Popular Articles

Bucking tradition, Jews of Turkey increasing their visibility

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

In Turkey, when there were clashes between Palestinians and Israel, the ‘man on the street’ would violently demonstrate, blaming the Jews. (Photo: Brookings Institute)

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

“Kayadez” was the best solution the community could find. Derived from Judeo Spanish, it has been the best world showing the mood under which people had to live for a long time: silence, submission, appeasement!

That was how I finished my last article depicting the shaping of the Jews’ feelings in Turkey for decades. “Living low profile in a bubble that Jews thought would protect them from being involved in gruesome incidents”, would be the wisest way to survive. The Muslim / Turkish public forming 99% of the country’s population, was taking the minorities as foreigners that could be hostile to the country. There was an unseen, however well-felt barrier between the Muslims and Non-Muslims, “gayrı-müslim,” as they are called.

It was known that Armenians, Anatolian Greeks, and Syriac communities living in the southwest regions of the country have had “problems” with the Ottoman and Turkish establishments. Problems that today, after a century, start to be more visible but still not well known and understood by the larger Turkish public: Genocide, forced immigration, population exchange and so on. 

Due to long-lasting good relations built during Ottoman times, Turkish scholars and academics believe that the Jewish community was spared from what others had to endure. 

Previous
Next

The most popular narrative raised among the “creme de la creme” Turkish circles was that “Musevi’” – not Jew – was an integral part of the Turkish nation. 

Similar to the Napoleonic approach granting Jews equal citizenship in France and accepting Judaism as a religion, the Turkish Republic also built citizenship around the well-known saying of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which goes: “How happy is the one who says I am a Turk”… This made it difficult for the establishment to accept Jews as Turks. So, they had a good idea to define them as “Musevi”, disciples of Musa (=Moses) and play around with this terminology that is still valid nowadays, at least to an extent!

An essential part of the Turkish population who met “real Jews” would agree that “Musevi’s,” as they would love to call them, were living in harmony and under an extensive tolerance granted by the state and by the general public. As for those who never met Jews in their life, this would turn out to be a curse spit out at every appropriate moment. The distinction between Jew (=Yahudi) and Musevi was imminent.

The former gave a sense of disdain and related itself to Israel, which was demonized in every incident occurring with Arabs, namely Palestinians. In contrast, the latter was more polite, more intimate, and used by many Jews, as well.

That they were accepted by the Ottomans centuries ago, that they never had problems with the Sultan and later with the Republic’s governments, that they never had separatist ambitions, thus have not rebelled against the state, gave the say to scholars that everything was quiet.

Get thej.ca a Pro Israel Voice by Email. Never miss a top story that effects you, your family & your community

The property tax, the September 1955 pogrom and many other incidents that one will recall can’t be enumerated as antisemitic. “Citizen talk Turkish,” which has been the subject of my previous article, also was so. The antisemitic, or better placed, the anti-Jewish feelings were always there, hidden in the deep of the widespread feeling.

With Israel’s birth in 1948, things started to change. The challenge in the Holy Land has been deliberately described as a war on religion. The dirty and helpless Jew of the past century was now beating the Palestinian. Jews “know very well how to kill people,” said President Erdogan, to President Peres, at the famous Davos meeting of 2009, after which ties between the two countries broke.

Films, serials, books depicting Herzl and the Rothschilds, and the Jewish factor, in connection with the free-masonry, caused the fading of the Ottoman Empire. These kinds of publications are too much and quite popular. The Protocols and much more always inspire the message.

 

While Israel has tried to warm relations recently with Pres. Erdogan, the currents of antisemitism still run deep in Turkey. (Photo: stockholmcf.org)

The Jewish community has been forced by the Turkish public opinion to condemn Israel every time clashes with Hamas were on scene.

The press never wrote about the many rockets fired from Gaza to Israel. Israel was the culprit, and so were the Jews, but not the Musevi’s, that are loyal to Turkey and have lived here for centuries. 

The paradox seen in the compromised rhetoric has always been denounced by the Islamist press and far beyond that. When all Jews, no matter when they lived and where they lived, were cursed, many opinion leaders openly opposed it. However, no investigation, no prosecution, and no legal reactions were ever recorded, despite the current laws in force. 

Jews and the Jewish community are more and more visible today. Shalom, the weekly I also contribute, has made Jewish life more apparent. The sentimental ties between Israel and the Jews in Turkey are openly seen. “Kayadez” is no longer possible. With social media more and more dominating life, Jews are there. 

The fight that is given, despite all inconveniences, to sustain the Jewish life in Turkey, bonding the vibrant past it had in those lands to the somehow uncertain future, is a sign of determination. However, it’s crystal clear that this will not stop anti-Jewish feelings and actions against all that is Jewish…

Marsel Russo was born in Istanbul and was raised in a secular Jewish family. He holds a Chemistry degree and an MBA. His deep interest in the Jewish history of the 20th century, as well as other topics, has appeared since 2005 in Shalom, the weekly newspaper of the Jewish community of Turkey.

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Previous
Next

Read More

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

Breaking News

Recent

Features

News

Current Events

Opinions

Politics

Religion

Culture

Memoriam and Obituaries

PodcastS

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved