Skip to main content

Turkey's Jewish community in decline

More and more Jewish families are leaving Turkey.
Members of Turkey's Jewish community gather at Etz Ahayim Synagogue to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Istanbul January 27, 2013. The International Day of Commemoration, which was designated by the United Nations General Assembly to honour Holocaust victims, occurs annually on January 27. REUTERS/Murad Sezer (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION ANNIVERSARY) - RTR3D1V0

Rumors that Jewish families are leaving Turkey have been making the rounds for a long time now, but as relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorate, those rumors are slowly becoming facts. Turkey’s Jews interpret the hostility to Israel they hear day and night from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as a personal attack against them. The change in mood and in Turkish public opinion as a result of those leaders’ anti-Israeli policy can be felt by the local Jews on a daily basis. Turkey's Jewish community has thrived for decades, but it now feels that its future can no longer be assured.

Until very recently, the leaders of the community boasted that there were never any open manifestations of anti-Semitism in modern Turkey, or in the Ottoman Empire for that matter. Jews not only enjoyed religious freedom, but maintained a relationship of camaraderie and friendship with the Muslim population. Many Turkish Jews remained in the country even after the wave of immigration to Israel in the 1950s. They regarded the country as their homeland and planned their futures there. But recently, all that has changed. As of now, the heads of the Jewish community are struggling to conceal their deep concern that within just a few years, nothing will remain of Turkey’s glorious Jewish legacy, which flourished throughout Turkey's history. More families leave every week in search of a safer future for their children elsewhere.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.