Turkey’s Jewish Museum Reopens After Update
An updated and modernized version of the Museum of Turkish Jews has opened at the Neve Şalom Synagogue in Istanbul.The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews has opened at Istanbul’s Neve Şalom Synagogue with updated content that makes the most of state-of-the-art technology.
“You will see in the museum our cultural features from Spain or northern Europe. We tried to show in our museum that we were useful citizens,” Moris Levi, the museum’s president, said at a press conference at the museum on Feb. 25.
“We, the Sephardic Jews, do not need lavish structures in which to pray. A small, modest venue for 10 Jews is enough for us. However, Turkish Jews did their best to build the two biggest synagogues in this region, in Edirne and Neve Şalom, in 30-40 years. Why did they do it? Because they continued seeing their future on this land despite everything. Like our fathers and grandfathers told us for generations, they believed this land was the country of miracles. They thought they would be unhappy in another place,” said Levi.
As the grandchildren of the Prophet Abraham, Jews have lived on this land for 2,300 years, Levi said.
“The Quincentennial Foundation accepts 1492, as its beginning. It is the date when the Sephardic Jews were dismissed from Spain. Sultan Beyazıd II, who sent their vessels and brought our ancestors to this land, showed a human duty ahead of his time. On the other hand, he thought that Jews would be very useful here,” he said.
Levi said a big state could be formed with armies, but working and producing people such as artists, artisans, intellectuals, teachers and doctors were needed for the continuation of the state.
“It is rumored that Sultan Bayezid II, referring to the Spanish king, said: ‘How can you define this emperor as smart and wise? He makes his country poor while making mine rich.’ Our ancestors worked hard to become useful for the country they lived,” he said, adding that the museum was first open in 2001 at the Zifaris Synagogue in the Karaköy neighborhood.
Neve Şalom itself was completed in 1951.
Piece from 1512
Museum director and coordinator Nisya İşman Allovi said the museum had three sections, with the first providing history.
“You can see that the first Jewish settlement started in the fourth century B.C. on this Anatolian land. Then you can see the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews moved here,” Allovi said.
Stating that the collection included very interesting pieces, she said: “We have a work called Midraş Teilim from 1512. It is one of the most important works for us.”
Allovi said various events would be held in the near future and that prominent Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı would be in the museum on March 9 for the promotion of his new book.
The museum, which displays the history and culture of Turkish Jews and their contributions to social and state life, makes use of the latest technology.
Various objects used in religious rituals can be seen in the museum, while visitors can listen to Jewish music in the museum on Thursdays.