Discover Istanbul’s Jewish past by a private lecturer.
The history of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey covers the 2,400 years that Jews have lived in what is now Turkey. There have been Jewish communities in Asia Minor since at least the 4th century BCE and many Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Spain were welcomed to the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century. Despite emigration during the 20th century, modern day Turkey continues to have Jewish population.
Begin your day at Beyoglu and explore on foot the district of Pera; the present-day heart of Istanbul, where the cosmopolitan energy of the city is concentrated.
Our walk will take us to Galata Tower and district; one of the city’s most striking landmarks whose huge, conic roof dominates the skyline. Originally known as the Tower of Christ, it was built in 1348 in connection with the first expansion of the Genoese colony. Go atop the ancient Galata Tower for a 360-view of this astonishingly beautiful city set at the crossroads of waterways and cultures.
Nearby Galata Tower, step in Neve Shalom Synagogue which is the largest Sephardic synagogue is Istanbul and was completed in 1951 due to a rapid increase in the Jewish population in the Pera and Galata areas.
Next, visit the Jewish Museum, which in the past was Zulfaris Synagogue. Administrated by Quincentennial Foundation, you familiarize with the story of 700 years of amity between Turks and Jews.
Continue to Ashkenaz Synagogue which is located near the Galata Tower, the facade of the building is especially imposing, with three oriental arches and octagonal rosette windows. Inside, the floors are of marble, the lofty dome is painted with stars, and the elaborately-worked ark, of dark wood, blends eastern European and Arabesque styles. It is the only active Ashkenazi Synagogue open to visits and prayers.
Drive through Jewish quarter of Balat, where many Jewish immigrants settled to help repopulate the city under Sultan Beyazit II. Today the Star of David can be seen on the facades of some buildings. Also in this colorful area, we visit the Ottoman Baroque style Ahrida Synagogue, with beautiful furnishings, including the bema (pulpit) shaped as Ark of Noah.
Visit Ortakoy or Etz Ahayim Synagogue which is located on the coast near the Bosphorus Bridge. The synagogue was rebuilt in 1941 after having been totally destroyed by fire.
Please note: You MUST provide your full passport details by e-mail or fax at the time of booking. This information is required in order to obtain permission to enter the Synagogues of interest. You are also required to fill in forms upon arrival at the Neve Shalom Synagogue. Tour itineraries and durations are dependent on times arranged by the Jewish Rabbinate.