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Zonana Family

(453 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Zonana family held the position of ocak bazirgâni , merchant-banker of the Janissary corps, for most of the eighteenth century. The first member of the family to occupy this lucrative post was David Zonana (d. 1746), who acquired immense wealth and unprecedented political influence. David established good relations with Seyyid Hasan Pasha, the commander of the Janissary corps, and continued to serve as his personal agent when Seyyid Hasan Pasha was appointed grand vizier in 1743. However, three years later, when Seyyid Hasan Pasha was repla…

Benbanaste, Nesim

(277 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Nesim Benbanaste (1939—1992) was a prominent Turkish Jewish writer and intellectual. After completing his high school education at Beyoğlu Musevi Lisesi (Beyoğlu Jewish Lycée) in Istanbul, Benbanaste attended the Faculty of Law of Istanbul University. He later worked at several private schools as a teacher and director. He was affiliated with one of Turkey’s oldest publishing association, the Türk Basın Birliği (Turkish Press Union).             From 1963 until his death, Benbanaste wrote numerous articles, essays, poems, and translations. An admirer of Atat…

Marcus, David

(444 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Dr. David Marcus was an influential Ashkenazi leader in Istanbul. Born in Novgorod, Russia, in 1870, he began his religious studies at the yeshiva in Lomza, Poland. After finishing high school, Marcus attended the University of Bonn in Germany, where he studied psychology, pedagogy, and philosophy, and obtained his doctorate in 1901. His impressive research and studies at the University of Bonn quickly drew the attention of the Jewish community in Germany. In 1900, the Ashkenazi community in Istanbul offered Marcus the position of headmaster of the Jewish Goldschmit Lycée in Galat…

Scialom, Sedat

(267 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Sedat Sami Scialom (1939—2008), a well-known Turkish businessman, was president of the Grafika Maya Reklam Ajansi, a major advertising agency founded by his father. Scialom graduated from the Lycée Saint Michel in Şişli, Istanbul in 1957 and from the Faculty of Economics of Istanbul University in 1961. He then went to Belgium for his higher education, graduating from the École Supérieure Technique de Publicité in 1963.             While studying in Brussels, Scialom worked at Bodden et Dechy, an advertising agency, as a client representative. Later, he moved t…

Gerez, Yosef (Yusef) Habib

(413 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Yosef Habib Gerez (b. 1926) is a Turkish Jewish artist and poet. After graduating from Kabataş Erkek Lisesi, a high school for boys in Istanbul, he studied law at Istanbul University and at the same time attended the Academy of Applied Fine Arts in Istanbul as a guest student. With the encouragement of his teacher, Nurullah Berk, Gerez began to draw and paint. In 1972 he opened the Beyoğlu City Gallery in Istanbul. That same year, his paintings were shown at a gallery in Milan. Later, he became …

Tuna (Danube) Province

(800 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Tuna (Danube) vilayet (province) was organized in 1864 as part of the Ottoman administrative reforms during the Tanzimat era. It comprised the old provinces (eyalets) of Silistre, Vidin, and Nish. The new province was subdivided into seven sancaks (districts), namely Nish, Ruse (Rousse, Rusčuk), Sofia (Sophia), Tarnovo, Tulcea, Varna, and Vidin, and they in turn were subdivided into forty-eight kazas (boroughs) and about ten nahiyes (subdistricts). The capital of the province was the city of Ruse. The primary goal of establishing the Tuna vilayet was to improve the provinci…

Guéron, Angèle

(389 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Angèle Guéron  was born in 1886 in Istanbul. She was educated at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Istanbul and then at the AIU teachers college, the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale, in Paris, from which she graduated in 1904. The following year she was appointed to the Alliance school in Tunis as an instructor, and later she also taught for a time at the Alliance school in Istanbul. The Alliance regarded Guéron as a highly promising educator. In 1907, at the age of twenty-one, she was appointed director of the Alliance school for girls in Haifa, and two years later, in 1909, direct…

Bet Din (Turkish Republic)

(411 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
After the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the Jewish community of Turkey ceased to have a separate legal council and the responsibilities of its bet din were strictly limited to religious matters. The chief rabbinate and the bet din, which formerly had dealt with legal issues in addition to religious issues, no longer acted as the community’s civil court.    The Turkish bet din has changed in many ways since its inception in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially it consisted of a panel of three rabbinic judges who judged unlawful ac…

Hubeş, Rozet

(320 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Rozet Hubeş, born in Istanbul in 1959, is a Turkish Jewish actress. After graduating from the Lycée Saint Benoît d’Istanbul, she studied French language and literature in the School of Literature of Istanbul University, and theater at the Municipal Conservatory of Istanbul. In addition to her performances onstage in public and private theater, Hubeş does voice-overs and performs in cinema, television, and documentaries. She is affiliated with City Theatres of Istanbul. In 2005, the Afife Tiyatro Ödülleri (Afife Theatre Awards) organized by Yapı Kredi Sigorta (Yapı…

Şalom (Shalom), Istanbul

(741 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Şalom ( Shalom) is a weekly newspaper in Istanbul that was founded in 1947 by the journalist Avram Leyon and is now published by Gözlem Gazetecilik Basın ve Yayın. The only paper serving the Jewish community in Turkey, it focuses on news of the Turkish Jewish community, domestic and international affairs, and Jewish culture and traditions. In addition, Şalom has op-ed columns that discuss social and political issues in Turkey and abroad. Şalom’s motto, “ A lo tuerto tuerto, a lo dereço dereço” (Right for the right, crookedness for the crooked), is printed above the masthead of every issue. Af…

Fernandez, Isaac

(350 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Isaac Fernandez (1889–1929) was born in Salonica. He succeeded his father, Salomon Fernandez, as president of the regional committee of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU), serving in this capacity for many years until World War I. Like his father, he was also a merchant and an engineer. Fernandez was the president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the board of governors of the Banque de Salonique. In addition, he was vice-president of the al-Ḥudayda-Ṣanʿāʾ Ottoman railroad company, vice- president of the boards of governors of the Balia Kara-Aidın Ottoman Mini…

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–…

Altıntaş, Yusuf

(297 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Yusuf Altıntaş, born in Istanbul in 1945, is the influential private civil secretary of the chief rabbinate in Turkey. Altıntaş attended the rabbinic seminary in Hasköy for his high school education. Subsequently, he went to the Grafik Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts in 1967. After five years in Germany, Altıntaş moved to Florence, Italy, where he completed his higher education in typography by interning at Ciuli Imballaggi SPA. Upon his return to Istanbul, Altıntaş started his own printing and packaging company, and was it…

Ovadya, Silvyo

(239 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Silvyo Ovadya,  the leader of the Jewish community in Turkey since 2004, was born in Istanbul in 1955. Since 1971, he has worked for Jewish youth clubs, the Or-Ahayim Hospital, the Hahambaşılık (chief rabbinate), and most importantly the Şalom newspaper, as its publishing coordinator for twelve years and its administrative head for nineteen years. Ovadya attended the Lycée Français Privée Saint-Benoît, a missionary school in Istanbul, and received his bachelor’s degree from Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi (ITÜ) in electronics and communications engineering. He began hi…

Kohen, Albert

(410 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Albert Kohen, born in Hasköy, Istanbul in 1885, was a prominent Turkish writer, intellectual, and communal leader. He studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and upon graduation  worked in the Istanbul branch of the Banque de Salonique, of which he had become vice president by the time he retired in 1947. Throughout his life, Kohen was passionately interested in journalism. He began working at the weekly El Telegrafo in 1922, and then at the newspaper La Boz de Oriente in 1931. In 1939, he founded the biweekly La Boz de Türkiye, which was usually printed in Ladino, and of…

Arié, Gabriel

(500 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Gabriel Arié was born into a Sephardi family in Samokov, a small town in Ottoman Bulgaria, in 1863. His family were Spanish refugees who had settled in Vienna before immigrating to Bulgaria in the late eighteenth century. After receiving a traditional Jewish education, Arié studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Samokov and then in Istanbul. In 1878, he enrolled in the teacher-training program at the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale (ENIO) in Paris. While attending ENIO, Arié established good…

Algazi, Yusuf

(268 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Yusuf Algazi, born in Istanbul in 1950, is a renowned Turkish poet. He graduated from the Lycée Saint Benoît in Istanbul and subsequently attended the Galatasaray University School of Chemical Engineering, graduating in 1972.       Algazi pioneered phonetic poetry in Turkey, and his poems reflect his interest both in Judaism and in gender relations. He frequently conducts discussions on Judaism at the Dostluk Youth Club, a Jewish social organization, and has organized “poem days” at the Atatürk Kültür Merkezi (AtatürkCultureCenter) in Istanbul. Algazi’s mo…

Shaʿar Ha-Shamayyim Synagogue, Izmir

(189 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
The Shaʿar ha-Shamayim (Gates of Heaven) Synagogue is one of the four functioning synagogues in Izmir. Built during the years 1964 to 1965, it is located in a densely populated part of the city, the Alsancak district. It is currently the most active synagogue in Izmir and has the largest congregation. The need to build a synagogue in Alsancak emerged in 1945 when many Jews began to move there from other parts of the city, such as Güzelyali and Karataş. Prior to the dedication of Shaʿar ha-Shamayim, two other buildings in Alsancak were used as synagogues to fulfill the religious nee…

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…

Bahar, Beki L.

(441 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Beki Luiza Bahar, born in Istanbul in 1927, is a well-known Turkish playwright from Ankara. Bahar and her family moved to Ankara, Turkey’s new capital, in 1937 because of her father’s job. She graduated from TED (Turkish Educational Association) Ankara College and attended law school for a while. She also spent some time in Marseilles with her family before returning to Ankara. Her first article was published in 1958 in the weekly newspaper Haftanın Sesi, her first poem was published in 1959 in the anthology Varlık Yeni Şiirler Antolojisi, and her first short story was published in…
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