The History of Jews in Turkey

The history of Jews in Turkey extends to 2400 years of Jewish existence in what is now Turkey. Since at least the fifth century BCE, Jewish communities have existed in Anatolia, and many Spanish and Portuguese Jews excluded from Spain by the Alhambra Decree were accepted into the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century, including areas that are now part of Turkey, centuries later.

A huge percentage of Turkish Jews still reside in Israel, although a small Jewish community still resides in modern-day Turkey.

History of Jews in Turkey

Since the 4th century BC, there has been a Jewish community in Turkey (Asia Minor), as seen in Sardis. Abraham, according to the Old Testament, was born in the Chaldean city of Ur. Sanliurfa, whose original name was Ur, is a historic and ancient city along the Euphrates (Firat) river. Throughout the Turkish invasion of Asia Minor by the Seljuks and Osmans, Jewish communities flourished.

Since the Republic, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Turkey opened its homes and colleges once more to Jews fleeing Nazi tyranny and persecution. In 1933, Ataturk welcomed several Jewish university professors to Turkey who were being persecuted by the Nazis. More than 100,000 Jews lived in Turkey at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

biblical persons in asia minor

Jews in Turkey Population

Turkey now has a total Jewish population of about 26,000 people (the second-largest Jewish community in a Muslim region, after Iran), with the majority of them residing in Istanbul. The community celebrated its 500th anniversary in Turkey in 1992, when they arrived in Istanbul and were received by Sultan Beyazid II shortly after the Moors were forced out of Granada, and Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain expelled all Jews from their territories, officially ending Europe’s largest Jewish settlement.

During the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic after Ataturk’s War of Independence, the Jewish community in Turkey made major contributions to the economy, history, and politics.

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