Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Jewish synagogues, Istanbul

Ruth and I visited three of the eighteen synagogues in Istanbul- the Italian Synagogue, Neve Shalom, and Etz Ahayim. They were beautiful sanctuaries, but it was chilling to enter them. The Jewish community in Turkey is currently beleaguered, and many Jewish people are now leaving the country after millennia of a strong Jewish presence. Both under the Ottoman and the secular modern Turkish republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, there has been widespread tolerance of minorities. Unfortunately that is changing under the current Islamist government, headed by Recep Erdogan.

Neve Shalom has been severely bombed twice, to great loss of life. There is strict security at all the synagogues, and Neve Shalom has hardhats placed under each seat in the pews.

Both Neve Shalom and Etz Achayim are active congregations, with services, active education and cultural programs, and the like in place.

We were welcomed at each site, and were guided well by our knowledgeable and helpful guide, Atilla from Effendi Tours.

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