Equality and a New Republic

Efforts at reform of the Ottoman Empire led to the prodamation of the Hatti Humayun in 1856, which made all Ottoman citizens, Moslem and nonMoslem alike, equal under the law. As a result, leadership of the community began to shift away from the religious figure to secular forces.

World War I brought to an end the glory of the Ottoman Empire. In its place rose the young Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was elected president, the Caliphate was abolished and a secular constitution was adopted.

Recognized in 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne as a fully independent state within its presentday borders, Turkey accorded minority rights to the three principal nonMoslem religious minorities and permitted them to carry on with their own schools, social institutions and funds. In 1926, on the eve of Turkey's adoption of the Swiss Civil Code, the Jewish Community renounced its minority status on personal rights.

Etz ha-Hayim Synagogue
"Etz ha-Hayim" Synagogue before it burnt in 1941.
Visit of late Chief Rabbi Haim Bedjerano. (Ortakoy - Istanbul)

During the tragic days of World War II, Turkey managed to maintain its neutrality. As early as 1933 Ataturk invited numbers of prominent German Jewish professors to flee Nazi Germany and settle in Turkey. Before and during the war years, these scholars contributed a great deal to the development of the Turkish university system. During World War II Turkey served as a safe passage for many Jews fleeing the horrors of the Nazism. While the Jewish communities of Greece were wiped out almost completely by Hitler, the Turkish Jews remained secure. Several Turkish diplomats Ambassadors Behic Erkin and Numan Menemencioglu; ConsulGenerals Fikret Sefik Ozdoganci, Bedii Arbel, Selahattin Ulkumen; Consuls Namik Kemal Yolga and Necdet Kent, just to name only few of them (7) spent all their efforts to save from the Holocaust the Turkish Jews in those countries, and succeeded. Mr. Salahattin Ulkumen, Consul General at Rhodes in 1943 1944, has been recognized by the Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile "Hassid Umot ha'Olam" in June 1990. Turkey continues to be a shelter, a haven for all those who have to flee the dogmatism, intolerance and persecution.

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(7) Immanual Aboab, "A Consolacam as Tribulacoes de Israel, III Israel"