Who is this Jewish neighbor of mine?

European Day of Jewish Culture, an annual event organized by the Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews in Turkey, was held last Sunday.
Who is this Jewish neighbor of mine?

“European Day of Jewish Culture” organized by nearly 30 European countries including Turkey on November 27th to promote cultural and historical heritage of Jews was held in Istanbul with a rich and entertaining program. The event with the theme “Who is this Jewish neighbor of mine?” was organized by Quincentennial Foundation at the Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews. Almost 600 people visited the event venues Neve Shalom Synagogue and the Museum, all day. The guests had the chance to get to know the Turkish Jewish community who’s been living in Turkey for many centuries. The programme included presentations, discussion sessions, exhibitions, concerts, degustation and film screenings about Turkish Jews’ traditions, songs, cuisine and fading languages (Ladino spoken by Sephardic Jews and Yiddish spoken by Ashkenazi Jews). 

Mario Levi, one of the most recognized writers of Turkish Literature who is in love with the city of Istanbul, talked with his readers about his recent book, “I Baked You Sponge Cake” and discussed the Judeo-Espagnol language Ladino. He also signed his books for his readers. Levi also tested his knowledge of Judeo-Espagnol (ladino) language during his speech by using some fun words in Ladino. 

Rita Ender’s documentary “Las Ultimas Palavras- The Last Words” was screened during the event. Ender is a writer and director who is a lawyer. The documentary written by Ender and shot by Yorgos Demir is revolving around 19 Turkish Jews between the ages 25-35. They are asked which words they know in Judeo- Espagnol while discussing how a language is slowly dying even when there are still songs in Judeo Espagnol hummed by every generation including the latest. After the screening, Ender answered viewers’ questions and explained how the documentary came to life. She also discussed the importance of this language for both her life and the community’s. 

At “Fading Humor along with our Fading Languages” discussion session, Anna Eskinazi gave brief information about the history of Turkish Jews. Highlighting the impact of immigration on the native languages, Eskinazi explained the different reasons why language evolves in time. Eskinazi also mentioned the Alliance Schools (French Schools) and gave information about Judeo- Espagnol and Yiddish languages.

Sabi Samarya and Aslihan Parlak’s classical music performance inside Neve Salom Synagogue had a special repertoire consisting of Jewish tunes from past to present. The audience was moved and livened at the same time. 

Throughout the day the exhibition “Jewish Athletes in the History of Turkish Sports” curated by Metin Levi was open for visitors. The exhibition will be open until the end of December. 

Habib Gerez Art House was a popular hangout during the day. Gerez Cafe inside the building was a resting place for the guests where they could taste the exquisite dishes of Sephardic cuisine while enjoying music performed by Janet-Jak Esim. 

The museum and the museum shop selling books, CD’s and various design objects was open all day long.  

One of the highly expected event of European Day of Jewish Culture was once again the symbolic wedding ceremony. The ceremony commenced with wedding songs in Judeo Espagnol sang by Estreyikas D’Estambol band. The band is conducted by Izzet Bana and the soloist was Cenk Rofe. While Esra and Alper Can re-married with this symbolic wedding, the guests captured every moment of this ceremony with their smart phones. During the ceremony, Rabbi Izak Alaluf explained the importance of each section of the ceremony.

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