The American Sephardi Foundation and the Center for Jewish History in New York have published all the nearly 3,000 photographs of about 50 synagogue buildings in Turkey. They were taken over a two month period in 1996, when New York-based architect Joel A. Zack and photographer Devon Jarvis (along with Turkish architectural student Ceren Kahraman and Muharrem Zeybek, driver and guide) traveled 6,000 miles Turkish synagogues and former synagogues. The project (which also resulted in a book and exhibition) was funded by the Maurice Amado Foundation and the Mitrani Family Foundation.
In a review of the book and archive on his blog, Samuel D. Gruber, president of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments, wrote: Because of the geographic expanse of Turkey, and because of cultural connections of the Ottoman Age, there are many different types of synagogues, that served diverse Jewish communities. Turkey was fertile ground for synagogue design. Besides local ancient, Byzantine and Ottoman sources, their was a near-constant Ottoman cultural exchange with Russia, Central Europe, Italy, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Future research will need to further examine these associations in the context of Jewish art and architecture. Perhaps the most clearly indigenous Ottoman synagogue type is that of the rectangular plan with a central four column feature, usually surrounding a the tevah and sometimes surmounted by a dome. This type was common around Izmir and is also know in Northern Greece, Bulgaria. But it also known in Morocco, and even earlier in a simpler form from Tomar, Portugal, so the actual origins of the type remain unknown.
This detailed, illustrated article by Minna Rozen, published in 1992 in The Jewish Quarterly Review, reports on a survey of dozens of Jewish cemeteries in western Turkey carried out in the late 1980s and provides extensive descriptive and historical information. It is available online via JStor (requires registration but can be read for free.)
Video drawn from American photographer Laurence Salzmann’s documentation work in Turkey, on behalf of Beit Hatfutsot.
ANCIENT SYNAGOGUES: ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES
Archeologists have identified the remains of several ancient synagogues in Turkey. These include:
Two in the Antalya province. One was discovered in 2009 by archeologists at ancient port city of Andriake in Lycia — located in Antalya’s Demre district. It was likely built in the 3rd century CE, following a law in 212 that allowed Jews to become Roman citizens. The find included carvings of a menorah and other Jewish symbols. The second was discovered in 2012 by archologists digging at the ancient city of Limyra. There is also a late antiquity synagogue in Priene, first excavated at the end of the 19th century and identified as a synagogue in the early 20th century.
Synagogue built in 1907 to replace 13 synagogues destroyed in a fire in 1905.
One of the largest in Europe, it seated 1200 people. Used until 1983, it stood abandoned for years. The roof collapsed in the 1990s. In March 2015 it was reopened after a $2.5 million, 5-year government-funded restoration process and rededicated as a museum and cultural center that will also be able to be used for worship.
The web site of the Jewish community lists 18 synagogues in Istanbul, with links to historic and other information:
- The Neve Shalom Synagogue
- The Ashkenazi Synagogue
- Italian Synagogue (Kal de los Frankos)
- Maalem Synagogue- Hasköy
- Bet Israel Synagogue – Şişli
- Etz Ahayim Synagogue – Ortaköy
- The Ahrida Synagogue
- Yanbol Synagogue
- Bet Avraam Synagogue – Sirkeci
- Kal Kados, Corapci Han Synagogue
- The Bakırköy Synagogue
- Hemdat Israel Synagogue – Haydarpaşa
- Bet Yaakov Synagogue – Kuzguncuk
- Bet Nissim Synagogue – Kuzguncuk
- Caddebostan Synagogue
- Hesed Le Avraam Synagogue- Büyükada
- Bet Yaakov Synagogue – Heybeliada
- Burgazada Synagogue
The synagogues are open for visits but only by prior appointment. To make an appointment, go to this link, where you can download and fill out an admission request.
The Neve Şalom synagogue web site (so far only in Turkish) has extensive information and photos of six synagogues in Istanbul:
The web site of the Jewish community lists seven Jewish cemeteries in Istanbul, with links to photographs and other information.
Büyükhendek Caddesi No: 39,
Formally called the The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews, the museum opened in 2001 in the Zulfaris Synagogue, which was built in 1823 on the site of an earlier synagogue dating from 1671. In early 2016 it was revamped and moved to the Neve Shalom synagogue.
The Central Izmir Synagogue Complex in the heart of the historic city center consists of nine adjacent synagogues constructed in diverse 16th century Sephardic styles.The synagogues, which fell into serious disrepair or ruin in recent decades, were placed on the 2004 World Monuments Fund Watch List and are currently being restored as part of an international project, the Izmir Synagogue Project, which is led by the Israeli-based Mordechai Kiriaty Foundation, in cooperation with the municipality and the Izmir Jewish community. There are also Jewish cemeteries and other buildings.
Links to information, photographs and videos regarding synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and other sites and buildings in Izmir: part of a cultural tourism development project web site. There are also links to Jewish heritage itineraries and tours in Izmir and Turkey.
The WMF put the Complex on the 2004 Watch List and provided support through its Jewish Heritage Program that enabled the completion of emergency roof repairs at the Shalom Synagogue. The WMF web page gives history and descriptive information about the synagogues and their architecture: “Despite their non-monumental exteriors, the sanctuaries exemplify exceptional interior planning and craftsmanship. Perhaps the most distinct characteristic of the Izmir synagogues is the unusual “triple arrangement” of the Torah ark, which creates a unique harmonious ambience. The central positioning of the bimah (elevated platform) between four columns divided the synagogues into nine parts.”
The web page provides a presentation, background information and images for an ambitious project led by the Mordechai Kiriaty Foundation and due to be completed in 2016 that will restore the historic Synagogue Complex and create a living Jewish cultural monument. Four contiguous synagogues within Izmir’s historic bazaar have been designated as the core of the restoration project: Hevra, Algazi, Signora-Giveret and the ruins of the Foresteros synagogue. Combined with two other adjacent synagogues: Etz-Hayim and Shalom, in addition the Bikur-Holim synagogue nearby; they form a unique complex of diverse Sephardic synagogue styles.
Project of the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History
Documentation carried out by students/researchers as part of the Journey into Jewish Heritage project of the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History
Documentation carried out by students/researchers as part of the Journey into Jewish Heritage project of the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History. There is also some information on Izmir’s three other Jewish cemeteries, including the destroyed cemetery now the Bahri Baba park.
A video tour of Izmir synagogues