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Societies, Social Organizations (Modern Turkish)

(1,125 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Despite its relatively small (and shrinking) Jewish population of about twenty thousand, there are many Jewish societies and social organizations in modern Turkey. Jewish societies and organizations first began to appear in many Ottoman localities in the 1880s. Today they are mostly concentrated in Istanbul and are supervised by the chief rabbinate of Turkey. They include several foundations, the community’s school and newspaper, charitable and welfare societies, and social clubs.The most prominent Jewish organization in Istanbul is the Neve Shalom Foundation. It is resp…

Travnik

(353 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The town of Travnik in central Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1463 to 1878. During this period, it accommodated many Jewish refugees, especially in the mid-eighteenth century, and became a major Sephardi Jewish center in the region, second only to Sarajevo. The newly established community built a synagogue in 1768. Jews earned their living as blacksmiths, joiners, saddlers, tailors, shoemakers, distillers, merchants, traders, and, in some instances, by practicing folk medicine.Despite having a generally positive relationship with the city’s …

Saban, Rafael David

(271 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Rafael David Saban, born in Istanbul in 1873 into the family of a wealthy merchant, began his religious studies at a very early age and was taught by influential rabbis such as Yosef Kohen, Yomtov Kohen, and Konorte Delson. At the age of eighteen, Saban was ordained a rabbi and became the private secretary of the prominent religious leader Moşe Levi. Saban had years of experience in the affairs of the Turkish-Jewish community prior to his appointment to the chief rabbinate in 1953, for over the years he had been a member of several administrative committees, such as the Religious Council, the Is…

Bejerano (Becerano), Bekhor Hayyim

(457 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Bekhor Ḥayyim Moşe Bejerano, born in Eski Zagra (now Stara Zagora), Bulgaria, in 1846, was a respected scholar and the chief rabbi of the Turkish Republic from 1920 to 1931. From a very early age, he was educated in traditional Talmud Torahs and yeshivas. He also studied foreign languages and many other secular subjects, and ultimately became fluent in more than fifteen languages.            In 1880, Bejerano moved to Ottoman-ruled Rusçuk (Ruse), Bulgaria, where the students he taught included a future historian of Ottoman Jewry, Solomon Rosanes. Bejerano …

Etz Ahayim Synagogue, Bursa

(144 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Etz Ahayim (Heb. ʿEṣ ha-Ḥayyim), a Romaniot synagogue no longer in existence, was one of the three synagogues in Bursa. It was the first Jewish house of worship ever built in the Ottoman state. Construction began after permission was granted by the second sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Orhan Bey, in the mid-fourteenth century. Structurally the synagogue resembled a mosque and had Ottoman architectural features. Etz Ahayim continued in active use until the early fifteenth century. The remains of the building were destroyed by a fire that broke out in 1940.      The other two synagogues…

Eskenazi, Rina

(226 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Sara Rina Eskenazi (b. 1950) is a Turkish academic and writer. She was born in Istanbul in 1950, but she and her family moved to Ankara when she was six. She completed her primary school education and started high school in Ankara. When she was fifteen, the family moved back to Istanbul, where Eskenazi attended the renowned American College for Girls, now known as Robert College. After graduating in 1970, Eskenazi enrolled in the Business Administration Faculty of Boğaziçi (Bosporus) University, where she obtained her B.A. degree in 1975.            Over the next few years Eskenazi…

Camondo, Abraham de

(648 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Abraham Salomon de Camondo (Kamondo)a member of the prominent SephardiCamondo family, was born in Istanbul in 1785. In the late 1830s he emerged as an important leader of Ottoman Jewry and played an essential role in modernizing the Turkish Jewish community. Camondo wielded significant influence in ruling circles, especially at the courts of sultans Abdülmecid I (r. 1839-1861) and Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876). He was instrumental in the appointment of the first chief rabbi in Jerusalem in 1841. He also worke…

Modiano, Albert

(353 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Alberto Modiano, born in Istanbul in 1960, is an internationally known Turkish professional photographer, historian, and educator. Modiano had his first experience with photography at a very early age because his father was a representative of the Italian Bencini cameras. He began his photographic career in 1979 as an amateur while working as an accountant. After gaining some experience, he opened three galleries in Büyükada, joined İFSAK (the Istanbul Amateur Photography and Cinema Association), and became involved in its publishing and research activities betw…

Keribar, Izzet

(261 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
İzzet Keribar was born in Istanbul in 1936. An enthusiast of photography from an early age, he gained experience and improved his skills in Korea, where he fulfilled his military service in the Turkish army in 1957. After a long interlude, Keribar went back to photography in 1980. Since then, he has traveled widely within and outside Turkey to practice his art. He is an honorary member of the Istanbul Amateur Photography and Cinema Club (İFSAK) and in 1985 and 1988, respectively, was awarded the International Federation of Photography ratings of AFIAP (Artist) an…

Shumla (Shumen)

(453 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Shumla (Ott. Turk. Shumla and Shumnu; Bulg. Shumen, renamed Kolarovgrad from 1950 to 1965), is an ancient city in northeastern Bulgaria. Conquered by Sultan Murad I (r. ca. 1360–1389) in 1388, Shumla was destroyed completely in 1444 and a new town with the same name was constructed in its present location. Because of its close proximity to Russia, the city was frequently attacked by the Russians and thus had to be fortified. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the Ottomans transformed Shumla into a military center, which created many jobs and attracted migrants from other are…

Ocak Bazirgani

(464 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The post of ocak bazirgâni (corps merchant), also called ocak sarrafi (corps banker), was an important official position dominated by Jews in the Ottoman Empire. The ocak bazirgâni acted as chief purveyor and financier of the Janissary corps, a major element of the Ottoman army, providing all essential supplies, including cloth and uniforms, often made by Jewish textile manufacturers. The incumbent was, in the words of Bernard Lewis, “a kind of private enterprise quartermaster.” Like many other influential offices in the Ottoman Empire, that of ocak bazirgâni became hereditary an…

Capsali, Moses ben Elijah

(567 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Moses ben Elijah Capsaliwas born in Candia (Heraklion), Crete, in 1420. Like his relative Elijah Capsali, Moses left Crete at a young age to further his education. He went to Germany, where he studied with major Ashkenazi rabbis such as Jacob Landau and Judah Mintz. Throughout his life, Capsali’s writings and actions were heavily influenced by his German-Ashkenazi background, even though he himself was a Romaniot. Some sources indicate that he also studied in Italy.Capsali became the leader of the Romaniot congregation of Constantinople around 1445.According to some a…

Zonana Family

(444 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Zonana family held the position of ocak bazirgâni , merchant-banker of the Janissary corps, for most of the eighteenth century. The first member of the family to occupy this lucrative post was David Zonana (d. 1746), who acquired immense wealth and unprecedented political influence. David established good relations with Seyyid Hasan Pasha, the commander of the Janissary corps, and continued to serve as his personal agent when Seyyid Hasan Pasha was appointed grand vizier in 1743. However, three years later, when Seyyid Hasan Pasha was repla…

Benbanaste, Nesim

(270 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Nesim Benbanaste (1939—1992) was a prominent Turkish Jewish writer and intellectual. After completing his high school education at Beyoğlu Musevi Lisesi (Beyoğlu Jewish Lycée) in Istanbul, Benbanaste attended the Faculty of Law of Istanbul University. He later worked at several private schools as a teacher and director. He was affiliated with one of Turkey’s oldest publishing association, the Türk Basın Birliği (Turkish Press Union).            From 1963 until his death, Benbanaste wrote numerous articles, essays, poems, and translations. An admirer of Atat…

Marcus, David

(433 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Dr. David Marcus was an influential Ashkenazi leader in Istanbul. Born in Novgorod, Russia, in 1870, he began his religious studies at the yeshiva in Lomza, Poland. After finishing high school, Marcus attended the University of Bonn in Germany, where he studied psychology, pedagogy, and philosophy, and obtained his doctorate in 1901. His impressive research and studies at the University of Bonn quickly drew the attention of the Jewish community in Germany. In 1900, the Ashkenazi community in Istanbul offered Marcus the position of headmaster of the Jewish Goldschmit Lycée in Galat…

Scialom, Sedat

(262 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Sedat Sami Scialom (1939—2008), a well-known Turkish businessman, was president of the Grafika Maya Reklam Ajansi, a major advertising agency founded by his father. Scialom graduated from the Lycée Saint Michel in Şişli, Istanbul in 1957 and from the Faculty of Economics of Istanbul University in 1961. He then went to Belgium for his higher education, graduating from the École Supérieure Technique de Publicité in 1963.            While studying in Brussels, Scialom worked at Bodden et Dechy, an advertising agency, as a client representative. Later, he moved t…

Gerez, Yosef (Yusef) Habib

(405 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Yosef Habib Gerez (b. 1926) is a Turkish Jewish artist and poet. After graduating from Kabataş Erkek Lisesi, a high school for boys in Istanbul, he studied law at Istanbul University and at the same time attended the Academy of Applied Fine Arts in Istanbul as a guest student. With the encouragement of his teacher, Nurullah Berk, Gerez began to draw and paint. In 1972 he opened the Beyoğlu City Gallery in Istanbul. That same year, his paintings were shown at a gallery in Milan. Later, he became …

Tuna (Danube) Province

(786 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Tuna (Danube) vilayet (province) was organized in 1864 as part of the Ottoman administrative reforms during the Tanzimat era. It comprised the old provinces (eyalets) of Silistre, Vidin, and Nish. The new province was subdivided into seven sancaks (districts), namely Nish, Ruse (Rousse, Rusčuk), Sofia (Sophia), Tarnovo, Tulcea, Varna, and Vidin, and they in turn were subdivided into forty-eight kazas (boroughs) and about ten nahiyes (subdistricts). The capital of the province was the city of Ruse.The primary goal of establishing the Tuna vilayet was to improve the provinci…

Guéron, Angèle

(383 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Angèle Guéron  was born in 1886 in Istanbul. She was educated at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Istanbul and then at the AIU teachers college, the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale, in Paris, from which she graduated in 1904. The following year she was appointed to the Alliance school in Tunis as an instructor, and later she also taught for a time at the Alliance school in Istanbul. The Alliance regarded Guéron as a highly promising educator. In 1907, at the age of twenty-one, she was appointed director of the Alliance school for girls in Haifa, and two years later, in 1909, direct…

Bet Din (Turkish Republic)

(400 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
After the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the Jewish community of Turkey ceased to have a separate legal council and the responsibilities of its bet din were strictly limited to religious matters. The chief rabbinate and the bet din, which formerly had dealt with legal issues in addition to religious issues, no longer acted as the community’s civil court.   The Turkish bet din has changed in many ways since its inception in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially it consisted of a panel of three rabbinic judges who judged unlawful ac…
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