The Background story of the Jewish Heritage in Istanbul:
Our walk includes a deep understanding of the story of the Jewish population in Istanbul.
On the midnight of August 2nd 1492, when Columbus embarked on what would become his most famous expedition to the New World, his fleet departed from the relatively unknown seaport of Palos because the shipping lanes of Cadiz and Seville were clogged with Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by the Edict of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain.
Where would they go?
In the faraway Ottoman Empire, one ruler extended an immediate welcome to the persecuted Jews of Spain, the Sephardim.
For 300 years following the expulsion, the prosperity and creativity of the Ottoman Jews rivaled that of the Golden Age of Spain.
Today the Jewish Community in Turkey is about 26,000 and most live in Istanbul.
The Neve Shalom Synagogue
The most beautiful and the largest synagogue of the city where most of the religious ceremonies like bar-mitzvahs, weddings and funerals are held.
Towards the end of the 1930’s the Jewish population on the district of Pera and Galata increased so much that the need for a new synagogue became imminent.
Built and opened in 1951, by two young architects, it also houses the Museum of Jewish history in Turkey.
Jewish Museum of Turkey
The museum is a good designed place to see the story of 700 years of amity between Turks and Jews. The mission of the Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret and disseminate knowledge about the cultural heritage of the Turkish Jews.
Located in Balat near the Golden Horn, built by Jews of Ohri (Macedonia) more than 550 years ago and recently renovated during the Quincentennial Celebrations in 1992, the Ahrida Synagogue is known foremost by its boat-shaped bimah.
The Town of Balat
Balat housed the first Jews who settled in Istanbul after the Spanish expulsion. Today, it’s a middle class neighborhood. As you walk can see the oldest Jewish houses with their proud stars of David.