European Jewish Congress
The Jewish Community of Turkey
Jewish Confederation of Turkey
Latest news from the community
New Turkish TV series accused of antisemitism
A fictional Turkish television series is causing great concern in the Jewish community with its storylines depicting Theodor Herzl intending to establish a Jewish state extending from the Euphrates to the Nile and a Jew attempting to assassinate Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
Read more

The Jewish Community of Turkey


The history of the Jews in Anatolia started many centuries before the migration of Sephardic Jews. Remnants of Jewish settlements, ancient synagogue ruins and tumbstones, dating from 220 least, have been uncovered in Sardes, Miletus, Phocee, Priene, along the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, Jewish communities in Anatolia flourished and continued to prosper through the Turkish conquest. When the Ottomans captured Bursa in 1326 Orhan Bey gave to the Jewish community oppressed under Byzantine rule, the permission to rebuild the Etz Ahayim (Tree of Life) Synagogue which remained in service until nineteen forties. The Jews greeted the Ottomans as saviours.

Early in the 14th century, Jews expelled from Hungary, France, Sicily etc. migrated to the Ottoman lands. From the early 15th century on, the Ottomans actively encouraged Jewish immigration. Through a letter sent to Jewish communities in Europe in around 1454/1469, Yitzhak Sarfati (Chief-Rabbi of Edirne) invited his co-religionists to leave the torments they were enduring in Christianity and to seek safety and prosperity in Turkey. When Mehmet II "the Conqueror" took Constantinople in 1453, he encountered an oppressed Romaniot (Byzantine) Jewish community which welcomed him with enthusiasm.

Following the Edict of Expulsion in 1492, Sultan Bayazid II's offer of refuge gave new hope to the persecuted Sephardim. The arrival of the Sephardim altered the structure of the community and the original group of Romaniote Jews was totally absorbed.

Over the centuries an increasing number of European Jews, escaping persecution in their native countries, settled in the Ottoman Empire. Jews fleeing the 1881, 1891, 1897 and 1902 pogroms in Russia and the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution also took refuge in Turkey.

For 300 years following the expulsion, the prosperity and creativity of the Ottoman Jews rivaled that of the Golden Age of Spain. With a Jewish population of almost 30.000, Istanbul thus became one of the most important Jewish centers of Europe. The Talmudic Academy that was established in Edirne, with the participation of many Sephardic philosophers, thinkers and scholars, trained students coming from all over Europe. Sfad (Safed) too became a world famous centre for religious philosophy and Kabbalah.

The first printing press in the Ottoman Empire was established in 1493 by the brothers David and Samuel ibn Nahmias, who had emigrated from Spain. Between the beginning of the 16th and the end of the 18th centuries, Istanbul was one the main centers of Hebrew publishing.

Most of the court physicians were Jews:. Number of Jews were assigned to distinguished posts in the Ottoman palace, especially in financial and foreign relations issues. Ottoman diplomacy was often carried out by Jews. In the free air of the Ottoman Empire, Jewish literature flourished. Joseph Caro compiled the Shulhan Arouh. Shlomo haLevi Alkabes composed the Lekhah Dodi and Jacob Culi began to write the famous MeAm Loez. The Ottoman Sultans issued a number of firmans about blood slanders World War I brought to an end the glory of the Ottoman Empire.

The young Turkish Republic. recognized in 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne as a fully independent state within its present day borders, adopted a secular constitution and accorded minority rights to the three principal non-Muslim religious minorities, permitting them to carry on with their own schools, social institutions and funds.

During the tragic days of World War II, Turkey managed to maintain its neutrality. As early as 1933, Atatürk invited numbers of prominent German and Austrian scientists, mostly Jewish, to find shelter in Turkey and continue their academic carriers at Turkish universities.

Turkey served as a safe passage for thousands of Jews fleeing the horrors of the Nazism. Several Turkish diplomats, made every effort to save the Turkish Jews in the Nazi occupied countries, from the Holocaust. Mr. Salahattin Ulkumen, Consul General at Rhodes in 1943-1944, was recognized by the Yad Vashem as a Hassid Umot ha'Olam (Righteous Gentile) in June 1990. Turkey continues to be a shelter, a haven for all those who have to flee dogmatism, intolerance and persecution.


The present size of Jewish Community is estimated at around 20.000. Almost 18.000 live in Istanbul, about 1.500 in Izmir and other smaller groups located in different towns. Sephardim make up 96% of the Community, with Ashkenazim accounting for the rest. Turkish Jews are legally represented, as they have been for many centuries, by the Hahambasi, the Chief Rabbi who is assisted by a religious Council made up of five Hahamim and fifty Lay Counsellors who look after the secular affairs.


The Community maintains in Istanbul a school complex including elementary and secondary schools for around 600 students. A weekly newspaper:?alom (Shalom), in Turkish with one page in Judeo-Spanish and a monthly supplement El Amaneser, also in Judeo-Spanish are published. The first and only Jewish Museum of Turkey has been inaugurated on November 2001 (

Two Jewish hospitals, homes for the aged (Moshav Zekinim) and several welfare associations (Matan Baseter, Bar?nyurt Mishne Tora), that assisting the poor, the sick, the needy children and orphans, serves the community. Social youth clubs containing libraries, cultural and sports facilities, discotheques give young people the chance to meet. In spite of their number, the Jews have distinguished themselves.

There are several Jewish professors teaching at the Universities of Istanbul and Ankara, and many Turkish Jews are prominent in business, industry, almost all liberal professions and journalism.


Jewish Community of Turkey
Tel: +90 212 293 87 94
Fax: +90 212 244 19 80

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Life in Israel
  • A multi-pronged approach to water economy innovation
    While Israel is already by far the global leader in wastewater recycling, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is determined to see the country re-use nearly all of its sewage in the years to come as its population continues to expand from north to south.

    On Thursday, March 23, 2017 A multi-pronged approach to water economy innovation
  • From tragedy to tech: Israelis and Rwandans work together to build start-up African start-up nation
    With a modest population of twelve million, bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west and Uganda to the north, Rwanda today is renowned for its green highlands, active volcanoes and rare silverback gorillas.

    On Thursday, March 23, 2017 From tragedy to tech: Israelis and Rwandans work together to build start-up African start-up nation
  • Israel and China to partner on environmental technologies
    Urging Israeli companies to take part in cleaning up China’s ecosystem, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to collaborate on environmental technologies.

    On Thursday, March 23, 2017 Israel and China to partner on environmental technologies
  • Knesset extends paid maternity leave to 15 weeks
    The Knesset on Tuesday extended paid maternity leave from 14 to 15 weeks.

    On Thursday, March 23, 2017 Knesset extends paid maternity leave to 15 weeks
  • World's largest conference of travel bloggers held in Israel
    Travel bloggers, writers and industry professionals from 50 countries convened in Jerusalem this week to attend the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX), the world’s largest conference and networking event for online travel journalists.

    On Thursday, March 23, 2017 World's largest conference of travel bloggers held in Israel
  • Thousands of injured Syrians treated in Israel
    Thousands of Syrians have been killed and millions more are on the run. That's just part of the cost of the ongoing civil war. Yet in all the chaos and heartache, unexpected examples of compassion could be healing more than just physical wounds.

    On Friday, March 17, 2017 Thousands of injured Syrians treated in Israel
  • Cheesecake, amaretto or goat cheese and onion jam?
    Those were just some of the new hamantaschen options this year on offer at a bakery in Tel Aviv, one of dozens around the country, which was bustling in advance of the Purim holiday, which started on Saturday evening.

    On Friday, March 17, 2017 Cheesecake, amaretto or goat cheese and onion jam?
  • Israeli researchers target treatment of autism with cannabis
    Sitting on cushions in the corner of a brightly decorated room in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, 11-year-old Eitan anxiously watched the sliding door leading to the hallway outside.

    On Friday, March 17, 2017 Israeli researchers target treatment of autism with cannabis
  • Jews and Arabs come together for backgammon championships in Jerusalem
    In the early evening on a backstreet in downtown Jerusalem, Arabs and Jews are milling around, preparing for battle. But this isn't a new round of Middle East violence; it's a showdown over shesh besh, the local name for backgammon.

    On Thursday, March 09, 2017 Jews and Arabs come together for backgammon championships in Jerusalem
  • Israel becomes gas exporter
    Israeli firm Delek Drilling - the part of Delek Group developing Israel’s offshore gas fields - has started exporting natural gas to Jordan in what are Israel’s first gas exports ever, AFP reported on Thursday, citing a company spokeswoman.

    On Thursday, March 09, 2017 Israel becomes gas exporter
EJC in Media
President's Page Security and Crisis Centre by EJC European Parliament Working Group On Antisemitism