“Judaism was born in Turkey,” Rabbi Chitrik explained. “Here is where the destiny of the Jewish people was first drawn.”
Immigration to Israel from Russia and Ukraine has risen sharply due to economic pressures and limits on personal freedoms, the Jewish Agency said.
Numbers paint a stark picture for the future of Turkey’s steadily shrinking Jewish community. Forty percent of the population is preparing a possible exit route from a land that has harbored Jews since Ottoman times.
A squad of about half a dozen cats patrols a small, overgrown cemetery in central Istanbul.
Following Friday’s failed coup attempt some Turkish Jews say that while anti-Semitism is a given in the country, it is not linked to the clashes. Yet another Istanbul resident described fear as social media users blamed minorities for the coup that left close to 300 dead.
The last viable Sephardi community on the planet is in Turkey, but even its devoted members acknowledge the challenges of living amid constant high security and anti-Semitism — and some are leaving.
Turkey’s 23,000 Jews have repeatedly been targeted by terrorists. Despite the their government’s feud with Israel, most say they feel a powerful bond to their homeland.