip Mandel, Constantinople: City of the World's Desire
1453-1924, Ch. 1 (London, 1995). "After the first decades,
their history is that rarity in Jewish history, a happy story. In
Constantinople the words pogrom, ghetto, inquisition had no
|JEWS OF TURKEY—500
YEARS OF SHARED HISTORY
During the Assembly of Turkish-American
Associations’ (ATAA) 10th Convention and also during the ATAA Southern Regional
Conference, outstanding presentations were given which explored the little-known 500-year
relationship the Sephardic Jewish community had and continues to have with Turks and
Turkey. ATA-USA is printing the summaries of these speeches to inform our readers about
the impact this shared history has for Jewish-American and Turkish-American communities
and to give an update on the activities planned to celebrate the sooth anniversary.
The Ottoman Sociopolitical Order and the Jews
Professor Avigdor Levy, Director, Program in Islamic and
Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University, analyzed the social and political
order existing in the Ottoman Empire at the time Jews were welcomed into Turkey by
Sultan Bayazid II following their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1496
during the Inquisition.
Noting that one thing Jews and Turks have in common is that both groups have been
the object of prejudice, Professor Levy went on to point out that while Europeans
saw and admired the external, military and political manifestations of the Ottoman
system of government, they failed to appreciate its religious and ideological
premises, its values and culture. However, for the Ottomans the whole purpose of
government was to implement the Holy Law handed down by God and delivered to mankind
by Muhammed. Government had to conform to the Holy Law and therefore could not be
arbitrary but rather conducted with justice.
The basic premise of justice, coupled with the pragmatism of the regulations, was
the key to the success of the Ottoman system in giving the Middle East long periods
of prosperity and stability which had not been realized before or since. In this
system a unique degree of religious tolerance was accorded to minorities. ln an age
when Catholics and Protestants were brutally massacring each other in Europe and
when Jews were being pursued from one Christian country to another, the Ottoman
subjects were free to practice their religious belief with comparatively few
Traditional Ottoman society was divided into numerous groups, each of which had its
own distinctive rights and obligations. Those who directly served the state were
generally referred to as askeri, meaning “military” or “ruling class.” This
class were exempt from taxes and included not only military personnel but also
bureaucrats and men of religion. In the fifteenth century; thousands of Christians
and some Jews were admitted into this class. All others, Muslims and non-Muslims,
were taxpayers known as reaya, or “flocks:’ Taxes were levied according to the
taxpayer’s ability to pay and the Ottomans strove to prevent abuses.
The Ottomans were great administrators and organizers who knew how to make things
work. In many cases they borrowed existing institutions, developing and perfecting
them, which made them far superior to the original. The Sephardic Jews so perfectly
suited the pragmatic needs of the government, providing a source of strength and
wealth, that the Ottoman authorities helped facilitate their travel and resettlement
in the Empire. Recognized as people of the book, the Jews were made a privileged
In 1516, when the Turks seized Palestine from the Mamluks, the Jews declined the
generous offer of the Sultan to accept Eretz Yisrael as a homeland, Sensing that the
best protection against Christian anti-Semitism was to remain within Ottoman
Jurisdiction, they were too well integrated and comfortable to seek independence.
In the heterogeneous society of the Empire, the minorities lived for the most part
in peace and mutual respect; did business with each other; and lived in peace as
good neighbors in close proximity in a spirit of live and let live. The Ottoman
government felt duty bound to accept both Muslim and non-Muslim refugees not only in
the tradition of tolerance and pluralism, but also because they recognized that
people with specialized knowledge and talents were a source of wealth and strength.
Refugees came from virtually all parts of Europe, generally fleeing political and
religious persecution in their native lands. The Ukrainians and Russians came in the
lath and 19th centuries. Following the Napoleonic wars, many Italians, French and
Spaniards came, followed later by the Poles. Jews came at virtually all times.
Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and France immigrated to the Ottoman empire in the early
15th century, but they were overshadowed by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews.
Ottoman hospitality was very welcome to the Jews because the Ottomans allowed
religious minorities a great deal of communal autonomy. This was known as the Millet
system, which made minorities an integral part of the sociopolitical system. The
Ottomans regulated the structure of the government but allowed latitude in the
execution of policy. Therefore, they preferred that the internal administration of
minorities be conducted by the minorities themselves. Jewish communities were
considered one millet and their internal affairs were conducted by the local rabbis
with the assistance of lay leaders.
Jewish communal autonomy included the right to maintain administrative structures
that fulfilled all religious, educational, cultural, social and even many legal
needs of the community. However, in the 18th and 19th centuries the condition of the
Jews declined materially and culturally. They lost their special skills and position
while most families became impoverished. This was not the result of discrimination,
but rather the effect of the general Ottoman decline.
In the 19th century as the Ottoman empire lost territories in the Balkans, many Jews
were forced to flee with the Ottomans. The Ottoman authorities helped to resettle
these refugees. Jews remembered all of the Turkish hospitality that had been
extended to them through the centuries with great celebrations in 1892,
commemorating the fourth centennial of the expulsion of Jews from Spain. They were
the sultan’s loyal subjects until the end of the empire.
Jews and Turks in the Twentieth Century Dr. Heath Lowry, Executive Director of the
Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington, D.C., spoke about the Jewish-Turkish
relationship in the twentieth century. He stressed the good relations between Jews
and Turks during the years of the Turkish revolution of 1920-1923 which led Mustafa
Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey to declare, in a speech in Izmir on February 2,
"There are one people who have tied their destiny together with the Turkish
nation. These are the Jews who have proven their loyalty to this nation and this
The Jews had harbored no movement of nationalism or engaged in struggles for
national entity from the Turks as had the Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Rumanians and
others. During the Greek occupation of Izmir (1919-1922) they had refused to lend
support to the occupying forces and celebrated the liberation of the area by the
Turks, The Jews feared for the safety of their coreligionists who had come under
Christian rule as the result of the successful revolutionary wars against the Turks
at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. They continued to believe
that Turkish rule was the best protection against Christian anti-Semitism. Turkey
never allowed anti-Semitic behavior.
The focus of the newly-emerged state of Turkey in 1923 was nationalism and
linguistic unity. It took some time for the Jews of Turkey to fit comfortably into
the new society since most of them still spoke the Judeo-Spanish language of their
ancestors. Not because of anti-Semitism but because of the fervor of the
newly-established Turkish nationalism, Jews suffered in some anti-minority incidents
including the unfair capital gains tax which was instituted in 1944, and rescinded
after a few months. However, Dr. Lowry stressed that Jewish life among the Turks
continued to be one of safety, harmony and good relations between the two peoples.
Especially, he noted the Turkish rescue of Jews from France and Greece during World
War II serving as a passageway for European Jewry to Palestine. Jerusalem’s Mayor
Teddy Kollek was active in the Jewish Agency at this time and witnessed Turkish
resistance to Nazi pressure. Later, Turkey became a refuge for Jews from Iran.
Today’s Jewish population in Turkey is smaller, about 25 thousand within a Moslem
population of 54 million, but has stabilized—no longer as a separate minority but
rather as an integral part of the country. Thanks to the encouragement of such
Jewish intellectuals as Henri Soriano, Moise Franco and Abraham Galante to learn
Turkish, Jews are now successful businessmen and industrialists. They have 14
synagogues, 16 rabbis, a chief rabbi (and his council of 30 lay leaders), a mikvak,
two parochial schools, three social clubs, a special hospital, home for the elderly
and a Jewish newspaper.
The Jewish community in Turkey is presently engaged in preparations for the
celebration of the 500th anniversary of their welcome into the Ottoman Empire. In
conclusion, Dr. Lowry expressed the hope that in the next hundred years their
descendants and ours will be on hand to mark the 600th anniversary as well.
Organizations in Turkey and America
At the ATAA Southern Regional Conference as well as at the
10th Convention, Rachel Amado Bortnick, past president of Los Amigos Sefaradis of the San
Francisco Bay Area, moderated the panel dealing with the modern Sephardic community. She
began by quoting historian Cecil Roth who said:
“Jewish people must always recall the Ottoman Empire with gratitude who, at one of
Judaism’s darkest hours, flung open its door widely and kept them open:’
She lamented the fact that most Jews in the United States are unaware of the vital role
played by Turkey in Jewish history, and sometimes defend Turkey’s enemies out of
ignorance. She then noted that Spain owes Turkey a debt of gratitude for making it
possible for the Sephardim to perpetuate their culture. In contrast, the Sephardim who
went elsewhere, lost their heritage.
She introduced American Sephardi Federation President Leon Levy at the ATAA Southern
Regional Conference, and he noted that although it was billed as regional it had national
and international implications. He advised his audience that his remarks were more
emotional than of the academic character of the professors who gave the history of the
Sephardic Jews in Turkey. His most poignant moment came when he recalled that his daughter
was visiting in Istanbul, Turkey a few days before the Neve Shalom synagogue massacre. She
had wanted to attend the Sabbath service on that fatal Saturday, but had to return to the
United States. He recalled the tremendous outpouring of sympathy from thousands of Turkish
mourners when he attended the funerals in Istanbul, and noted that this was indicative of
the camaraderie between the Turks and their Jewish citizens. This attack is considered by
Turks as an attack on Turkey itself and not one on a minority group.
Mr. Levy related the activities of America’s Sephardic Community which numbers only 3%
of the whole U.S. Jewish population. The American Jewish population in total only
comprises 3% of the total U.S. population. Although Sephardim are small in numbers, they
make a much more substantial impact through their leadership. He noted that the last Grand
Rabbi of the Ottoman Empire, Haim Nahum (1924) stated:
“It is actually an understatement that there was no anti-Semitism in Turkey. In fact,
there was a pro-Semitism. Ottoman governments treated their Jewish subjects with a special
consideration and compassion as one of their own, as one of the most loyal and devoted
subjects of the empire:”
Experiences of a Sepharic Jew in the Late Days of the Ottoman Empire At both the 10th
Convention and the Southern Regional Conference, a very special part of the panel about
Jews in Turkey was the recollections of Albert Amateau, a Sephardic Jew, who at 99 years
of age lived during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. He gives his audience a glimpse
of what life was like for his community in Milas, a small agricultural town in
Southwestern Turkey. His eye witness account of the Ottoman treatment of Jews continues
with his experiences as a student in Izmir and Istanbul.
In Milas, the Jewish families had integrated themselves with their Turkish neighbors
living with them in complete harmony and amity with and among them. When Amateau attended
high school in Izmir, he was amazed to see that the Jewish community had isolated itself.
This lifestyle may have been patterned after the Greek and Armenian communities, who by
their own volition, chose to segregate themselves completely in enclaves at the very edges
of the towns, and to lead a segregated social, cultural, and even at times commercial
It is well known and even admitted by the missionaries that under the provisions of the
capitulations the European Powers had compelled the Sultan to concede a number of
extraterritorial privileges to their nationals in Turkey. The Christian missionaries—as
indirect agents of propaganda for their governments— established schools, hospitals,
clinics, and clubs, ostensibly to help the native Christian population. In reality, their
programs and aims were to proselyte orthodox Christians into Catholic or Protestant
disciplines. They also planned to proselyte Jews and Muslims, but in all the years Amateau
was there, he never saw any Jew or Muslim who had converted to Christianity through the
efforts of missionaries. Although unsuccessful in this effort, they continually denigrated
the Turks and the Ottoman authorities, as crude, inferior and lacking in culture, and as
religious fanatics, thus, preaching antagonism and sedition. The Greeks, already fired
with their ultra patriotic enosis (union with Greece), and the Armenians, encouraged by
Russia to dream of their utopian Armenian Republic within the territories of Turkey, were
easy prey to conversion and to plots of sedition and rebellion.
Amateau recounted his experiences in Izmir of watching Ottoman officials carry a
considerable cache of arms and ammunition from an Armenian church. He then points to
Armenian attempts to have a place in Jewish Holocaust memorials as denigrating the honor
of the Jews who died in Hitler’s camps. They were not in arms against Germany but the
Greeks and Armenians were armed revolutionaries. In fact, he pointed to instances when
Muslim Turks saved Jews from attacks by Greek and Armenian gangs who were fueled by anti-semitism.
This elderly gentleman possesses a wealth of first hand experiences of this critical era
of history and is an invaluable resource for the Turkish-American community. For a summary
of his life please see p. 60 in the People Section.
Rediscovery of a
Golden Age: The Sephardic Experience in Turkey
With a slide presentation, Professor Elli
Cohen, Professor of Pathology at the University of Miami, detailed the relationship
between the Ottoman Sultans and their Sephardic subjects. The friendship between
Suleyman the Magnificent and Joseph Nassi, a Marrano from Portugal, was explained,
as well as the significant contributions of the Sephardic Jews to Ottoman military
The sultan conferred the title of Grand Rabbi on Haim Nahum, which provided the
non-hierarchial Jewish community an overlay of Ottoman chain-of-command
administrative structure. Some in the present-day Jewish community have expressed a
desire to have a similar position of leadership in effect in the United States.
These presentations on the Sephardic special 500-year relationship with Turks and
Turkey marked the beginning of an effort to acquaint both communities with this
proud history and to plan activities for the commemorative celebration in 1992. As
the Commemoration Committee CoDirector Bernard Ouziel commented at the Southern
Regional Conference Luncheon:
"The commemoration is a beacon of brotherhood and friendship, which will teach
about freedom and fight ignorance. We are embarking on a wondrous adventure in
international fellowship with a specific focus of educating our coreligionists, as
well as all Americans."
ATA-USA, Winter 1989
Turkish actions during the Inquisition:
SULTAN II BAYEZID (Born) 1447 -
(Deceased) 1512 CE
During the years 1490 to 1497 Sultan Bayezid II accepted the exiled Jews from
Italy, Spain and Portugal. In 1492 Kemal Reis and his fleet were sent to Cadiz
to take the Jews in charge. During the reign of Bayezid II, the king and queen
of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, signed an edict of expulsion for the Jews.
The edict was issued under the pressure of the church on the 31st of March
1492 and the Jews had to leave the country until the 2nd of August 1492. The
last lot of Jews gathered in the port of Cadiz faced a dilemma: Those who left
port were attacked by the pirates, those who went on land were burned at the
stake by the inquisition. About a thousand people waited in anguish. At the
last minute arrived a small fleet manned by the Turkish admiral Kemal Reis who
took the refugees under his protection. Thus organizing a convoy of Jewish
immigrants towards the Ottoman empire. Of the approximately 600,000 Spanish
Jews, half were baptized, 100,000 went to Portugal, some went to the
Netherlands, Italy, North Africa and the New World. But, the biggest lot
reached the Ottoman Empire, numbering about 150,000 people. When the Jews who
went to Portugal were exiled too in 1497, a big majority of them found refuge
in the Ottoman Empire. Whereas the migration of forcibly converted Jews to
Ottoman lands lasted several decades. In 1501 he accepted the Jews who fled
from France. At a later period, the Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin who
went to Brazil were tracked by the inquisition who persecuted and compelled
them to emigrate to New Amsterdam, today's New York. The immigrants met in the
Ottoman Empire about 50,000 Romaniot, Karaite and Ashkenazi Jews. The Jews
which may have entered Anatolia following the collapse of the Khazars; those
who may have followed Alp Arslan after his entry to Anatolia and the
communities which existed in the south-east since ancient times are not part
of the estimated figures.
Yavuz Sultan Selim who abrogated the Roman edict of no return has to be
honored as the Sultan who paved the way for today's Israel.
The above are notes from a list of
other Turkish actions regarding the Jews; it wasn't only during the
Inquisition period when Turks came to the rescue of the Jews. More may be read
of Some Turkish Jews Today
Still, I worried that my view of Turkey and the
Turks might be too sanguine. So I sought out Turkish Jews and quizzed them at length
about the difficulties they face, living in an overwhelmingly Muslim country — but
again I came up empty. Like their Muslim counterparts, Turkish Jews weren't shy
about spelling out their country's faults — their diagnosis was, in fact, exactly
the same: Most of our politicians are bums. But they all insisted that they had no
special problems as Jews, because there was no anti-Semitism in Turkey.
"Sure," they acknowledged, "there were instances of discrimination in
the past, notably, the special taxes that wiped out so much Jewish wealth in Turkey
in the 1940s — but those taxes were imposed on all Turkish minorities, wiping out
Greeks and Armenians too, in a perfectly even-handed way. And since then, we've had
no problems here that other Turks don't share." "Well," I said,
"there was that incident in 1984 when terrorists burst into Istanbul's Neva
Shalom synagogue and mowed down 22 worshippers." "Yes," my informants
said, "but those men spoke Arabic, not Turkish."
From "Don’t Call Them Arabs: Ramadan in
Istanbul," by Barbara Lerner,
Chicago writer, psychologist, and attorney; January 30, 2002, National Review article
Holdwater: contrast with
treatment of Jews in today's Armenia ...
assuming any are left, these days.
Sweet Little Story
A STORY ABOUT TOLERANCE FROM EDIRNE
The year was 1971 and we were five Jewish students in the first
year of Edirne Lisesi (high school). That day we were going to have oral test in the
Turkish literature class. We were distressed
because just the previous day we the Jews celebrated a very
important religious holiday and we had spent all day in the
synagogue and we were unable to study for this exam properly.
While we kept worrying, the teacher, who was a Turk born
and raised in Russia and graduated from the Moscow University,
entered to the class room. She took her place and before doing
anything else, she first looked at us and then to the other
students and gave us this speech; " Friends, as you know today you will be tested
orally. I am sure you had studied well, but I know
that our Jewish friends couldn't because they just had the holiday
of Yom Kippur yesterday. They starved all day long and prayed in
their temple. I remember my childhood and because I was raised in a communist country I
never celebrated my Muslim holidays. I used to have very important exams in the Ramadan
holiday. With your permission I want to exempt our Jewish friends from today's exam".
We the Jewish students were relieved and admired this teachers' tolerance towards us.
This memory I shared with you is only one of the many examples
which shows how the Turks are tolerant to other religions.
-- Moiz Bayer (Bayarbagcioglu)
"WHO SAID THAT ALL JEWS WERE
INTELLIGENT AND WELL-INFORMED"?
(J. E. Botton)
Holdwater: J.E. Botton
is a Sephardic who appears to me as wanting to knock some sense into his fellow
Jews, who can too easily be found in the anti-Turkish camp. Here is another quote from the fabulous Dr. Botton
that unenlightened Jews may do well to bear in mind.
Mahmut Esat Ozan
The Turkish Forum
I am obliged to write this answer because my name and some of my thoughts were
implicated in the letters coming from Messrs Alvaro Guevara y Vasquez, and Mr.
Samuel Hassid. [Presumably Jewish in origin or sympathizers as such]
Gentlemen, You have grossly misinterpreted the statement I had made recently to Mr.
Alan Keyes of the MSNBC program "ALAN KEYES IS MAKING SENSE." In a letter
I sent Mr. Keyes I said the following: "I have not a single drop of Jewish or
Christian blood in my veins, nor am I a person of color. I am a Turk, yet, I adore
You people thought perhaps that I was bragging for being devoid of those ethnic
backgrounds mentioned in my letter. It was not so! I was merely explaining to Alan
Keyes that despite the fact that I had no blood relationship with any of the
aforementioned three distinct races I was still rooting for Israel.
Mr. Hassid, your statement which said that you were sorry to correct "two small
points" committed by my my good friend and schoolmate Dr. Jacques Botton, of
Lynchburg, Va.is in itself quite erroneous. First, your contention that some of the
inhabitants of Asia Minor are not even 'Minor-Asians' but Balkanians (greeks,
serbians, bosnians, bulgarians, albanians etc.) [Your spelling]. That statement
should be corrected. Those people who were forced to migrate to Anatolia were the
remnants of Muslim Ottoman Turks who lived in those areas for centuries as Turkish
One may ask you why the Israelis give to a myriad of black Ethiopians and to many
Yemenites the appellation of "Jew "? What makes them Jews? It is not their
color, but their beliefs make them Jews. Secondly, Bernard Lewis whom you prefer
over to Stanford Shaw has said the very same words Shaw has been saying all these
years. They are both astute historians, knowledgeable on the subject of Ottoman
Muslim verities. Neither one of the two has received in the past, nor do they
receive presently any remuneration from the Turks.
Furthermore, please be advised that I will not allow you to put words in my mouth
saying that I was 'proud of not having any Jewish blood.' I never entertained such a
racist notion. You are responsible for telling the world that my innocent statement
was manipulated by your ungrateful attitude towards the Turks. Our ancestors opened
not only the gates of their vast Ottoman Empire to the Spanish and Portuguese Jews
but more importantly they opened their hearts to them, and they performed that
magnanimous act at a time when no Christian nation in Europe, or for that matter no
one else in the world was willing to accept them into their frontiers even for
temporary transitional purposes.
It was the Turkish Sultan Beyazid II who ordered naval ships to pick up these
severely discriminated helpless human beings during the Spanish Inquisition, and
transport them free of charge to wherever they wished to settle in their immense
Ottoman Turkish territory.
I hate to sound like a broken record on this subject, but cataloguing all these
historical truths and bringing them out in the open seems to be necessary here. Also
needed to add are the rescue operations performed by the Turks during the Second
World War by officially reclaiming even non-Turkish citizen Jews on the Island of
Rhodes as Turks, and saving them from Hitler's death squads. I'm compelled to
question the reasons behind the unfathomable zeal with which you display your bias
against the Turks. I may even go further and find the whole thing bordering on the
limits of something called "ingratitude."
I would like to inform you that there is another person such as yourself who has
been parroting similar views you espouse when it comes to the tolerant, and generous
Turks. Unfortunately, he, too, has misspoken in his preposterous statements. His
name is Alvaro Guevara y Vasquez, and the following is the statement he made
verbatim: " If we (the Jews) have been accepted by many countries of the
Diaspora, during the great purges against Jews in Europe, it has been in the
interest of those countries, not because of justice and moral obligation.!"
I urge you, Senor Alvaro Guevara y Vasquez, please to read one of the previous
paragraphs where I indicated that during those "great purges" you
mentioned, no country, I mean NO Christian country had accepted the Jews. If you
still insist on asking me the question of "How then Jews are found in several
parts of Europe and the Mediterranean countries today."? my answer would be
very simple. This situation is owed to the fact that the vast Ottoman Empire used to
possess those lands it had acquired by shedding Turkish blood on the battlefields
following several wars during the long history of the empire. This action of theirs
was similar to something akin to the conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and
the exploits of the now defunct British Empire. Ensuing the dissolution of the said
Ottoman Empire the Jews, who were dispersed to various parts of it simply became a
part of the new nations which were created from that dissolution. Allow me to
illustrate a point:
I once had a chance and rare privilege for conducting a brief interview with Dr.
Edward Teller, the world renowned physicist and the father of the Hydrogen bomb.
This event took place in Miami, Florida in 1986. A Jew himself, he was very pleasant
to me after he was told that I was a journalist of Turkish extraction. During our
question and answer period he turned to another physicist sitting at the head of the
table, his host and a long time colleague and friend Dr. B. Kursunoglu:
"Behram," he said, "you know I am from Hungary. Let me tell you that
Hungarians owe a great deal to the Turks, the ancestors of the two of you."
Turning toward me once more, he added: "After the Battle of Mohacs in 1526,
Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent brought a sense of social and political stability
and above all, some notions of civilization to Hungary." I learned from him
later on, that his family had been living in that Ottoman Turkish land for hundreds
With the statement he had made that day, Dr. Edward Teller wasn't too far from the
truth. Hungary, plus a part of Austria, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, parts of
Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and what is known as
Ukraine today were all parts of the old Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, all those
territories plus from Morocco to the Holy Land and the entire Middle East were
governed under the jurisdiction of the Turks. This was a social, economic, political
and military governance and it lasted successfully over four hundred years. Without
a doubt, the Ottoman Turkish mpire was the super power of its day. Therefore, Senor
Alvaro Guevara y Vasquez, this is how it is possible today to find Jews in all parts
of European continent, in the Mediterranean countries as well as in the Middle East.
In fact it is interesting to note here that during the 16th century, parts of the
newly conquered lands comprised the JUDEA and SUMERIA of biblical times. The Sultan
of that time made an offer to the Jewish community and wanted to know if the Jews of
Turkey would like to take possession of those lands. But the Turkish Sultan heard
from the Turkish Jews telling him the following, in paraphrased form:
"Thank you, your Imperial Majesty, we are extremely grateful for your most kind
offer. Nevertheless, we the Jews of our country of Turkey have been living here for
over one hundred years. Generation after generation we have been very comfortable
and secure here in Turkey. We beseech you to understand us for not wanting to go
Turkish people have never denied nor have forgotten the great benefits they derived
from their fellow Jewish citizens of Turkey. They were grateful to them for the many
attributes you, Sir, have enumerated in your words pertaining to qualities such as
their ability to acquire great wealth, their undisputed knowledge of commerce,
trades of all kinds, and their deep Judaic culture. In fact it was the Turkish Jews
who brought the first 'printing press' to Turkey, and made huge fortunes as a result
of this, not only for themselves but also for the Muslim subjects of the empire, by
sharing this richness with them.
Jews in Turkey encountered no governmental obstacles in their new land, whether it
was in the fields of religion, language, or arts. The fact that most Jews of Turkey
today could speak fluently 'LADINO', the language of the 15th century Sapharad
(Spain), makes a favorable testimonial for their friends, the Turks. Dear Senor, the
concept of fairness and of tolerance inherent in the Turks, which you attempted to
ignore in your statement, was unfair, and unacceptable. The 509 year-old friendship
between the Turks and the Jewish people is none other than an indelible mark etched
in the hearts and souls of both Turks and the Sephardic Jews.
|Loyalty to the Ottoman Empire
Debates in the Hebrew Press
Loyalty to the Ottoman Empire
The two main themes on which ha-Herut writers wanted to focus in the Arabic newspapers
were: Jewish loyalty to the Ottoman Empire and possible Jewish contribution to the
advancement of Palestine, for the benefit of all inhabitants, Arab or Jew.
The first issue is exemplified in various ways: during the Balkan wars, for example, the
newspaper expressed its concern over the weakening of the Empire and the future of the
reforms promised by the CUP. In an article dated 9 September 1912, a ha-Herut writer
objected to the internal divisions and rivalries within the Empire caused by the rivalry
between the CUP and the decentralist forces, claiming that they were weakening the Empire
while its external enemies - the Christians, who were also perceived as the enemies of the
Jews and Muslims in the Empire. The writer then declared that the Jews were loyal Ottoman
citizens, who were willing to sacrifice everything to ensure the Empire's continued
success and health.28 This same spirit of loyalty is reflected in another article, which
describes the attitude towards Jews of the Christian-owned newspapers in Palestine:
We hate the homeland? Is there any other people who were more loyal, caring and devoted to
the Empire than the Jewish people [A'm Israel, in Hebrew]? Do we, who have sacrificed so
much for the country, hate the homeland?29
These efforts to prove Jewish loyalty to the Ottoman homeland appeared again a few years
later in response to the CUP's loosening of regulations on Jewish immigration to
Palestine. In an article dated April 1914, the newspaper enthusiastically encouraged Jews
in Palestine to adopt Ottoman citizenship:
It is not enough that the majority of the inhabitants in Palestine is Jewish. The
important factor is that the number of Jews who live in Palestine would be Ottoman. This
is the main basis for our settlement in the country, and the essence of our success....30
Ottomanization was also perceived as another means of convincing the Arab population to
drop their objection to Jewish immigration to Palestine.31 In the same 1914 article, the
...we came here to live and revive the land as Ottoman citizens, to fill the duties that
this citizenship requires us, and to enjoy the rights that this citizenship provides us...
We would like to work side by side with our neighbors for the promotion of our
Ottoman citizenship was perceived as the most important component of the Jewish identity,
which should define the future of the Jewish Yishuv, as well as the future relations with
Arabs living in Palestine - a view that seems unique to the Sephardi community.33
The other topic that ha-Herut sought to express in the Arab press was the argument that
the Jewish community in Palestine could develop the country both culturally and
economically. It was a somewhat paternalistic approach, presenting the Jewish population
as more advanced and sophisticated than the Arab population.
In a series of articles (17, 18, and 19 September 1913), ha-Herut claimed, since the start
of Jewish immigration to Palestine in the late nineteenth century, the cultural and
economic levels of Palestine had changed vastly, with benefits to the Arab population.
Jewish farmers had developed new agricultural and mechanical techniques, species of plants
and irrigation methods, and remedies for pests and diseases. Following the immigration of
prominent Jewish physicians from Europe, the level of medicine improved. Jewish residents
of Palestine, most of them Ottoman citizens, represented the country in academic
conferences around the world. The education system grew, with the addition of the first
technological university in the Empire (the Technikum), as well as a teacher's seminar,
art institutions, and music schools.34
The article series argued that these developments benefited not only the inhabitants of
Palestine, Jews as well as Arabs, but also the Ottoman government, who profited from taxes
and gained in loyal and skilled bureaucrats, as Jews joined the Ottoman administration.35
For all these reasons, ha-Herut believed that the advancement of the Jewish community in
Palestine would lead to the advancement of the Arab community of the country, as well as
the Ottoman Empire.
The distinction between Christians and Muslims in ha-Herut
As mentioned above, the Sephardi writers made a clear distinction between Muslim and
Christian Arabs; the latter were perceived as "the worst enemies" who incited
the Muslims against the Zionist movement. These accusations were based on articles that
appeared in various Arabic newspapers, mainly the Christian-owned al-Karmil and Filastin
in Palestine and Muslim-owned al-Muqtabas in Syria.36
The Sephardi Jews were not the only ones to label Christians as enemies: Arthur Ruppin
also held the Christians responsible for the hatred of Jews and the ongoing opposition to
Jewish immigration. Ruppin blamed it on the religious education that the Christian
population got in Jesuit schools, which encouraged hatred of Jews.37 But was this
distinction between Muslims and Christians justified? Were the Christian-owned newspapers
really more aggressive towards the Jews than the Muslim-owned ones? Why did the Sephardi
Jews in particular make this point?
This distinction was a common theme with several writers.38 In his book The Arabs and
Zionism before World War I, Neville Mandel claims that a newspaper's attitude towards
Zionism was related to the religion of its editor. Basing his conclusions on reports about
the Arab press issued by the Palestinian Office in Jaffa, and written mainly by Nissim
Malul, Manel argues that there was an additional correlation between the attitude towards
Zionism and the CUP. Referring mainly to newspapers published in Damascus and Beirut,
Mandel says that anti-CUP newspapers were edited by Muslims and expressed anti-Zionist
views, whereas pro-CUP newspapers were edited by Christians and were either friendly or
neutral towards Zionism.39
In Palestinian Identity - The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, Rashid
Khalidi discusses this argument at length and, following a careful survey of ten
newspapers from Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, he opposes Mandel's view. Khalidi
claims that, apart from one exception (the Egyptian al-Muqattam), all newspapers surveyed
expressed anti-Zionists attitudes.40
Khalidi also objects to Mandel's linkage of attitudes towards the CUP and attitudes
towards the Zionist movement. In the case of the Palestinian Christian newspaper
al-Karmil, Khalidi tracks the change in the editor's position on the CUP from a positive
position between 1908-1909 to an opposing view by 1911; he proves, however, that there was
no change in the newspaper's position on the Jews and the Zionist movement. Both al-Karmil
and Filastin were edited by Christians and were strong opponents of Zionism.41
In a 1914 review of the Arab press published in the Jewish ha-Schiloah newspaper, Malul
argued a similar view.42 He divided the Arab newspapers in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria
into four groups, according to their attitudes towards the Jews and the Zionist movement:
the "free papers," which disregard the issue; the "medium papers,"
which do not express their own views but print various articles that oppose or support the
question; "extremist papers," which strongly oppose the Zionist movement and the
Jews; and "protector papers," which support the Jews. After checking the
religious affiliation of the editor or owner of the newspapers, Malul concluded that there
was no clear-cut correlation between the religious affiliation and the attitude of the
newspaper towards the Jews: among the 15 "extremists papers," 11 were Muslims
and only four Christians. Among the seven Palestinian newspapers, Christian newspapers
were both "free" (like al-Quds and al-Akhbar) and "extremist"
Christian papers (al-Karmil and Filastin). The only Muslim-owned newspaper checked in
Palestine, al-I'tidal, was considered a "free newspaper."
Malul concluded that not all the Christian newspapers were against the Jewish Yishuv,
whereas not all the Muslim papers supported it. Nonetheless, he still claimed that the
Christians were indeed the main opponents of the Zionist movement.43
Based on the newspapers, then, it seems that there was no real justification for the
distinction between the Christians and Muslims. However, it existed in the eyes of the
Sephardim. How can this be explained?
One explanation has to do with the life experience of the Sephardi Jews, for while Jews
and Muslims were closely linked to each other in the daily life, the Christians were
always more remote - as is evident from Jacob Yehoshua's various descriptions of the life
in Jerusalem.44 However, another explanation could also be related to the Ottoman identity
held by the Sephardi Jews, as well to the external condition of the Ottoman Empire in the
period under discussion.
As described above, the Sephardi community placed great importance on its Ottoman identity
and its loyalty to the Empire, and writers in ha-Herut tried to encourage the Ashkenazi
immigrants to adopt Ottoman citizenship and abandon their foreign ones. During the period
discussed in this article, mainly between 1912-1914, the Ottoman Empire faced many
challenges, external as well as internal. The two Balkan wars, and the loss of most of its
Christian territories, shook the Empire's stability. The conflict was also extremely harsh
for the Empire's Muslim inhabitants, most of whom lost their homes and became refugees.
The wars also signaled a growing tension between Muslims and Christians within the Empire,
with Christians perceived as sympathizers of Europe, and sometimes collaborators.
In his book, Mandel claims that, despite the religious tensions in the larger Empire,
Muslims and Christians in Palestine became closer through their common objection to the
Jewish immigration.45 However, based the data collected, it seems that this was not the
view held by the Sephardi community. It is thus suggested that growing anti-Christian
sentiment throughout the Empire influenced the Sephardi population in Palestine, who also
developed hostile feelings towards Christians. As loyal Ottoman citizens, the Sephardim
viewed the Christians as part of the general betrayal process in the Empire that took
place during the Balkan Wars.
Moreover, the Sephardi resentment towards the Christian Arabs can also be explained by the
collective experience of Ottoman Jews in the Empire. Throughout the years, the Christian
communities in the Empire had persecuted and competed with the Jews for economic,
religious and ethnic reasons. The Jews perceived Ottoman rule as the best protector
against Christian anti-Semitism and sought its protection when the Empire lost its
European territories.46 The Christians also enjoyed the protection and assistance of the
western powers, which the Ottoman Empire perceived as imperialists. Thus, the Sephardim's
reaction towards the Christians was influenced by this larger historical context.
The preceding was from Jerusalem Quarterly File
THE JEWISH MILLET IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
Professor Stanford Shaw
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
It was only with the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in
Southeastern Europe and the Middle East starting in the 14th century that Jewish
refugees from Christian persecution found the kind of tolerance and freedom that
enabled them to prosper without fear. As a result, those Jews who had survived in
Byzantine Constantinople and Asia Minor did everything they could to contribute to
Ottoman success, particularly during the sieges which led to the Ottoman conquests
of the centers of Byzantine administrative and economic life in Asia Minor and
Thrace, Bursa and Constantinople. The Ottoman rulers very quickly contrasted the
support provided by Jews in the conquered Byzantine territories with the hostility
manifested by the conquered Greeks and Armenians, who from the earliest days of
Ottoman rule attempted to stimulate European Crusades to rescue them from the
domination of Islam. Insofar as the Ottomans were concerned, therefore, they trusted
and relied on their Jewish subjects far more than on the Christians. The Ottomans
therefore preferred to use Jews wherever possible to develop the trade and commerce
of their new empire. In return for their support, Ottoman Jewry received rewards
from the sultans, including not only toleration and ability to pursue their own
lives and religious practices without any of the restrictions which had so limited
their lives in Christian Europe, and protection against Christian attacks, but also
encouragement for their co-religionists remaining in western Europe to emigrate into
the lands of the Ottoman Turks.
The 16th century Jewish historian, Eliyahu Kapsali, writing in
Crete, attributed the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and its conquest by the
Ottomans directly to the Byzantine persecution of the Jews:
through the gateways of this book, turn to the way of God, study its tales, read and
see that God, in His wisdom and understanding, rendered this Turkish nation
great.... The Turks is the rod of His wrath, the staff of His anger, and by means of
Him He takes His vengeance of the gentle nations and tongues and states whose time
Following the Ottoman conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople in
1453, Mehmed II 'The Conqueror' (Fatih) encouraged the persecuted Jews of Germany
and Spain and elsewhere in Western Europe to immigrate into his Empire, using for
this purpose the Chief Rabbi of Edirne (Adrianople), Isaac Tzarfati, who himself had
fled from persecution in southern Germany earlier in the century, sending Tzarfati's
appeal to his fellow Jews to join him in the dominions of the sultan:
cries and sobs have reached us. We have been told of all the troubles and
persecutions which you have to suffer in the German lands.... I hear the lamentation
of my brethren.... The barbarous and cruel nation ruthlessly oppresses the faithful
children of the chosen people..... The priests and prelates of Rome have risen. They
wish to root out the memory of Jacob and erase the name of Israel. They always
devise new persecutions. They wish to bring you to the stake.... Listen my brothers,
to the counsel I will give you. A too was born in Germany and studied Torah with the
German rabbis. I was driven out of my native country and came to the Turkish land,
which is blessed by God and filled with all good things. Here I found rest and
happiness. Turkey can also become for you the land of peace.... If you who live in
Germany knew even a tenth of what God has blessed us with in this land, you would
not consider any difficulties. You would set out to come to us.... Here in the land
of the Turks we have nothing to complain of. We possess great fortunes. Much gold
and silver are in our hands. We are not oppressed with heavy taxes, and our commerce
is free and unhindered. Rich are the fruits of the earth. Everything is cheap, and
every one of us lives in peace and freedom. Here the Jew is not compelled to wear a
yellow hat as a badge of shame, as is the case in Germany, where even wealth and
great fortune are a curse for a Jew because he therewith arouses jealousy among the
Christians and they devise all kinds of slander against him to rob him of his gold.
Arise my brothers, gird up your loins, collect your forces, and come to us. Here you
will be free of your enemies, here you will find rest.
Capsali relates how Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) sent out his
own invitations to the Jews of Spain as soon as he learned of their expulsion at the
hands of the Spanish Inquisition:
Sultan Bayezid, King of Turkey, heard of all the evil that the Spanish king had
brought upon the Jews and heard that they were seeking a refuge and resting place.
He took pity on them and wrote letters and sent emissaries to proclaim throughout
his kingdom that none of his city rulers should be wicked enough to refuse entry to
Jews or to expel them. Instead, they were to be given a gracious welcome, and anyone
who did not behave in this matter would be put to death.... Sultan Bayezid, king of
Turkey, having learned of all the evil that the King of Spain did to the Jews, who
were seeing a place of refuge, had pity on them and ordered his country to greet
them well, and he ordered the same thing for the island of Chios, which had been
paying a tribute to him....
Just as Sultan Mehmed gathered the Jews living in other communities and brought them
to live with him in Costantinople and said: 'Come and shelter in my shade as we have
written,' similarly his son, this Sultan Bayezid, treated the seed of Abraham,
servants of God, well,... and did not cast them out from before him as some of the
Gentile Kings did to us.... Were it not for this, the remnant of Judah and traces of
Israel, exiled from Spain and Aragon and Portugal and Sicily by the unsheathed sword
of the wicked King of Spain, would have been lost....
Even before the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and its
transformation into the Ottoman capital Istanbul, therefore, and increasingly
afterwards for another two centuries, the Ottoman Empire became the principal object
of immigration for the persecuted Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, to whom were
added the flood of exiles from Spain and Portugal and of the Spanish Jews who had
converted to Christianity (Marranos), but who still were persecuted by the
Inquisition in the early decades of the 16th century, as well as those found in the
Middle East as it was incorporated into the empire at the same time.
These Jewish immigrants settled all over the expanding Ottoman
empire, in the lands that today are the states of Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria,
Serbia, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Cyprus and the other Aegean and Mediterranean islands
and in what is now Turkey at Bursa, Gallipoli, Manisa, Ýzmir, Tokat and Amasya.
Some also went to the east Mediterranean islands of Cyprus, Patras and Corfu, but
with their native Greek populations remaining substantial majorities, they were not
as welcome as in those areas of the new Empire in which Muslims dominated society.
For the most part, however, the newly arriving Jews settled down where there were
substantial Muslim populations, in the Ottoman capital Istanbul, in the capital of
Ottoman Thrace Edirne (Adrianople), along the Macedonian shores of the Aegean at
Salonica, and in the Holy Land, particularly at Jerusalem and Safed, in total
numbers estimated at from 150,000 to 200,000 people, far more than the 30,000 Jews
then living in Poland and Lithuania. Ottoman Turkish Jewry thus constituted by far
the largest and most prosperous Jewish community in the world at that time, a period
that came to constitute the Golden Age of Ottoman Jewry.
Thanks to ottoman-research.com
| CHRISTIAN ANTI-SEMITISM IN
THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
Professor Stanford Shaw
"Blood libel accusations were made against Jews by Ottoman Christian subjects
starting in the sixteenth century, most frequently in the Arab provinces, first at
Jerusalem in 1546. The most famous Christian assault on Ottoman Jews in medieval
times came in the central Anatolian town of Amasya some time between 1530 and 1540,
when a blood-libel accusation against local Jews was spread by local Armenians who
said that an Armenian woman had seen Jews slaughter a young Armenian boy and use his
blood at the feast of Passover. Several days of rioting and pillaging and attacks on
Jews followed...Later, however, the Armenian boy who supposedly had been murdered
was found and the Ottoman governor punished the Armenian accusers, though nothing
could be done about the Jews who had suffered." 
"There were literally thousands of incidents in subsequent years, invariably
resulting from accusations spread among Greeks and Armenians by word of mouth, or
published in their newspapers, often by Christian financiers and merchants who were
anxious to get the Jews out of the way, resulting in isolated and mob attacks on
Jews, and burning of their shops and homes . The attacks were brutal and without
mercy. Women, children, and aged Jewish men were frequently attacked, beaten and
 Stanford J. Shaw, "Christian Anti-Semitism in the Ottoman Empire",
Belleten C. LIV, 68, p.1103 (1991).
 Abraham Ben-Yakob (Jerusalem), "The Immigration of Iraki Jews to the Holy
Land in the 19th Century", paper delivered to the First International Congress
for the Study of Sephardic and Oriental Judaism, 27 June 1978.
 Stanford J. Shaw, "Christian Anti-Semitism in the Ottoman Empire",
Belleten C. LIV, 68, p.1129 (1991)
Greeks in 1902 Harass the Ottoman Jews
The leader of the Ashkenazi community of Corlu
complained to the president of AIU [Alliance Israelite Universelle] in
1902 about persistent Greek attacks against its Jewish quarter:
'The fanatic Greeks of our city, as of other places in Thrace, have the habit of, contrary
to the spirit of real Christianity, making a replica of Judas Iscariote and of burning it
on the night of Holy Saturday. They construct a wooden figure, cover it with clothing
which they claim is that of the ancient Jews, and they burn it publicly in the middle of a
multitude of the ignorant and the fanatic. It often happens that this multitude, already
excited by the tales of the suffering of Christ that has been made to them at the Church,
is exulted at the appearance of the execution of he who is supposed to have betrayed
Christ, and works up a great anger against the Jews...For a long time we have known that
each year, on such a day, they will cut off the heads and arms of the corpses in our
cemetery and will burn them with great solemnity. We
make no complaint about this in order not to create differences between the two
communities. But this audacious madness of these fanatics has increased. We ourselves see
the flames and hear the cries of hatred and vengeance against the Jews.'"
 Ashkenazi Community, Corlu, to AIU no.8783, 2 May 1902, in AIU Archives (Paris) II C
8, with report printed in El
Tiempo of 1 May 1902.
Source: Professor Stanford J. Shaw, 'The Jews of the Ottoman Empire
and the Turkish Republic,' New York University
Press, New York (1991), Page 203
A little anti-Semitic
episode just outside the boundaries of the Empire:
One famous hold-out from the
Ottoman Empire was the island of Rhodes, especially against the forces of Mehmed the
Conqueror in 1479-80. Pierre D'Aubusson, grand master of the military-religious Order of
St. John of Jerusalem (Knights of St. John), gained fame for this accomplishment, and when
he betrayed Prince Jem (Cem), brother of Mehmed's successor Bayezid II (by imprisoning him
instead of granting the refuge he promised), Pope Innocent VIII made Aubusson a cardinal
in 1489. Not long after, the pseudo-Christian overtly eliminated Judaism from the island by
expelling all adult Jews and forcibly baptizing their children. (Bayezid II was the
sultan who accepted the Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portugese Inquisitions around this
time, when every other European nation, save for the city of Amsterdam, slammed their
doors in the faces of the Jewish people.)
"Emperor Romanus I Lecapenus, in about 935, again ordered the
forcible conversion of all the Jews of Byzantium, leading to the murder of hundreds of
Jews and the desecration of many synagogues throughout the empire. All the while Jews came
under increasingly savage attack by Byzantine popular preachers and writers as well as by
officials trying to stir the populace in support of the Crusading knights coming from the
West to wrest the Holy Land from the 'infidel Muslims'. As a result, Emperor Andronicus I
Comnenus(1183-85) again attempted to convert the
Jews to Christianity, though by persuasion and argument rather than force. When Crusaders
passed through Constantinople on their way to the Holy Land, they invariably were assigned
to camp next to the Jewish quarters, particularly that adjacent to the Galata Tower, and
usually spent most of their spare time attacking and killing Jews and stealing their
properties. At the same time they stirred local populace to similar activities. It was at
this time, also, that Constantinople's Armenians joined the Greeks in attacking Judaism
for the first time."
Source: Yvonne Friedman, 'Antijudischen Polemik des
12 jahrhunderts', Kairos XXVI/1-2 (1984), 80-88.
Thanks to: Han Mutlu
ADDENDUM: A quick look at Jewish treatment at the hands of the
Greeks, via a review
of a book written by Joshua Eli Plaut, "Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century,
1913 - 1983: Patterns of Jewish Survival in the Greek Provinces before and after the
Benjamin of Tudela was a rabbi and world
traveler who gave a very descriptive account of the condition of the Jews in 1176's
"No Jew dwells in the city, the Jews
having been expelled beyond the one arm of the sea. They are shut in by the channel
of Sophia on one side; and they can reach the city by water only, whenever they
visit it for the purpose of trade. The number of Jews at Constantinople amounts to
two thousand Rabbinites and five hundred Karaites, who live on one spot;but a wall
divides them. The principal Rabbinites, who are learned in the Law, are Rabbi R.
Abatlion, R. Obadiah, R. Aaron Kustipo, R. Joseph Sargeno, and R. Eliakim the Elder.
Many of the Jews are manufacturers of silk cloth; many others are merchants, some of
them being extremely rich; but no Jew is allowed to ride upon a horse except R.
Solomon ha-Mi?ri, who is the king's physician, and by whose influence the Jews enjoy
many advantages even in their state of oppression. This state is very burdensome to
them; and the hatred against them is enhanced by the practise of the tanners, who
pour out their filthy water in the streets and even before the very doors of the
Jews, who, being thus defiled, become objects of hatred to the Greeks. Their yoke is
severely felt by the Jews, both good and bad: they are exposed to beatings in the
streets, and must submit to all sorts of harsh treatment. But the Jews are rich,
good, benevolent, and religious men, who bear the misfortunes of exile with
humility. The quarter inhabited by the Jews is called Pera."
The king referred to by Benjamin was Manuel Comnenus (1143-80), who—probably owing
to the influence of Solomon —placed the Jews of Constantinople again under the
jurisdiction of the municipal authorities. More here.
Days Before the Ottoman Empire...
Join the Greeks in Attacking the Jews for the First Time
"Emperor Romanus I Lecapenus, in about 935, again ordered the forcible
conversion of all the Jews of Byzantium, leading to the murder of hundreds of Jews
and the desecration of many synagogues throughout the empire. All the while Jews
came under increasingly savage attack by Byzantine popular preachers and writers as
well as by officials trying to stir the populace in support of the Crusading knights
coming from the West to wrest the Holy Land from the 'infidel Muslims'. As a result,
Emperor Andronicus I Comnenus(1183-85) again attempted to convert the
Jews to Christianity, though by persuasion and argument rather than force. When
Crusaders passed through Constantinople on their way to the Holy Land, they
invariably were assigned to camp next to the Jewish quarters, particularly that
adjacent to the Galata Tower, and usually spent most of their spare time attacking
and killing Jews and stealing their properties. At the same time they stirred local
populace to similar activities. It was at this time, also, that Constantinople's
Armenians joined the Greeks in attacking Judaism for the first time."
Source: Yvonne Friedman, 'Antijudischen Polemik
des 12 jahrhunderts', Kairos XXVI/1-2 (1984), 80-88.
Thanks to: Han
|Azeri Jews Murdered by Armenians, 1918
Memorial sought for Mountain Jews May 6 2007
Azerbaijan's Jewish leaders sought permission to put up a memorial for the several
thousand Mountain Jews they say were murdered by Armenians in 1918. The Baku Sun reported
that the Jewish leaders made the request to President Ilham Aliyev at a gathering last
month at the Human Rights Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.
The Jewish leaders cited research saying that some 3,000 Mountain Jews, along with tens of
thousands of Azeris, were murdered in the region of Guba by Armenian bandits and
nationalists — an incident marked March 31 by the Azeris as genocide. Historians are
still investigating the killings, which they say where were covered up by for decades by
the communist regime.
Perhaps 40,000 Mountain Jews remain scattered about the remote passes of the mostly Muslim
May 6, 2007
More on the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan. In addition to the above
episode, Jews in Armenia were killed as well (1918-1920), although not as numerously
(since there weren't that many Jews in Armenia). The Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1926
informs that Azeris constituted over
38% of the population of Armenia in 1918, before the Armenians embarked on a two year
extermination campaign that a 1990 issue of The Jewish Times would present as "an
appropriate analogy to the Holocaust." Here is how Dr. Gerard Libaridian dealt with the
issue, in 1982.
Jews of Ottoman Salonica
Excerpts provided below gives an interesting glimpse regarding the Jewish community
of Ottoman Salonica, and to relations with the Turks. The full article, the
thrust of which relates the decimation of this community under the Nazis, may be
accessed at sephardiccouncil.org
The Last Days of Jewish Salonica
What Happened to a 450 Year-Old Civilization
by Dr. Cecil Roth
Originally published in Commentary, 1950
Cecil Roth, historian and Jewish scholar, here tells the final terrifying chapter
in the Nazi destruction of Salonican Jewry — a community of some fifty thousand
Sephardic Jews. Dr. Roth has written widely on Jewish subjects; his most recent
work, A History of the Jews in England, published in 1941. He was born in London in
1899 and studied at Oxford, where he later became a reader in post-Biblical Jewish
Studies. He has frequently lectured in America.
...When Paul of Tarsus visited Salonica, in the year 50 CE, he found there a strong
Jewish community with its synagogue, in which, we are informed, he preached for
three Sabbaths in succession. The community's history may already have gone back
some generations; afterwards, certainly, it was uninterrupted down to modern times.
The Turks were soldiers and peasants, uninterested in trade and inexpert in
handicrafts. The Jews were merchants and craftsmen, long excluded from the land and
inexpert in war. Hence the two peoples were in a sense complementary; and when the
Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 the Sultan tolerantly opened the gates of his
empire to them. Most of them settled naturally in the seaports; and above all in
Salonica, which from this time onwards was one of Europe's greatest Jewish
communities-for a time, indeed, the greatest. It was a microcosm of the Jewish
world. There were refugees from France, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Calabria, Apulia,
Sicily, and every province and city of Spain, each group maintaining its own
synagogue and congregation.
For a while the Jews were probably a majority of the population. They not only
controlled trade and industry, but also provided the artisans, the fishermen, the
stevedores, and the harbor workers (almost down to our own day no ship could unload
in the port on the Sabbath). The fashions, the habits, the dishes, the languages,
the costumes, and even the lullabies of Toledo and Seville, as they had existed in
the age of Ferdinand and Isabella, were incongruously perpetuated, generation after
generation. Indeed, it has been said that could Columbus have returned to this earth
four centuries after his momentous voyage, he would have found himself more at home
in Salonica than in Palos. Every synagogue had its academy attached to it, and for
many generations the city was one of the world's centers of rabbinic learning.
* * * * *
Down to the beginning of the 20th century, the picture remained almost unchanged.
The community had suffered great material losses, indeed, in periodic
conflagrations, and even greater spiritual disillusionment in the 17th century when
it pinned over-great hopes on the false messiah of Smyrna, Sabbatai Zevi (whose
secret votaries, the Domneh, posing as Moslems, were still numerous and influential
in Salonica until a few years ago). But Salonica remained largely a Jewish city,
having in 1912, at the close of the period of Turkish rule, a Jewish population of
over 80,000 (excluding the Domneh) out of a total of 173,000. The great fire of 1917
during World War I destroyed their ancient quarter and left 50,000 of them homeless;
economic instability, inflation, anti-Semitic agitation in the following years
caused a considerable emigration, mostly to France, Palestine, and Latin America;
the exchanges of population between Greece and Turkey brought about a rapid
artificial expansion of the Greek population (hitherto a minority), and a forced
process of Hellenization. But life remained at least tolerable when it was not
Four hundred and fifty-one years before, their ancestors had been the victims of one
of the greatest tragedies in the history of medieval Europe when they had been
driven out of Spain, hoping in vain for a miracle that would save them at the last
moment. Now an age had come when miracles were no longer even hoped for.
Holdwater: Unfortunately, many Jews are totally ignorant of the great deeds of
one of their very, very few historic good friends. Their ignorance and prejudice
helps a good number to accept at face value whatever their "fellow genocide
sufferers" (the beloved Armenians) tell them.
There are various other spots
in TAT where I did not shy away from criticizing the Jews for what I also view as
(if I may use Professor Ozan's word, from his essay above)
"ingratitude," and irresponsibility/ignorance (Elie Wiesel) and
hypocrisy/dishonesty (Israel Charny). The charge of "anti-Semitism"
is often not far behind criticism of the Jews, and if anybody out there in Web land
believes that's where I am coming from.... you would be very much mistaken.
(For example... from the same
essay above, Prof. Ozan was criticized by a couple of likely
Jewish persons, undoubtedly believing Prof. Ozan was anti-Semitically knocking the
Jews... although the perceived sleight was absurdly taken out of context and
out-of-bounds. The irony is, from his other writings, I know Prof. Ozan is an ardent
cheerleader for the Jewish people.)
Below are some of the other
spots on this site where reflections on the Chosen People reside. Beware of
Elie Wiesel (and below "Elie," Andrew Goldberg)
Jews for Armenians
Reflects on Armenian-Loving Jews
Yossi Sarid, Israel's Minister of Education
"Genocide scholar" Israel W. Charny
New York Times
columnist William Safire, in Turks
More Elie Wiesel Thoughts: Wise of Wiesel?
|By Andrew Sackser:
Throughout history the children of Israel have suffered at hands
of others. A people set apart from their neighbors by their
faith, countless. Jews have often had to pay for this faith with
their lives. There was, however, one haven where Jews did not
suffer the large-scale persecution characterizing their entire
existence. This haven was Turkey. For over five hundred years
Jews have flourished there, enjoying relatively uninterrupted
freedom and safety that has only been rivaled in America. This
year marks the quincentennial anniversary of the ingathering of
Jews to Turkey, and highlights one of the brighter chapters in
Source: HIRHURIM - The Jewish Magazine of Brendeis University
(Massachusetts). Vol. 1, No: 2, Spring 1992
Turkish Jews Decry Armenian Genocide Bill
Marc Perelman | Wed. Oct 17, 2007
In its bare-knuckled lobbying to defeat a congressional resolution recognizing the
Armenian genocide, Turkey has gained a valuable ally: its own Jews.
Last week an advertisement from the “Jewish community of Turkey” was published in the
conservative Washington Times and was quickly passed around the capital by Turkey’s
lobbyists. The ad warned that the overwhelming majority of Turks view Congress’s
intervention as “inappropriate, unjust, and gratuitously anti-Turkish.”
The Turkish Jewish community’s ad appeared just before an October 10 vote in which the
House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted Resolution 106, which characterizes the Ottoman massacre of Armenians
during World War I as “genocide.” The Democratic leadership is planning to submit the
bill to a full House vote by mid-November, and a similar resolution has been introduced in
the Senate with 32 co-sponsors.
“We cannot help but note that the world recognizes the Holocaust because of the
overwhelming evidence, not because of the declarations of parliaments,” read the ad. “However,
we have a more immediate concern, which is the viability of U.S.-Turkish bilateral
The ad, as well as previous statements from the Turkish Jewish community and a trip by its
leaders to Washington this past spring, is part of a strategy by Ankara to stress that the
Armenian issue is one that galvanizes Turkish society as a whole, and not just the
government. The patriarch of the Armenian Church of Turkey recently came to the United
States to convey a similar message, and several civil society organizations have supported
the government’s view.
Turkish Jewish officials, however, have insisted that the initiative to weigh in on the
issue has been theirs. Their leaders could not be reached for further comment.
During the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in March, a
delegation led by community leader Silvyo Ovadya came to Washington to warn American
Jewish groups that passage of a congressional resolution would alter Turkey’s
pro-Western stance. The organized community also issued several statements in recent
months as the Armenian issue gained traction on Capitol Hill.
Last week’s ad took a direct stab at the Anti-Defamation League, whose national director
Abraham Foxman said in August that the massacre of Armenians was “tantamount to genocide”
and then subsequently stated that a congressional resolution would be a “counterproductive
diversion” that may “put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important
multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.” In the ad, the
Jewish community stressed that it is “deeply perturbed” by the claim that their safety
and well-being in Turkey could be put at risk by the resolution.
The ad was not the community’s first pointed criticism of an American Jewish group on
the Armenian issue. In a private letter this summer, reported here for
the first time, to American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris, Turkish
Jewish leaders criticized him for writing in a blog posting that not recognizing the
Armenian genocide could open the door to more Holocaust denial.
Earlier this year, Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and the resolution’s main
sponsor, criticized the AJCommittee, B’nai B’rith International, the ADL and the
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs for transmitting to House leaders another
letter from the Turkish Jewish community expressing concern over his congressional bill.
In a written complaint to Jewish groups, Schiff described the action of the American
Jewish organizations as “tantamount to an implicit and inappropriate endorsement of the
position of the letter’s authors.”
Schiff could not be reached for further comment.
The Bush administration has expressed its firm opposition to the non-binding resolution.
Turkey’s lobbyists were also able to get all living former secretaries of state, as well
as a number of defense secretaries, to send out letters stressing the need to preserve
diplomatic and military ties with Turkey. And critics have denounced Schiff and fellow
California Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, for what they describe as
catering to parochial Armenian-American voters at the expense of a crucial ally.
In the wake of last week’s foreign affairs committee vote, Turkey recalled its
ambassador to the United States to Ankara for consultations.
Turkey contends, not for the first time, that foreign parliaments have no business
weighing in on such an issue. When France criminalized the denial of the Armenian genocide
last year, Ankara retaliated by cutting back military contracts with Paris. While no clear
threat has been issued to Washington, Turkey hosts a key American military air base that
is a major conduit for supplying American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ankara could also make good on its recent vows to enter northern Iraq in order to stop
Kurdish rebel attacks against its troops. On Wednesday, the Turkish parliament gave the
government a one-year authorization to conduct military operations inside Iraq against the
guerillas, who have killed some 30 soldiers in recent weeks.
Wed. Oct 17, 2007
See also: Story of Turkish Jews
Ottoman Sultans and
Their Jewish Subjects