My Grandparents Were Always Proud of their Turkish Heritage

Dan Morhaim, Deputy Majority Leader of the Maryland General Assembly.

Until a century ago in Kırklareli, the capital of Kırklareli Province in Eastern Thrace, in the European part of Turkey, there was a Jewish congregation of one thousand three hundred people. Now among the native-born residents of the city there are only five Jews, including the rabbi. Rabbi Hayim Abravanel (86) has served over 50 years in the Musa Synagogue Foundation.
According to Margalit Bejarano, author of Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Cuba became the destination of the Sephardim from two distinct areas in Turkey: Istanbul and Thrace (European Turkey). Most of them came from two small towns: Silivri, on the outskirts of Istanbul, and Kırklareli (Kirklisse), near Edirne.

The first wave of immigration was mainly male; it was motivated by economic reasons and by the fear of compulsory enlistment in the Ottoman army during the Young Turks’ revolution (1909) and the Balkan Wars (1912–1913).
Morhaim family is together.

Cuba was a second option for Sephardic Jews. Usually the young immigrants hoped to return home after “making America” or to bring over their wives or brides. However, the outbreak of World War I severed communications with their families. After the war, communications with the old home were resumed, and wives, children, mothers and other relatives from Turkey emigrated to the United States, Cuba, Brazil, Canada and Argentina.

The grandparents of Dan Morhaim, Deputy Majority Leader of the Maryland General Assembly, moved from Lüleburgaz, a town and district of Kırklareli Province in the Marmara region of Turkey, to the United States in 1916.

Morhaim was first elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, 2002, and 2006 to represent the 11th District in the House of Delegates. He is a Deputy Majority Leader and also a physician on the faculty at Johns Hopkins. Dan Morhaim answered TURKOFAMERICA’s questions.

Could you tell us your family story? When did they leave Turkey?

My grandfather was born in Luleburgaz in the late 1890's. He left around 1916 or so for the United States, settling in Los Angeles. He spoke Turkish and Ladino.

Did you have a chance to visit your ancestors’ birthplace in Turkey?
My wife and two children and I went to Turkey in 2000. We had a wonderful time, in Istanbul, Kuşadası, İzmir, Ephesus, and elsewhere. The country is so beautiful, and everyone was very nice to us.
We did go to Luleburgaz. It's a small beautiful city on the European side of Turkey. We went to the Hall of Records, and they printed out a list of "Morhaim" names, people that had been born there since the founding of the Republic by Ataturk. We ate lunch in the town center at a lovely restaurant.
Dr. Dan Morhaim at work.

In your childhood, did your grandparents talk about Turkey? Do you remember anything about Turkish culture, like music, food, etc.? Do you have any relatives in Turkey?
My grandparents were always proud of their Turkish heritage and often served Turkish food at home. I don't think we have any relatives there.

Could you tell us about the Sephardic community in your district? How big is it?
While there is a large Jewish community in Maryland, the Sephardic community is part of the whole. There is a growing Turkish community here, and I am in touch with them.

Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07