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Neve Shalom Synagogue, Istanbul

(546 words)

Author(s): Rifat Sonsino
The largest and the most modern Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul, Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace), is located in the Beyoğlu district, near the Galata Tower, and within walking distance of the Tunnel Square. In 1938, to make room for the synagogue, the reception hall of a Jewish primary school was converted into a house of worship. In 1948, the board of trustees of the temple decided to build a proper synagogue on the site. The following year, when all the preparations were completed, two Jewish architects, Elyo Ventura and Bernard Motola, both graduates of the Istanbul Technical University, …

Haleva, Izak

(288 words)

Author(s): Rifat Sonsino
Born in 1940 in Istanbul,  Isak Haleva graduated from the Jewish High School in Galata and continued with his rabbinic studies at the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he was ordained as a rabbi. Among his teachers there were Ovadia Yosef and Shimon Baadani. After serving in the Turkish army from 1961 to 1963 as a reserve officer in Manisa and Kayser, Haleva was appointed to the chief rabbinate, serving as a member of its bet din, and later on, for seven years, as deputy to the ailing chief rabbi, David Asseo. Over the years from 1963 to 2002, Haleva also taught courses in Hebrew and in…

Soncino (Sonsino) Family

(572 words)

Author(s): Rifat Sonsino
After Gutenberg invented the printing press in the late 1440s, the new way of producing books quickly became popular among Jews in several European cities, and Italy soon became the center of Hebrew printing. Among the greatest of all the Jewish printers were the Soncinos. Originally from Speyer (Spires) in the Rhineland, the first members of the family arrived in Soncino, a small town in northern Italy, in 1454, where they engaged in banking and moneylending. When town officials set up a public loan office,  Israel Nathan, a wealthy physician, along with his sons Joshua and Mos…

Asseo, David Ben Isaac

(377 words)

Author(s): Rifat Sonsino
Born in Istanbul in 1914, David Asseo attended the yeshiva in Hasköy, and then the Alliance Israélite Universelle School in the same suburb of Istanbul. Encouraged by Rabbi Isaac Behar Eliezer and supported by a scholarship provided by the B'nai B'rith lodge of Istanbul ( Loge d’Orient), he continued his studies at the yeshiva of Rhodes. He graduated in 1933 with a diploma that enabled him to teach Hebrew and Jewish religious studies. Returning to Istanbul, he taught at the Jewish High School and published a Hebrew primer called ’Ani Lomed (Heb. I Am Learning). In 1936, after serving in t…