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Turkey Map and Description

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There has been a Jewish community in Turkey (Asia Minor) since the 4th century B.C. such as in Sardis. According to the Old Testament, the prophet Abraham was born in Ur in Chaldea. Near the Euphrates (Firat) river, there is a historic and ancient city called Sanliurfa whose initial name was Ur. Jewish communities in Asia Minor continued to prosper throughout the Turkish conquest under Seljuks and Ottomans.

In modern times after the Republic, in the late 1930's and early 1940's, Turkey again opened its homes and universities to Jews who had fled from Nazi oppression and persecution. In 1933 Ataturk invited to Turkey many university professors of Jewish origin who were threatened by Nazi cruelty. In the beginning of the 19th Century Turkey was home to more than 100,000 Jews.

Today Turkey's total Jewish population is around 26,000 (the second largest Jewish community in a Muslim country, being the first is Iran), with a great majority living in Istanbul. In 1992 the community celebrated the 500th anniversary of its existence in Turkey since the spring of 1492, when they came to Istanbul and accepted by the sultan Beyazit II shortly after the Moors were driven out of Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain expelled all the Jews from their lands and ended the largest Jewish settlement in Europe. The community is 96% Sephardi, the rest is Ashkenazis. There are also about 100 Karaites live in Turkey, but usually they don't consider themselves a part of the Jewish community and don't take any part in its activities.

The Jewish people in Turkey contributed immensely to the economic, cultural and political life during the times of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic after the War of Liberation led by Ataturk. The Jewish community of Turkey is recognized by the State through its Chief Rabbinate, and Chief Rabbi is called "Haham Basi" in Turkish.


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