Chief Turkish Jewish Community Feared Dead; Ancient Torah Scrolls Saved

Wednesday, February 8, 2023 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , ,

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

ISTANBUL/JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – The head of a small Turkish Jewish community and his wife were feared dead after Monday’s earthquakes, but ancient Torah scrolls were saved, several Israeli sources said.

Rescuers were working to find Saul and Fortuna Cenudioglu in the rubble of their home in the southern Turkish town of Antakya, but they were presumed to have died in the tremors.

Their apartment building collapsed during Monday’s devastating earthquakes that killed at least more than 12,000 people in southern Turkey and neighboring Syria.

There has been a Jewish community in Antakya for over 2,500 years, although there are thought only to be 12 elderly members left, including the couple who are missing, Israeli media reported.

A leading rabbi in the Turkish Jewish community, Mendel Chitrik, also expressed concern about the damaged local synagogue
in Antakya. “It is not in a good condition, but it has not been completely destroyed. There are cracks and dramatic damage.”

Chitrik posted a video of himself helping remove Torah scrolls from the partly destroyed synagogue to save them. A user posted a picture of the site saying: “The end of a 2,500-year-old love story.”


Antakya’s Jewish community is one of the oldest in the south of Turkey and was established some 2,500 years ago by Jews originating from Aleppo in Syria, historians say.

The Torah scrolls of the Antakya synagogue are believed to be at least 400 years old.

It comes amid broader concerns about the Jewish community in mainly Muslim Turkey.

Most Turkish Jews, estimated at 15,000, live in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, with a small community in Izmir.

Much like the Jews in other Turkish towns, most of Antakya’s Jews reportedly left the area in the 1970s when a wave of political violence swept over the country.

Until two decades ago, some Jews lived in communities in other parts of southern Turkey, but for the past few years, Antakya had remained the last functioning Jewish community in the region, observers said.

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