14 September 2008

Turkey: Jewish Culture Day

All over Europe, Jewish communities in more than 30 countries celebrated the European Day of Jewish Culture on the first Sunday in September. This year's theme was music.

It was celebrated for the sixth time in Istanbul, according to this story.

Among the programs were a simulation of a traditional Jewish wedding. Programs on Jewish historical and cultural heritage were held in Galata Square, which was the 19th-early 20th century Jewish residential area.

The Neve Shalom, Italian and Ashkenazi synagogues were open to the general public.

Some 11 concerts were performed during the day, including Turkish-Sephardic music, Klezmer music, and liturgical music. These included Turkish composer/pianist Tuluyhan Uğurlu and Israel-born percussionist/composer Yinon Muallem's ensemble.

Neve Shalom Synagogue was the setting of a Jewish wedding. The bride and groom, Cenk and Izzet Rofe, who were celebrating their first anniversary, re-enacted their ceremony.

First the groom's family came forward with religious hymns being sung in the background. Then the bride entered holding her father's hand. The groom signed the marriage contract and gave the wedding ring to the bride's father. After the marriage, the groom stepped on a glass.

The couple stood under the chuppah (wedding canopy) while rabbis sang hymns in Hebrew and, at the end, the couple and their families turned their backs to the crowd and showed their respect to a scroll of their holy book, the Torah, which was rolled up and placed behind a door that was in turn covered by a curtain under the Star of David.

Jewish artists held exhibits in several places: Neve Shalom Cultural Center, Schneidertempel Art Center, the Quincentennial Foundation and the Jewish Museum of Turkey.

Jewish history lectures included "The Star of David in Anatolia," by Ersin Alok, and "A Musical Search for Jewish Identity and Its Expression in the Diaspora," by Cem Mansur and Cihat Aşkın.

A conference hosted by Mesut Ilgım, who has been researching Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's 1933 university reforms and the contribution of German-Jewish scientists to Turkish universities after their escape from the Nazi regime in Germany, documented a short history of these scientists' lives in Turkey.

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