Five great synagogues in Turkey – Jewish Cultural HeritageJews were a significant minority till 1950s in Turkey. There are approximately 15.000 Jews living in Istanbul and about 1.500 in Izmir today. As a consequence, there are very important examples of Jewish cultural heritage in the country. Here are five synagogues that have international reputation and significance.
NEVE SHALOM / ISTANBUL
The construction of the Istanbul Neve Shalom (“Oasis of Peace”) synagogue dates back to the 1940s. The construction of the synagogue began in 1949.
Young engineers Elio Ventura and Bernard Motola that have recently graduated from Istanbul Technical University drawn the projects and built the synagogue. The opening of the Neve Shalom took place on March 25, 1951. It is alleged that Aragon Synagogue, founded by the Sephardic emigrants from Spain in the 15th century, was located in the same place.
BETH ISRAEL / IZMIR
Izmir is a city which is very special and important for Turkey’s Jewish community. There are synagogues from the 15th century in the Kemeralti Bazaar, which is the “old city” of Izmir. However, Beth Israel Synagogue of early 20th century is one of Turkey’s largest and most modern Jewish worship place.
Permission for the construction of this synagogue was given by Abdulhamid II on January 30, 1905. With the donations and stockpile printing, the cost of 1200 gold pounds was met and the synagogue was opened in 1907, although not yet completed. Beth Israel is separated from Kemeralti synagogues with its architecture.
SARDES SYNAGOGUE (ONE OF THE OLDEST SYNAGOGUES KNOWN)
The Sardes Synagogue in the town of Salihli in Manisa province, is the third oldest Jewish temple known after the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and the mudbrick in Babylon.
The synagogue opened in 280 BC and it still is possible to see the “pool hall” and three doors used to pass to the main saloon. The walls and the floor of the hall show off with their mosaics (originals at Manisa Museum).
EDIRNE GREAT SYNAGOGUE
Edirne is the second city in the world in terms of the number of historical monuments per square meter (after Florence). The second largest synagogue in Europe (and also the third largest synagogue in the world) is also located in Edirne.
The Edirne Great Synagogue, completed in 1907 by the French architect France Depre, was restored in 2015.
Gaziantep Synagogue, which is a 800 year old one according to city records, is one of the oldest Jewish worship halls in Turkey. It has spread over an area of about 1000 square meters. The synagogue is built from local cut stone materials and has local characteristics. A restoration work continues at present.