History of the
Jewish Community of Gallipoli
town in European Turkey, at
the northwest end of the Dardanelles and about 135 miles from Istanbul. Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th
century traveler, found 200 Jews in Gallipoli; they are also mentioned
during the reign of Michael VIII Palaeologus in 1261. The Ottoman Turks, who acquired Gallipoli in
1365, protected the community, according to their custom. Mahmed the second transferred, after 1453,
many Jews from Gallipoli to Istanbul. They founded a separate congregation,
one of the congregations in Istanbul. But in the 16th century
there were only three or four members in this congregation and at the
beginning of the 17th century it ceased to exist. Jews are
registered in the census of 1488/1489 of Gallipoli. Jews in Gallipoli
served as bankers, and in the 15th century they paid for the
privilege of license to work as a group in this profession. There were also
Jews in Gallipoli who owned real estate. It seems that a group of Romaniots
returned to Gallipoli before 1492, but they remained with a status of
"Surgun" and paid their taxes in Istanbul.
The number of Jews
increased at the end of the 15th century, when the Romaniot Jews
were joined by refugees from Spain and Portugal. In 1492 a great number of Spanish exiles
found refuge in Gallipoli, and several families bearing the name of
"Saragoss" still celebrate a "Purim of Saragossa" in
the month of Heshwan. The Ben Habib family of Portugal is said to have
furnished Gallipoli with eighteen chief rabbis, the most prominent of them
being Jacob ibn Habib, the author of the "'En Ya'acob." In 1853
Hadji Hasdai Varon represented France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Denmark,
and the United States as consular agent.
In the census of
the year 1519, 15 Jewish families and two bachelors were registered along
with three merchants Jews from Istanbul who were staying in the city. In
1520-35, 23 Jewish families lived in the city, representing 0.3% of the
general population. There were 5,001 Muslim and 3,901 Christian
inhabitants. Between the years 1547 and 1557 a first firman for the
Sephardim and Romaniots was enacted. It exempted the Romaniots from part of
the Ottoman taxes and community taxes. The Sephardim were considered
wealthy. At the same time new orders were issued which related to the
economic rivalry between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim in the community. But
in 1577 the Sephardim complained about economic hardship and their
inability to pay the Ottoman taxes. New community regulations from the
middle of the 16th century tried to prevent the transfer of
Jewish real estate to the Gentiles and the entry of Gentiles into the
Jewish quarter. In that century Rabbis Judah Ibn Sanghi and Ishai Moreno
were active in the Community. In 1600-01, 30 Jewish families lived in the
city (1.72% of the population), all in the Jewish quarter. Local Jews were
the tax farmers in the city during the 17th century, but in 1648
the "emin" of the city threw the Jews out of this position.
Rabbi Moshe ha-Levi and Joseph ha-Cohen visited the community between 1668
and 1684, and the emissary Hayyim Ya'acov visited it in 1670. The traveler
Samuel ben-David visited in 1641-42 and wrote that there were two
synagogues in the city, but it seems that the community was united under
the leadership of one rabbi. In 1656 the local Jews ransomed an Ashkenazi
woman from Eastern Europe. In 1666 the pseudo-messiah Shabbetai Zevi was
confined to the fortress of Abydos (called by the Jews MIGDAL OZ,
"Tower of Strength") in the vicinity of Gallipoli; his prison
became a center of Shabbateanism. Abraham Cardozo visited the community in
1682 and was boycotted by the local Jews.
The majority of
the Jews in Gallipoli were peddlers and merchants, but there were also wine
manufacturers who sent their products to Istanbul. Jews from Gallipoli
traveled for their businesses especially to Egypt, Istanbul, Bursa, Edirne,
Salonica and Rhodes. Jews from Gallipoli founded the community of
The famous rabbi
of the community was Meir di Boton (born in Salonica, 1575), who wrote a
book of responsa. He served the community many years and died in Gallipoli in
1649. The rabbis of the city during the 17th century were Shimon
Ibn Habib (died 1712), Ishai Almoni, served as the community rabbi
1665-1690, and Rafael Ibn Habib. Other Rabbis and scholars in the 17th
century were Eliezer ha-Cohen, Joseph Sasson (b. 1570), and Nathan Gota.
The AV BET DIN of the community in the middle of the 19th
century before his departure to Istanbul was Rafael Jacob ha-Levi.
During the 19th
century the Jewish community prospered. Among the Jews were merchants,
artisans, and civil servants. The rabbi of the city was Rafael Haim
Benjamin Peretz, who was earlier a DAYYAN in Istanbul and came to Gallipoli
after 1878. He wrote that the community of Gallipoli was small and had to
adopt the religious regulations of the Istanbul community in those special
cases in which the wealthy leaders of Gallipoli did not know how to decide.
Another rabbi of the community was Jacob Ibn Habib (d. 1863). At the end of
the 19th century Rabbi David Pardo served there seven years. The
Jews of Gallipoli had many commercial and economic ties with the local
Gentiles. The majority spoke and wrote Ladino.
Israelite Universelle (AIU) founded a local committee in Gallipoli. The AIU
archives for the city include members lists and letters sent to the Central
Committee in Paris:
Abenhabib Nissim R.
Abenhabib Solomon H.
Abenezra Abraham L.
Aboulafia Abraham Hadji
Candiotti Behor Haim
Candiotti Jacob S.
Saragoussi Behor J.
Varon Moise M.
The earthquake of
August 9th 1912 was reported in the Bulletin de la Grande Loge.
There were no casualties but the Jewish quarter was completely destroyed
with the two synagogues which had been active from the 19th
century onwards. At that time, there were about 13,000 inhabitants in
Gallipoli, of which 2,560 were Jews, composed of 400 poor Jewish families
living in 285 houses. There were about 100 Jewish stores, of which were 15
agents, 20 grocers, 7 shoe stores, 6 shoemakers, 7 hardware stores, 8
bankers, a few money exchangers, 3 carpentry stores, 2 grain dealers, 4 upholstery
shops, 7 fabric shops, 3 glass merchants, 3 candy stores and 4 painters.
A local relief
committee was created with some members of the local Jewish community, the
school committee and gabaim from the synagogues, whose surnames can be
found in the AIU members list of 1884: Semaiah Aboulafia, Jacob Hasday,
Ovadia Habib, Hasday Habib, Haim Samarel, Abraham Eskenazi, Nessim Akrish,
Behor Hahamoglou, Yedidya Ben-Altabev, David Mizitrano, Preciado Yohay,
Gabriel Yohay, Mr. Yohay
During the Balkan Wars
(1912-1913) refugees, including Jews, streamed into Gallipoli. The
"rescue committee" (Va'ad ha-hatzalah), founded then, aided the
refugees, as well as Jewish soldiers from Syria and Iraq. In 1915 the Zion
Mule Corps, as part of the British Army, fought the Turks on the Gallipoli
peninsula. Until1920 there lived in the city 600 Jewish families with three
In June and July 1934, in the Thrace region of
Turkey, occurred a series of violent attacks against Jewish citizens of
Turkey. These affairs are known as The 1934 Thrace pogroms.
The pogroms occurred in Tekirdağ, Edirne,
Kırklareli, and Ēanakkale, and were motivated by anti-Semitism. Some
have argued the acts were initiated by the articles produced by the
Pan-Turkic leader Cevat Rıfat Atilhan in Millī inkılāp
(National Revolution) magazine and Nihal Atsız in Orhun
magazine. Atsız was known to be a sympathizer of the Nazi racist
doctrine. The government of Mustafa Kemal failed to stop the pogrom but was
strongly against the violence. It was followed by vandalizing of Jewish
houses and shops. The tensions started on 5 June 1934 and spread to few
other villages in Eastern Thrace region and to some small cities in Western
Aegean region. At the height of violent events, it was rumored that a rabbi
was stripped naked and was dragged through the streets shamefully while his
daughter was raped. Over 15,000 Jews had to flee from the region. Other
racist incidents had already taken place in Turkey before and would
happened after wards, but this was apparently the first pogrom during the
Republican period. As a consequence of the 1934 Tharace affairs, many
families from Gallipoli decided to sell out their properties and to move
either to Istanbul or out of the country, many emigrated to Israel, others
From 1934 all
religious and administrative affairs of the Gallipoli community were
subordinated to the district rabbinate of Canakkale. As a result of
emigration to Istanbul and the United States between the two world wars and
subsequently to Israel, the number of Jews in Gallipoli decreased. Two of
the three synagogues of the community were burned down during the World War
II. In 1948 there were about 400 Jews in Gallipoli, and in 1951 about 200.
By 1970 the few remaining families in Gallipoli were mainly engaged in
commerce. In 1977 the Jews of the city numbered only 22 persons, of whom
four were youngsters. The last family to leave Gallipoli was the family of
Solomon and Roza Sivag'i (Pasi) who live now in Ashdod, Israel. The only
Jew still living in Gallipoli is Rami Sivag'i, the son of Solomon and Roza.
cemetery of Gallipoli contains 835 tombs, of which the oldest is from 1540
and the latest is from 1986.
*parts of the above
materials taken from "The Jewish Encyclopedia" and from
"Etsi-Sephardi Genealogical and Historical Review #33 June 2006
The Ruins of the last
Synagogue of Gallipoli
The home of Benbeniste family
in Gallipoli Jewish Quarter, now a city museum
Association for Conservation of the Heritage of the Gallipoli Jewry
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by Ilan Guy
© 2014 Ilan Guy