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Tuna (Danube) Province

(800 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…

Nahoum (Nahum), Haim (Ḥayyim)

(887 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Haim Nahoum (Ḥayyim Nahum) was born in 1873 in Manisa, Turkey. In 1881, he moved to Tiberias with his grandfather and studied at a yeshiva where he learned the Talmud in Hebrew and the Qurʾān in Arabic. In 1886, after completing his studies in Tiberias, he returned to Manisa, where he mastered Turkish and French. Later, he enrolled at the Mekteb-i Sultani, a government lycée  in Izmir (Smyrna), and then at the Imperial School of Law in Istanbul, where he studied Islamic law and diplomacy. In 189…

Gerush Synagogue, Bursa

(206 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The  Gerush (Heb. exile) Synagogue in the Turkish city of Bursa (Prusa) was built in the early sixteenth century by Jewish exiles from Spain. The synagogue is located on Arap Şükrü Street, near Sakarya Boulevard. It has a seating capacity of 100 to 150 people. Its strong and well-maintained structure suggests that the synagogue was most likely restored after the shattering earthquake of 1855. An inscription next to the prayer hall of the synagogue is dated to the year 5632 (1872), possibly the ti…

Altıntaş, Yusuf

(297 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Yusuf Altıntaş, born in Istanbul in 1945, is the influential private civil secretary of the chief rabbinate in Turkey. Altıntaş attended the rabbinic seminary in Hasköy for his high school education. Subsequently, he went to the Grafik Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts in 1967. After five years in Germany, Altıntaş moved to Florence, Italy, where he completed his higher education in typography by interning at Ciuli Imballaggi SPA. Upon his return to Istanbul, Altıntaş started his own printing and packaging company, and was it…

Guéron, Angèle

(389 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…

Camondo, Abraham de

(659 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Abraham Salomon de Camondo (Kamondo)a member of the prominent Sephardi Camondo 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…

Kohen, Albert

(410 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Albert Kohen, born in Hasköy, Istanbul in 1885, was a prominent Turkish writer, intellectual, and communal leader. He studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and upon graduation  worked in the Istanbul branch of the Banque de Salonique, of which he had become vice president by the time he retired in 1947. Throughout his life, Kohen was passionately interested in journalism. He began working at the weekly El Telegrafo in 1922, and then at the newspaper La Boz de Oriente in 1931. In 1939, he founded the biweekly La Boz de Türkiye, which was usually printed in Ladino, and of…

Atilhan, Cevat Rıfat

(396 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Cevat Rifat Atilhan (1892–1967), a well-known antisemitic Turkish writer, journalist, and Nazi sympathizer, was born in Istanbul and completed his high school education at the Kuleli Askeri Lisesi (Kuleli Military High School) there. Subsequently, he attended the Harbiye Military Academy. Graduating in 1912, he fought in the Balkan Wars, World War I, and Turkey’s War of Independence (1919–1922). In 1920, in recognition of his military prowess, he was appointed milis general (general of the militias) by the Turkish Grand National Assembly.             Atilhan resigned from th…

Hubeş, Rozet

(320 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Rozet Hubeş, born in Istanbul in 1959, is a Turkish Jewish actress. After graduating from the Lycée Saint Benoît d’Istanbul, she studied French language and literature in the School of Literature of Istanbul University, and theater at the Municipal Conservatory of Istanbul. In addition to her performances onstage in public and private theater, Hubeş does voice-overs and performs in cinema, television, and documentaries. She is affiliated with City Theatres of Istanbul. In 2005, the Afife Tiyatro Ödülleri (Afife Theatre Awards) organized by Yapı Kredi Sigorta (Yapı…

Capsali, Moses ben Elijah

(577 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…

Algazi Synagogue, Izmir

(184 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Algazi synagogue, known as the Kal de Ariva (Upper Synagogue) in Judeo-Spanish, is one of several synagogues in Izmir (Smyrna). It was built in 1724 by the Algazi family, which produced several distinguished rabbis and cantors. There is a well in the synagogue’s open courtyard. Inside the building is preserved the armchair of Ḥayyim Pallache, the famous chief rabbi of Izmir (1855–1869), who used to pray there. The synagogue also has a large basement that was once used by the ʿasara baṭlanim (Heb. ten gentlemen of leisure) who assembled there to engage in full-time prayer …

Shumla (Shumen)

(461 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…

Masliah (Mazliyah, Matzliyah), Nissim

(484 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Nissim Masliah (Mazliyah) was born in 1877 in Manisa, Turkey. After graduating from the Alliance Israélite Universelle school there, he studied law and practiced as an attorney in Salonica. He was also a member of the Commercial Tribunal of Salonica and professor of administrative law and capitulations at the Salonica police academy, and, in addition, an informal legal adviser to Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha, the inspector general of Macedonia. Reputedly a member and secretary of the Committee of Union a…

Edirne (Adrianople)

(3,043 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
1.    Brief History of Edirne Edirne (Adrianople) is an ancient city in northwestern Turkey (Thrace), neighboring Greece and Bulgaria. In 2000, its population was 119,316. Throughout its long history, Edirne’s strategic location led to intense competition to control it. The city was ruled by several different nations and finally was captured by the Ottomans in 1361. From 1365 until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Edirne was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The Sublime Porte used the city as a E…

Kaneti, Selim

(350 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Selim Kaneti (1934–1992) was a renowned Turkish professor of civil law. Born in Istanbul in 1934, he graduated from the Lycée Saint Benoît d’Istanbul and subsequently attended the Istanbul University Faculty of Law. In 1972, he obtained his doctorate from Istanbul University and became a professor of civil law at the Istanbul University Faculty of Law. In 1984, he was appointed head of the Finance and Economics Department and the Tax Law Subdivision at Istanbul University Faculty of Law. He served in these positions until …

Aciman, Avram

(205 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Avram Aciman (fl. second half of the nineteenth century) was born in Istanbul into the distinguished Aciman (Adjiman) family of Ottoman Sephardim. He was one of the four  Jewish members of the first Ottoman Parliament, convened from 1877 to 1878. Representing Istanbul, he was the only Jewish deputy who actively participated in the proceedings of the first session. He supported the general opposition in the chamber against the high-handed bureaucratic order and proposed a legislative amendment requiring provincial officials…

Beth Israel Synagogue (Şişli, Istanbul)

(262 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Beth Israel Synagogue, located on Efe Street, Şişli, is one of several synagogues in Istanbul. The building was erected in the 1920s and was originally used partly as a synagogue and partly as an auto repair garage. The part that was used as a synagogue and two nearby houses were bought in 1947 in order to enlarge the synagogue. With the supervision of contractor Aram Deragobyan and architect Jak Pardo, construction began in 1952 and the synagogue was named the Beth Israel Synagogue.             Unlike most other synagogues in Istanbul, Beth Israel has no historical or arti…

Etz Ahayim Synagogue, Bursa

(149 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…

Bet Din (Turkish Republic)

(411 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…

Arié, Gabriel

(500 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Gabriel Arié was born into a Sephardi family in Samokov, a small town in Ottoman Bulgaria, in 1863. His family were Spanish refugees who had settled in Vienna before immigrating to Bulgaria in the late eighteenth century. After receiving a traditional Jewish education, Arié studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Samokov and then in Istanbul. In 1878, he enrolled in the teacher-training program at the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale (ENIO) in Paris. While attending ENIO, Arié established good…
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