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Silistre (Silistria)

(480 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Silistre (Silistra, Silistria) is an ancient border town in northeastern Bulgaria. After the Ottoman conquest of the region in 1396, Silistre was transformed into a military and trade center. Due to its proximity to the Russian border, it regularly suffered attacks from this direction, particularly in the eighteenth century and afterward. In 1829 Silistre was briefly occupied by the Russians. During the Crimean War (1853–1856), the town was again besieged by the Russians in 1854. The Turkish defense of Silistre was one of the war’s famous events; the excep…

Or Ahayim Hospital, Istanbul

(347 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Or-Ahayim (Heb. Or ha-Ḥayyim, Light of Life) Hospital in Balat, Istanbul, opened in 1887. It was originally an institution for needy Jews but now serves the general public. It was founded by idealistic doctors and philanthropists led by Dr. Captain Rafael Bey Dalmediko. Other members of the founding group included Dr. Avramino de Castro, Abraham Gerson, Admiral Dr. İzak Molho Paşa (the inspector general of the Ottoman fleet, later vice-admiral, d. 1920), Jakob Habib, the banker Jozef Halfon, Robert Levi, Yuda Levi Kebapçıoğlu, Samuel Rizzo, Elia Suhami Rafael Levi, Dr. İzidor Grayver…

Chana (Ciana) Synagogue

(162 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Chana (Çana, Ciana) Synagogue in theBalat quarter of Istanbulwas used in Byzantine times by Romaniot Jews from the Macedonian town of Tzyana. Some architects believe that the building was originally planned as a han, or commercial building, before becoming a synagogue. In 1663, Sephardi Jews took over the synagogue. Until 1908, it served also as the seat of a bet din (rabbinical court). For some time, the basement was used as a Jewish community prison. The synagogue building housed numerous Jewish refugees during the Turkish War of Independence (1919–…

Yahya, Nedim

(324 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Nedim Nessim Yahya, born in Istanbul in 1925, was a Turkish businessman, industrialist, and leader of the Jewish community. He graduated from the Jewish High School in Istanbul in 1943 and subsequently attended Istanbul Technical University, where he obtained a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering in 1948. Afterwards, Yahya started his own business selling milling machinery. Over the years, he became a successful and highly respected businessman and industrialist.             In the late 1960s, the lay council ( meclis cismani) of Turkey’s chief rabbinate appoint…

Modiano, Albert

(360 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…

Kohen Erkip, Albert

(287 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Albert Kohen Erkip, born in Ankara in 1953, is a mathematician and professor of mathematics at Sabanci University in Istanbul. He graduated from Ankara Fen Lisesi (Ankara Science High School) in 1970 and subsequently attended the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, where he earned his bachelor of science degree in mathematics in 1974. He went on to the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his master of science and Ph.D. degrees in 1979. Kohen has held teaching and resear…

Bahar, Beki L.

(441 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Beki Luiza Bahar, born in Istanbul in 1927, is a well-known Turkish playwright from Ankara. Bahar and her family moved to Ankara, Turkey’s new capital, in 1937 because of her father’s job. She graduated from TED (Turkish Educational Association) Ankara College and attended law school for a while. She also spent some time in Marseilles with her family before returning to Ankara. Her first article was published in 1958 in the weekly newspaper Haftanın Sesi, her first poem was published in 1959 in the anthology Varlık Yeni Şiirler Antolojisi, and her first short story was published in…

Navaro, Leyla

(311 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Leyla Navaro, born in Istanbul in 1943, is an influential Turkish psychologist and writer. She graduated from Istanbul University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and subsequently attended Boğaziçi (Bosporus) University, where she earned a master’s degree in psychological counseling. Her graduate studies focused on personal growth and development, and individual potential. Additionally, her clinical work emphasized gender-sensitive and group therapies.             Navaro is the founder of Nirengi, an organization that provides psychological counseling an…

Algazi, Yusuf

(268 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Yusuf Algazi, born in Istanbul in 1950, is a renowned Turkish poet. He graduated from the Lycée Saint Benoît in Istanbul and subsequently attended the Galatasaray University School of Chemical Engineering, graduating in 1972.       Algazi pioneered phonetic poetry in Turkey, and his poems reflect his interest both in Judaism and in gender relations. He frequently conducts discussions on Judaism at the Dostluk Youth Club, a Jewish social organization, and has organized “poem days” at the Atatürk Kültür Merkezi (AtatürkCultureCenter) in Istanbul. Algazi’s mo…

Travnik

(361 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 …

Ishak Efendi, Hoca

(324 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Hoca İshak Efendi, the renowned Turkish mathematician, scientist, and translator, was born in Arta, Greece, around 1774 and died, either in Suez or Mecca, in 1834. A learned Jew who converted to Islam, Hoca İshak Efendi maintained close relations with the Jewish community of Istanbul throughout his life and supported it. The Jews of Istanbul called him the Rabbi of the Admiralty ( tersane hahamı), the district where the school at which he taught was located. After completing his education in Istanbul,  İshak Efendi became a teacher of mathematics at the Army Engineering Schoo…

Tiryaki

(162 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Tiryaki was a monthly Jewish periodical published in Istanbul by former Şalom writer Moşe Grosman from 1994 to 2000. Printed in Turkish and Ladino, Tiryaki had forty-eight pages and followed the format of Albert Kohen’s popular paper La Boz de Türkiye. Under Grosman’s editorship, Tiryaki focused on opinion and art, and at times criticized Turkish Jewry’s communal administration. In 1998, the popular journal had about a thousand subscribers. It often published writings by influential figures like Yekta Güngör Özden, the former head of Turkey’s constitutional court, the r…

Filiba, Lina

(241 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Lina Filiba, born in Istanbul in 1958, is the executive vice president of the Turkish Jewish community. She graduated from Üsküdar American Academy in Istanbul in 1976, and subsequently attended the Bosphorus University, receiving her degree in computer programming in 1980. Filiba has been an active member of the Turkish Jewish community since her teenage years. She has participated in many volunteer organizations and Jewish cultural activities, including Amicale events and folk dance groups. As a member of the Community Board of Informal Jewish Education she designed Jewi…

Şalom (Shalom), Istanbul

(741 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Şalom ( Shalom) is a weekly newspaper in Istanbul that was founded in 1947 by the journalist Avram Leyon and is now published by Gözlem Gazetecilik Basın ve Yayın. The only paper serving the Jewish community in Turkey, it focuses on news of the Turkish Jewish community, domestic and international affairs, and Jewish culture and traditions. In addition, Şalom has op-ed columns that discuss social and political issues in Turkey and abroad. Şalom’s motto, “ A lo tuerto tuerto, a lo dereço dereço” (Right for the right, crookedness for the crooked), is printed above the masthead of every issue. Af…

Saban, Rafael David

(277 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…

Fresco, Ḥayyim Moshe

(267 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Ḥayyim Moshe Fresco (1780–1850) was the chief rabbi ( hahambaşı) of Istanbul from 1839 to 1841, succeeding Samuel Ḥayyim in that office. On November 3, 1839, as representative of all the Jews in the Ottoman Empire, Fresco attended the official ceremony proclaiming the Hatt-i Sherif ( Hatt-ı Şerif)of Gülhane (Imperial Rescript of Gülhane), which ushered in the Tanzimat reform period. In 1840, at the urging of Sir Moses Montefiore, Fresco published a proclamation in Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish (complete bilingual text in Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, vol. 5, 1841, pp. 16–17) ca…

Scialom, Sedat

(267 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…

Marcus, David

(444 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…

Eskenazi, Rina

(232 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…

Dostluk Youth Club, Istanbul

(388 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Dostluk Yurdu Derneği (Friendship Home Society), also known as the Dostluk Youth Club and the Jewish Community Center, is a popular Jewish social club in Istanbul that was founded in December 1966 by Moiz Behar, Yuda Saygıbilen, Moşe Benmeleh, Morris Behar, David Eskenazi, Albert Behar, and Şapat Aviyente. Their purpose was to provide a venue where the Jews of Istanbul, particularly the young people, could socialize with one another and learn about their religion and culture. During its formative years, the main activities of the Dostluk Yurdu Derneği included commun…
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