The Jewish community in Istanbul, located on the shores of the Golden Horn, the bend in the river that separates the old and new parts of Europe, is one of the oldest in the world! From Constantinople to the modern metropolis of Istanbul, from the Ottoman Empire to the modern Turkish state, Jews in this part of the world have often found refuge, built impressive centers of learning, and through today live side-by-side with Muslims and Christians in this multi-ethnic city.
See the the opulent Blue Mosque and spectacular Topkapı Palace. Don’t miss out on the impressive Ottoman Baroque-style Ahrida Synagogue, built in the 15th century; it is the oldest of Istanbul’s 16 synagogues and has the remarkable Bima, built in the shape of a ship’s prow. This impressive work is thought to symbolize either Noah’s Ark or the Ottoman ships that brought the Sephardic Jews from Spain to Turkey.
Moving onto the historic Jewish district of Beyoğlu, see the great stone Galata Tower, once the high point of the Genoese fortified town. Here, one can visit the Ashkenazi Synagogue as well as the Neve Shalom Synagogue, the largest synagogue in all of Istanbul, today a center of the Jewish community.
The Jewish cemetery in Ulus is home to a monument erected in memory of the terrorist attacks in 1986 and 2003. In 2001, the Zulfaris Synagogue in the Karaköy district of Istanbul was restored by the Quincentennial Foundation and reopened as the Jewish Museum of Turkey, the museum highlights the 700 years of harmonious co-existence between Jews and Turks. In the courtyard is a sculpture by Nadia Arditti entitled The Soaring Flame, this monument is in memory of the Turkish Jewish soldiers who lost their lives during World War I and during the War of Independence.
Come and discover this thriving metropolis between Orient and Occident, a safe haven for Sephardic Jews over the centuries. Turkey’s Jewish population today totals over 25,000, discover the intricacies of daily Jewish life and the role of Jews in Turkish society today.