Gallipoli, Turkey

Gelibolu, Turkey

Lat: 40° 25', Long: 26° 40'

"Kahal Kadosh Gallipoli"

Once a vibrant Sephardic Jewish Community










History of the Jewish Community of Gallipoli

Gallipoli, seaport 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.


The emissaries 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 Canakkale.

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.


The Alliance 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 Hasdai E.

Abenhabib Joseph

Abenhabib Levi

Abenhabib Moise

Abenhabib Nissim R.

Abenhabib Solomon

Abenhabib Solomon H.

Abenezra Abraham L.

Abenezra Joseph

Abidor Haim

Aboulafia Abraham Hadji

Aboulafia Cemaria

Aboulafia Isaac

Aboulafia Lia

Aboulafia Chemaria

Aboulafia Obadia

Abraham Israel

Achrich Moise

Akrich Moise

Aldorotti Behor M.

Aldorotti Solomon

Arditti Juda

Benbachat Abraham

Benbachat Isaac

Benbachat Joseph

Candiotti Behor Haim

Candiotti Jacob S.

Chebi Simeon

Levi Isaac

Mizistrano Nissim

Molina Isaac

Molina Juda

Saragoussi Behor J.

Saragoussi Issac

Saragoussi Preciado

Varon Hasdai

Varon Moise M.

Yohay Ascher

Yohay Josue

Yohay Nissim


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 synagogues.


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 to Rhodes.



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.


The Jewish 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


Gallipoli synagogue 1.jpg

The Ruins of the last Synagogue of Gallipoli

Conserved Jewish home.jpg

The home of Benbeniste family in Gallipoli Jewish Quarter, now a city museum




Background Information

Memoirs and Family Stories

The Association for Conservation of the Heritage of the Gallipoli Jewry

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o   Find out about our Cemetery Restoration Project

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Compiled by Ilan Guy
Updated: January, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Ilan Guy



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