These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Turkey 2017: Coming Together

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Stefanie Glowinsky

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This​ ​morning​ ​we​ ​had​ ​the​ ​privilege​ ​of​ ​meeting​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Hahambaşi,​ ​the​ ​Chief​ ​Rabbi​ ​of​ ​Turkey.​ ​He came​ ​across​ ​as​ ​very​ ​personable​ ​and​ ​friendly,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​had​ ​many​ ​words​ ​of​ ​wisdom​ ​to​ ​share​ ​with us.​ ​We​ ​learned​ ​how​ ​he​ ​responds​ ​to​ ​the​ ​needs​ ​of​ ​his​ ​community​ ​in​ ​a​ ​way​ ​that​ ​shows​ ​he understands​ ​them​ ​and​ ​cares​ ​about​ ​their​ ​Jewish​ ​involvement,​ ​regardless​ ​of​ ​current​ ​personal practice.

For​ ​example,​ ​he​ ​emphasizes​ ​to​ ​his​ ​community​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​attending​ ​synagogue​ ​on Shabbat​ ​even​ ​though​ ​he​ ​is​ ​aware​ ​that​ ​they​ ​will​ ​drive.​ ​Furthermore,​ ​since​ ​intermarriage​ ​is​ ​very common,​ ​he​ ​encourages​ ​the​ ​community​ ​to​ ​be​ ​very​ ​welcoming​ ​to​ ​זרע​ ​ישראל​ ​(children​ ​born​ ​to​ ​a non-Jewish​ ​mother​ ​and​ ​a​ ​Jewish​ ​father),​ ​as​ ​he​ ​understands​ ​how​ ​important​ ​it​ ​is​ ​to​ ​many​ ​of these​ ​families​ ​to​ ​be​ ​Jewishly​ ​involved.​ ​It​ ​struck​ ​me​ ​how​ ​much​ ​he,​ ​despite​ ​being​ ​the​ ​leader​ ​of​ ​a small​ ​Jewish​ ​community,​ ​has​ ​such​ ​a​ ​broad​ ​perspective​ ​and​ ​so​ ​much​ ​insight​ ​into​ ​the​ ​issue​ ​of​ ​the survival​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Jewish​ ​people.​ ​Jews​ ​in​ ​Israel​ ​and​ ​other​ ​populous​ ​Jewish​ ​centers​ ​have​ ​much​ ​to learn​ ​from​ ​the​ ​Hahambaşi.

After​ ​our​ ​appointment​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Hahambaşi,​ ​we​ ​visited​ ​the​ ​Jewish​ ​old​ ​age​ ​home,​ ​Or​ ​Yom.​ ​We sang​ ​and​ ​danced​ ​with​ ​the​ ​residents,​ ​and​ ​their​ ​eyes​ ​lit​ ​up​ ​when​ ​they​ ​heard​ ​we​ ​were​ ​from Jerusalem.​ ​We​ heard​ ​how​ ​much​ ​it​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​them​ ​that​ ​we​ ​were​ ​learning​ ​Torah,​ ​that​ ​we​ ​were singing​ ​Jewish​ ​songs,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​we​ ​came​ ​to​ ​visit​ ​them​ ​and​ ​share​ ​our​ ​joy​ ​and​ ​our​ ​music​ ​with them.​ ​We​ ​learned​ ​how​ ​much​ strength​ ​it​ ​gives​ ​to​ ​their​ ​community​ ​to​ ​know​ ​that​ ​we​ ​too​ ​are​ ​a stronghold​ ​for​ ​the​ ​same​ ​rich​ ​Jewish​ ​tradition​ ​that​ ​they​ ​cherish.

Before​ ​our​ ​visit​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Hahambaşi,​ ​we​ ​visited​ ​three​ ​different​ ​synagogues;​ ​a​ ​Sephardic​ ​shul,​ ​an Ashkenazi​ ​shul,​ ​and​ ​an​ ​Italian​ ​synagogue.​ ​At​ ​the​ ​Ashkenazi​ ​synagogue,​ ​when​ ​we​ ​asked​ ​if​ ​we could​ ​take​ ​a​ ​look​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Torah​ ​scrolls,​ ​the​ ​locals​ ​became​ ​very​ ​excited.

We​ ​took​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​21​ ​Torah​ ​scrolls​ ​out​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Aron​ ​Kodesh​ ​and​ ​opened​ ​it​ ​up.​ ​It​ ​immediately became​ ​clear​ ​to​ ​us​ ​that​ ​this​ ​Torah​ ​scroll​ ​was​ ​composed​ ​of​ ​two​ ​different​ ​types​ ​of​ ​קלף (parchment)​ ​sewn​ together, and​ ​the​ ​כתב​ ​on​ ​each​ ​was​ ​written​ ​by​ ​a​ ​different​ ​hand.

Turkey​ ​is​ ​a​ ​meeting​ ​place​ ​of​ ​East​ ​and​ ​West,​ ​of​ ​Sephardim,​ ​Ashkenazim​ ​and​ ​Italian​ ​Jews,​ ​of​ ​an old,​ ​rich​ ​Jewish​ ​tradition​ ​and​ ​modernity​ ​along​ ​with​ ​its​ ​challenges.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​place​ ​where​ ​a​ ​small Jewish​ ​community’s​ ​wisdom​ ​and​ ​perspective​ ​reaches​ ​and​ ​inspires​ ​Jews​ ​living​ ​Israel,​ ​Europe​ ​and North​ ​America,​ ​and​ ​where​ ​young​ ​Jews​ ​from​ ​Jerusalem​ ​bring​ ​light​ ​to​ ​elderly​ ​Turkish​ ​Jews​ ​by singing​ ​in​ ​Ladino.​ ​Each​ ​bears​ ​a​ ​unique​ ​handwriting​ ​and​ ​a​ ​unique​ ​type​ ​of​ ​parchment,​ ​but​ ​the Torah​ ​scroll​ ​is​ ​only​ ​complete​ ​upon​ ​being​ ​sewn​ ​together​ ​into​ ​one.

Stefanie​ ​Glowinsky
Year​ ​Program​ ​2016-2017