Istanbul - Ahrida Synagogue

posted 30 May 2016, 21:21 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin

Istanbul - Ahrida Synagogue

I still know some nice kosher restaurants in Istanbul, although they have sadly closed the best one.

So instead of food, I have a Schule for you today.
Ahrida Synagogue is the oldest in the Balat neighbourhood and one of the oldest in all of Turkey, founded in 1490, two years before the Spanish expulsion.
Ahrida Synagogue entrance, Istanbul_w600.jpg
In these days, nowhere were Jews welcomed as warmly as in the Ottoman empire. Sultan Bayezid II wrote a bitingly sarcastic letter to King Ferdinand, thanking him for enriching the sultan's lands by fixing the influx of Jews, at the expense of impoverishing his own kingdom.

(Alas, that is not the case any more; the recent wave of strengthening Islamic and nationalist self-identification led to significant cooling on relationship with the Jews.)

The Schule before you has been subject to all kinds of treatment. It was frequented by Sabbatai Tzvi (not its only claim to fame but definitely a notable one). It hosts a memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks in the Neve Shalom synagogue of Istanbul 30 years ago.

Normally, in order to visit Ahrida synagogue, you'll need to book your visit 4 business days ahead. The Rabbi's office will extend certain special dispensations for a colleague but even I can't get a permission to take pictures once inside. So for getting past the gate, here's a borrowed picture of the gorgeous Bimah, shaped like a ship's prow and symbolizing Noah's Ark.

Seriously damaged in a fire in 1600, the building was rebuilt by the Sultan's decree in 1694 in the typical Ottoman "Tulip Baroque" style. This Schule is considered to be not only one of the oldest synagogues in Turkey but also the most beautiful ones. Definitely worth a visit.

For anyone wondering about the crutch; while walking around the Maltese island of Gozo, I somehow managed to fall on the square of its main city Victoria, and fracture my foot. Come to the Schule next Shabbat, and see me bravely hopping around!

The good news is aplenty there;

- The injury came towards the end of my journey, and after both big projects were over

- It didn't happen in Spain or Sicily but Malta, where the health care system apparently ranks as 5th best in the world (trust me, I was checked thoroughly)

- The fracture is neatly aligned and didn't even call for a cast, so there's hope the crutches will be done within a few weeks

Looking forward to seeing you this Shabbat,

Rabbi Eli