Traces of Jewish Culture in Mylasa, Halicarnassus, Kos and Rhodes

Conference about Traces of Jewish Culture in Mylasa, Halicarnassus,  Kos and Rhodes
20th December 2011

The conference held by Ms. Sara Pardo, a history researcher and author, was attended with great interest by a large audience at the Bodrum Chamber of Commerce.  The conference was held in an informal style and was presented by Mr. Semih Adıyaman. Also, Mr. Hayim Akyüz, a member of the last Jewish family that had moved from Bodrum to İzmir in 1954, shared his memoirs with the audience.

According to the information Ms. Sara Pardo compiled as a result of a meticulous investigation, contrary to the belief that the existence of Jews in Turkey starts with the Spanish Inquisiton 500 years ago, their existence can actually be traced back to the period of Abraham.

The Jewish people who settled in Mylasa, Halicarnassus, Kos and Rhodes moved back and forth from the islands to the mainland due to political reasons during the Ottoman Empire and the First and Second World Wars and due to natural disasters such as earthquakes and plagues. As the Jewish culture requires its members to adhere to the local laws and regulations, they abided by the rules of the government. Again as a token of the Jewish culture, they considered good education to be of great importance and, therefore, they established advanced educational institutions that were as qualified as the French Alliance schools, first in Rhodes and Kos and later on in Mylasa. They were involved in trade and carried out a considerable part of their business from Güllük.

In 1943 with the arrival of Nazis to Rhodes, 1700 Jews were sent to the Auschwitz camp. The Turkish council to Rhodes, Mr. Selahattin Ülkümen, saved 50 Jews although it cost him his wife’s death. In the late forties and fifties, a large number of the Jews left Turkey for Israel, United States and other countries.

Lastly, Ms. Sara Pardo mentioned Mr. Avram Galanti who is a prominent figure among Bodrum Jews. Born in 1871 Avram Galanti knew many languages, was nicknamed “professor” and was close friends with the famous Neyzen Tevfik. He later joined the Young Turks group and became a member of the parliament until he died at Proti (Kınalı) Island, Istanbul.

At the end of the conference which was held both in English and Turkish, Ms. Sara Pardo gave additional information on the points the participants were curious about. As the subject was very interesting and as the numbers of questions asked were many, the conference which was planned between 14:00 – 16:00 pm lasted until 17:00 pm when the conference hall of the Chamber of Commerce had to be closed.

Vivian Kohen

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