Turkish Jewish Community Hosts Iftar Meal at Historic Edirne Synagogue
About 700 people gathered at the historical Edirne Synagogue in northwestern Turkey this week for the customary fast-breaking Iftar meal observed by Muslims on Ramadan, Turkish Hurriyet reported on Tuesday.
Leaders of the Turkish Jewish community personally served guests at the Ramadan feast, in a tent set up by the Social Solidarity foundation, according to the report.
Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, who has headed Turkey’s organized Jewish community since 2013, said the meal was meant to honor the restoration of the synagogue by the Directorate General of Foundations, a Turkish body established in 1924 to manage foundations and estates dating back to the Ottoman Empire.
“We thought that the most convenient way to thank people in Edirne was to share an Iftar meal with them. We thank them all very much. We returned to Edirne and found a more beautiful home than our own,” said Ibrahimzadeh.
The Grand Synagogue of Edirne, which is the third largest in Europe, was abandoned in the 1980s as Jewish residents more or less emptied out of the city. Its restoration took five years and about $2.5 million, and was completed in March this year with a dedication ceremony attended by top Turkish officials and more than 100 international dignitaries. The building itself was fashioned in the Sephardi style after Vienna’s Leopoldstadter Tempel, which was later destroyed by the Nazis.
The synagogue was briefly the subject of controversy in Turkey after Edirne Governor Dursun Ali Sahin threatened to turn the synagogue into a museum, rather than a house of worship for Turkish Jews, after Israeli security forces raided the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Ultimately, Sahin apologized to the Jewish community in Turkey, and the synagogue was reopened about four months after his remarks.
Turkey’s Jewish population today numbers just around 20,000 individuals, making up a very small percentage of Turkey’s more than 77 million population.