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Jewish museums in Istanbul focus on upside of integration

Jews have been living in Turkey for many centuries, and both the Sephardim from Spain and then Ashkenazim from Eastern Europe boast their own museums.

The synagogues, art nouveau Camondo steps and apartment buildings owned by Jewish families in the posh street of Serdar-i Ekrem — the 2019 edition of the European Day of Jewish Culture in Istanbul opened Sunday, Nov. 24, with a morning walk through the Jewish landmarks of Galata.

The Galata neighborhood was built and fortified by Italian merchants from Genoa in the Middle Ages on a steep hill overlooking the Golden Horn. Then it gradually acquired a sizable Jewish population of both Spanish and Eastern European origins. In the 19th century, it evolved into the financial center of the Ottoman Empire, where bankers and traders prospered. Nowadays the Jews of Istanbul — around 20,000 — live all over the city, but Galata is where their history and heritage are the most immediately visible, in religious structures as well as in private palaces.

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