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Societies, Social Organizations (Modern Turkish)

(1,142 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…

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…

Ojalvo, Harry

(497 words)

Author(s): Stanford Shaw | Aksel Erbahar
Harry Ojalvo was born into a Sephardi family in Istanbul on September 23, 1920. His father, Vital Ojalvo, was vice-consul of the United States in Erzurum from 1899 and in Trabzon from 1904, and later was the agent for the United States Lines and American Express as a partner in Turkey’s first professional travel agency, NATTA—the National Turkish Travel Agency. In 1937, the Ojalvo family was given Turkish citizenship by Prime Minister İsmet İnönü and the minister of foreign affairs, Tevfik Rüştü Aras. After serving in the Turkish army during World War II, Harry Ojalvo operated an automo…

Zionism Among Sephardi/Mizraḥi Jewry

(13,800 words)

Author(s): Avi Davidi | Norman A. Stillman | Jacob M. Landau | Zvi Yehuda | Aksel Erbahar
1. General introduction The mainstream modern Zionist movement was founded and developed by Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern and Central Europe, and institutions such as the World Zionist Organization and the Zionist Congresses were dominated by Ashkenazi European Jews. The majority of the pioneer settlers (Heb. ḥaluṣim; usually rendered in English as halutzim) who created the new Yishuv and its institutions in Palestine were also Ashkenazim, and they became the principal founders of the State of Israel. Not surprisingly, therefore, most of the s…
Date: 2015-09-03
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