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Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Former Ottoman Lands in the United States

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A news about Turkish Jews immigrants in New York in 1912. (Source: New York Times June 4, 1912)

By Selin Senol
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On March 4, 1992, Turkish Jews celebrated at the Neve Salom Synagogue in Istanbul the 500th anniversary of their ancestral acceptance in Ottoman Turkey under Sultan Beyazit II, after the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews (who refused to convert to Christianity) by Spain in 1492. Hearing about the eviction, the Sultan issued a welcoming decree for the Jews, purportedly commenting that the Spanish King must have ‘lost his mind’ for expelling his ‘best’ and ‘wealthiest’ subjects.
‘Sephardim’, referring to Jews with ancestral origins from the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal), is said to come from the word for ‘Spain’ in Hebrew, also found in the Bible. A major portion of Sephardic Jews, speaking a Judeo-Spanish language called ‘Ladino’, settled in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, especially in the cities of Istanbul and Salonika; myth has it that the root word Sepharad, the land where Hebrew wanderers settled after the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, likely refers to a region in Asia Minor, or, modern-day Turkey.

Today, the Sephardic community in the United States is generally known for its members’ attachment and loyalty to their native lands in and around Turkey. New York City has the largest population of Sephardim in the country, and is known, together with Seattle, for having one of the earliest and most influential Sephardic communities in the US; the two cities are also interconnected in that many young people from Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation in Seattle, for example, tend to travel to NYC to further their Jewish education. The Sephardic Diaspora in the United States, however, also includes decades-old communities in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Atlanta, Montgomery, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Rochester, New Brunswick, etc.
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Morris Schinasi and his wife Laurette. Schinasi brothers were able to turn their small cigar-factory establishment into a profitable business entitled ?Shinasi Brothers? making millions of dollars each year-eventually selling the factory to the Tobacco Produce Company in 1916 for $3.5 million. (Courtesy of Naim G
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07

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