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Yiddish/Turkish connection explained to my satisfaction

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  • bribri56@aol.com
    I would like to refocus on building our language, but here s my contribution to the current sidebar on Yiddish. This is a recent article from the Jerusalem
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2001
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      I would like to refocus on building our language, but here's my contribution
      to the current sidebar on Yiddish. This is a recent article from the
      Jerusalem Post. Apparently an important segment of Turkey's Jews speak
      Yiddish, because they emigrated from Germany and Central Europe beginning in
      the Middle Ages.

      ITS ALL RELATIVE: Yiddish in Istanbul
      By Schelly Talalay Dardashti
      (September 6) - An island of Ashkenazi history and culture in Turkey

      THE invitation to settle in the Ottoman Empire proffered by the Sultan to the
      Jews of Spain - who faced expulsion in 1492 - remarked on their achievements.
      Many responded and settled in Turkey, becoming very successful in their
      adopted homeland. So large was the community, that one might have assumed all
      Turkish Jews were descendants of those who were refugees from Spain and

      Not so.

      A deep-rooted - although few in number - Ashkenazi community is centered in
      Istanbul, and its leaders are trying to both preserve their heritage and
      inform the world - and their own young people- about the community's history.

      "OUR Istanbul Ashkenazi community has about 800 members, representing about
      3% of the city's Jews," says Erdal Frayman, co-author of the recently
      published "A hundred-year-old synagogue in Yuksekkaldirim: Ashkenazi Jews."
      "Most of us are married to Sephardim, and we don't know how long our tiny
      community will be active."

      "We felt a book published on the centennial anniversary of our beautiful
      synagogue would be a source for our children to learn about their roots and
      for others to know a different culture."

      Sales proceeds will be used to underwrite more research into Ashkenazi life
      in the Ottoman Empire and in the early years of the Turkish Republic.

      Printed in both Turkish and English, the book offers the widest possible
      readership for its intended audience; its photographs are a rich portrayal of
      community historical life, as are the discussions of community personalities.

      Of particular genealogical interest is the accompanying booklet, Istanbul
      ulus askenaz mezerligi gomu listesia (Burial list of the Istanbul Ulus
      Ashkenazi Cemetery).

      Authors Frayman, Robert Schild and Moshe Groseman are not professionals;
      their main purpose in publishing the book is to keep Yiddishkeit alive in

      Frayman, a textile exporter and chemical engineer, earned an MBA at George
      Washington University (Washington, DC).

      Schild, in the steel business, has a PhD in business administration, and is a
      columnist for the weekly Jewish newspaper, Shalom.

      Groseman, an accountant, is on the community's board, and is publisher of the
      monthly magazine, Tiryaki.

      IN Genesis 10:3 and Chronicles 1:6, "Ashkenaz" is used for the people who
      lived between Armenia and north of the Euphrates and, in Middle Ages
      rabbinical literature, it was a euphemism for Germany.

      Jews lived in the Greek Colonies of the Black Sea coast as early as the 1st
      century CE, according to the book. And, much later, when England, France and
      Germany all banished their Jews to the east, they were welcomed in 15th
      century Poland, where about 60 communities quickly shaped Ashkenazi culture.

      Yiddish became the lingua franca of a wide geographical area, was used in
      literature and research and became the daily secular language, while Hebrew
      was the language of religion.

      In 1648, the Greek Orthodox Bogdan Chmielnicki and the Crimean Tartars
      rebelled against Poland. Although there was suffering among Roman Catholics
      and nobles, the real victims were Jews - about 100,000 killed in five years.
      Crimean slave traders captured thousands of Jewish survivors and sold them to
      Italian, Moroccan and Ottoman Jewish communities, who ransomed them.

      In 1795, Poland was split among Russia, Prussia and the Austrian-Hungarian
      Empire, leaving most Jewish communities in Russia, between the Baltic and
      Black Seas. The Jews in Austria-Hungary had a better life, and Russian Jews
      were attracted by the improved living conditions.

      ISTANBUL'S Ashkenazi community dates to the 14th century CE, when King Ludwig
      of Bavaria drove away his Jews, who then settled in Ottoman areas:
      Gallipolis, Ankara and Adrianople. Ashkenazi Rabbi Zarfatti invited German,
      French, Hungarian Jews to live under the Ottomans in peace and prosperity.

      Jews from Bavaria and other areas responded, moving to Sofia, Plevne,
      Thessalonika and Istanbul.

      In 1550, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent invited Ashkenazim once again. They
      settled in Istanbul, Adrianople, Thessalonica, Palestine, etc., served by
      prominent rabbis.

      In 1650, 300 Chmielnicki survivors were sold by slave traders; many were
      ransomed by the Istanbul community. When Hungary rebelled against the
      Ottomans in the 17th century, Ashkenazim fled from Hungary, Poland and
      Ukraine to Sofia, Thessalonika and Smyrna.

      And, in 1854, when the Ottoman Empire and its allies began the Crimean war
      against Russia, about 400 Crimean Jewish families living in Kerch moved to
      Istanbul, received citizenship and organized a synagogue.

      In the late 1800s, Ashkenazim took over commerce between the
      Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Many Austrian Jews held high level
      positions. The community, never more than a small percentage of the
      population, became more important and received foreigners' privileges. They
      set up their own synagogues, bet din (religious court), various institutions
      and even butchers.

      Paris-based Alliance Israelite Universalle, established in 1860, opened
      schools throughout the Empire, and the German Jews Rescue Association
      (Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden) was formed in 1901. The Goldschmidt School
      opened in Galata in 1870, teaching the boys in German, while girls were
      taught French at the Galata Alliance school.

      IN 1900, the Austrian Jews invited a young rabbi, Dr. David Feivel Shraga
      Markus, to run the Goldschmidt school and serve as community rabbi. Born
      about 1871, in Novgorod, Russia, Markus arrived in December 1900.

      Faced with an economically poor factionalized community, he saw religion was
      not popular, and that Christian missionaries were very active. His goal
      became education, and founded the Ohr Torah school, in Galata, to educate
      future teachers and rabbis, and to counter the missionaries.

      Markus spoke at Shabbat services (made compulsory for youth), organized
      Sunday events for poor Russian and Romanian immigrants; and ran conferences
      on Jewish philosophy and literature. The rabbi was much beloved, according to
      community archive documents, by both the Ashkenazim and Sephardim for his
      good works, although the two communities did not get along well. Marcus
      attempted to bridge the gap by organizing a branch of International Bnai
      Brith in 1911.

      In 1912, Ashkenazim numbered 10,000, and Marcus signed an agreement with the
      chief rabbinate on the community's staus. Unity was established among the
      various Ashkenazi factions with a center in Galata.

      In 1914, Marcus opened a Jewish high school - previous schools were primary
      grades only. Initially named Yavne (later Bnai Brith/Bene Berit High School),
      Marcus was director from 1916-17 and 1922-40. It opened with three grades and
      23 students.

      Today, about 500 students, about one-third of the community's children, are
      educated in English and Turkish, from primary through high school at its
      modern facility in Ulus - the Ulus Jewish School.

      FROM 1831-1866 (when it burned), a house in Hendek Street, Galata, was used
      as a synagogue. The Austrians built a new one (The Austrian Temple) in
      Yuksekkaldirim. In 1900, it was replaced by the current building, called the
      Yuksekkaldirim Synagogue, designed by Venetian architect G.J. Cornaro, at a
      cost of about 60,000 French francs.

      Dedicated on Elul 23, 5660 (1900), guests included Austrian-Hungarian
      ambassador Baron de Kalaci and Ottoman Empire chief rabbi Mose Halevi. The
      Torah scrolls were placed by the chief rabbi, and Cantor Vladovski lit the
      Ner Tamid (Eternal Lamp).

      After Vladovski, Cantor Gerschon Schaposchnik (1902-1972) served the
      synagogue for 40 years.

      It is said, say the authors, that even the Christian priests would come to
      hear him chant Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur. A composer and author, he adapted
      works of Russian and European classical composers to prayers. Following him
      were David Goldner and R. Yaakov Palci.

      Rabbis of the community (I have taken the liberty of adding English
      transliterations to the Turkish spelling) were Rabbi Moyse Kossoy, Rabbi
      Sapira/Shapira, Rabbi Kusnir/Kushnir, Rabbi Osruel Segal, Rabbi Krimir
      Simin/Shimin, Hazan David Rabinovic/Rabinovich.

      DRESSMAKING and tailoring were two of the community's professions. Prominent
      were Sultan Abdel Hamid II's tailor, Solomon Shloymi Weiner, and Ataturk's
      hatmaker, Aaron Frayne.

      The Ashkenazi Tailors' Association opened the Tofre Begadim (Tailors
      Synagogue) for services in September 1894. While wealthier Jews preferred the
      Yuksekkaldirim synagogue, the craftsmen preferred this one.

      In 1998, the Galata Ashkenazim Cultural Association converted this building
      into the Schneidertempel Arts Center, which hosts art exhibits.

      Or Hadash Synagogue, built in 1895, provided religious services, a senior
      care facility - Moshav Zekenim - and accommodation for travelers and poor
      immigrants. It operated until 1963, when it moved to the Haskoy Jewish High
      School building

      From 1912-1931, the community supported various charitable organizations:
      Lehem ubasar la'aniyim (meat and bread for the poor) provided hot soup, meat
      and bread for the needy, especially for Shabbat; Ruhama assisted pregnant
      women and provided clothing and milk for babies. From 1907, Milk Drop, a
      women's foundation, helped sick and weak children, distributed milk to school
      children, and provided needy families with Shabbat and holiday necessities.
      Until 1980, it also provided poor students with school supplies.

      The cemetery register book begins in 1876; Jews were buried in Haskoy,
      Kuzguncuk and Ferikoy cemeteries, some in Balat. The Crimean families were
      given a cemetery in Sisli by the government.

      In 1907, the community bought land in present day Ulus; first used in 1920,
      and whose burials are listed in the separate booklet accompanying the book.

      AND, in a great coincidence of timing, Kemal Ataturk's striving to modernize
      Turkey included invitations to foreign scientists to come and work at the
      Istanbul and Ankara universities. This call came as Nazi Germany had banned
      Jews from universities and other occupations in the early 1930s - the only
      way for Jews to survive was immigration. As the Ottoman Empire had opened its
      borders 450 years previously to the Spanish Jews, Turkey created a safe haven
      for men of science, culture and technology, who began arriving in October

      After WWII, many returned to Europe, some went to the US or to Israel. They
      left behind their assistants and students who became the mainstay of Turkish
      universities for a full generation. And some remained in Turkey, continuing
      their achievements in their adopted homeland. The book lists those in the
      fields of medical science, law, economics, linguistics and history, applied
      sciences, music and the arts.

      WHEN asked about the future of the community's young people, Erdal says,
      "Many of our young people stay, as the country has an active economic life, a
      great social life, and the Jews are rather well integrated into the large
      population, its culture and education." During the holidays, the community
      brings an Israeli cantor who conducts services.

      The historical Schneider Temple (Tailor's Synagogue), now an art gallery, has
      created interest in the community and what it means to be Ashkenazi. This
      year, it hosted a Holocaust exhibition and other important art presentations.

      "We welcome visitors to both the synagogue and the art gallery. We encourage
      them to visit, creating interest in our community," says Erdal Frayman.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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