Istanbul to mark European Day of Jewish Culture

Among events to mark occasion are Jewish Heritage Tours, giving people a chance to visit synagogues in Istanbul’s old Jewish neighborhoods

Handan Kazancı   |23.10.2021Istanbul to mark European Day of Jewish Culture


Istanbul on Sunday will hold a host of events celebrating the vitality of Jewish-European culture and particularly the millennia-long presence of Jewry in the Turkish metropolis.

A Jewish Heritage tour will be among the events marking Oct. 24, the European Day of Jewish Culture.

Nisya Isman Allovi, director of the Quincentennial Foundation Museum, told Anadolu Agency that they have been giving the tours since 2016, especially in areas of Istanbul with larger Jewish populations, such as Balat and Haskoy.

Saying that they are “very pleased with the reception” to the tours, Allovi added: “It’s very important for us to explain our own culture to these visitors, especially considering the 2,600-year Jewish presence in these lands.”

Mois Gabay, a longtime tour guide, told Anadolu Agency that people who take the tours learn about the relationship between Turkish culture in general and that of its Jewish residents, as well as how these areas need to be protected.

Gabay, who also writes for the Istanbul-based Jewish weekly Salom (Shalom), said: “In particular, they encounter a society very different from the Hasidic Jews they see on TV shows.”

He added that the tours also highlight that “friendship between societies should never suffer harm due to political tensions.”

Some of this year’s events will be held at the Neve Shalom Synagogue and Culture Center and the Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews in Istanbul, said a museum statement.

Lectures, concerts, exhibits

The occasion, held annually in Turkey since 2001, seeks to introduce the culture and traditions of Turkish Jews with a series of events, including lectures, exhibits, films, concerts, and tours around the theme of “dialogue,” the museum added.

“The Turkish Jewish Community has been living in the territory of Turkey for centuries, and on this day visitors will be able to learn more about its culture, the vanishing Judeo-Espanyol (Ladino) tongue, Sephardic cuisine, melodies, and stories,” the statement added.

“The main purpose of the day is to introduce the cultural and historical heritage of the Jews as well as to share their traditional music and arts with the people of their country.”

This year’s events will take place both in-person and online, and can be accessed throughout the year at

“The in-person exhibits ‘Judaism Within Time and Place’ and ‘Jewish Footsteps’ can be visited at the Museum,” according to the statement. “Moreover, there will be a documentary presented on the Jewish Footsteps project.”

While visitors can enjoy hearing street performances of Judeo-Spanish tunes in front of the museum, they can also visit various synagogues in the old Jewish neighborhoods of Istanbul’s Galata and Balat districts.

Turkey has had Jewish communities since ancient times, and many expelled Spanish and Portuguese Jews were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.

The Istanbul metropolis in particular still retains a sizeable Jewish community.

Turkey is also known for taking in rescued Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.


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