Posted on February 20, 2017 by Stefanie Glowinsky
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.
Year Program 2016-2017