Kollega: I have a friend who is a university teacher in Istanbul and wants to come here to teach. Which university he should apply for? En: Dont Kollega: That’s a University? En: No darling, that’s an advice it’s just too early to use apostrophe
A prominent Turkish-Jewish businessman and politician, Cefi Kamhi is chairman of an Istanbul-based consulting agency and television distribution company. He heads three councils for Turkey’s foreign economic relations board, and represents his home country in the European Jewish Parliament. His wife is Muslim.
Yet after several assassination attempts, Kamhi is under 24-hour police protection to ensure his safety. Over a choppy Skype connection from his Istanbul office, he smiles as he pulls out a small black pistol. He carries it with him for protection, but also knows it probably won’t be enough should he really need it.
“Terrorists will always find a loophole — our synagogues have been bombed many times,” said Kamhi, who served in the Turkish parliament from 1995 through 1999.
After an Istanbul suicide bombing attack in March that killed four people, three of them Israeli tourists, Turkey’s Jews are on even higher alert than normal, which involves constant surveillance of schools and synagogues.
Kamhi is a powerful member of the Turkish elite, but he is not safe. His story is symbolic of Turkish Jewry. They are fiercely proud to be Turkish, but they are also worried about whether the country holds a future for them. Some are departing for Israel and elsewhere; others bristle at even the thought of leaving their home country.
“If you ask Turkish Jews, ‘Why are Jews staying?’ that is extremely offensive,” said Louis Fishman, an expert in Turkish history at Brooklyn College. “They’re Turkish, that’s the language they speak, that’s the language they dream in. They’ve seen bad days in Turkey, but they’ve seen many good days also.”
Whether they go or stay, the stakes are high for world Jewry. The community in Turkey is the last outpost of Sephardic Jewry and its almost-extinct language, Ladino, experts say. Sephardic Jews settled in Turkey, Greece and the Balkans after Spain and Portugal expelled them in the 15th century. Nazi Germany destroyed communities in Greece and the former Yugoslavia, while Bulgarian Jewry survived the war and migrated en masse to Israel.
“There is really no other community, other than the Turkish one, left of that larger group. It’s a remnant community of a much larger group that has disappeared,” said Aron Rodrigue, who is an expert on Jewish Ottoman history at Stanford University and grew up in Istanbul.
Other communities in Islamic countries — although not Sephardic, since they did not come from Spain or Portugal — are mostly gone as well.
“There is a community in Iran, there are many fewer in Morocco, and nobody left anywhere else,” Rodrigue said.
Musim panas telah tiba. Daun-daun tumbuh hijau merona. Bunga-bunga bermekaran ditata indah di taman-taman. Semua orang bergembira, mengambil foto selfie banyak tak terkira. Jalan di antara bunga atau duduk di atas rumput bersandar dengan pohon rindang adalah bagian terindah belajar di kampus ini. Kalau seandainya tidak ingat banyaknya tugas dan PR yang harus diselesaikan, niscaya setiap hari seharian betah berlama-lama di sini. Perjuangan butuh waktu sesaat menyegarkan pikiran dan perasaan. Selamat datang, musim panas. Selamat membahagiakan hati-hati penuh riang.
Obit of the Day: 1st Muslim Woman to Compete at the Olympics
Halet Cambel was uncomfortable traveling to Berlin for the 1936 Games. Disgusted by the Nazi regime, she went reluctantly in order to represent their still-young republic, founded in 1923. She and fellow fencer Suat Fetgeri Aseni Tarı were also the first two women ever to represent Turkey in the Olympics. But when invited to meet Adolf Hitler personally, both Ms. Cambel and Ms. Tari turned down the invitation as a small act of personal integrity.
Ms. Cambel and her colleague came away medal-less from the Games that year, which Ms. Cambel recognized was partially due to lackadaisical training on the part of the Turkish team. (The team did earn a gold and a bronze in wrestling, the first in the history of country which had attended four previous Games.)
Returning home to Turkey, Ms. Cambel studied archeology and the Hittite, Assyrian, and Hebrew languages, at the Sorbonne. She would then earn her Ph.D. from the University of Istanbul.
Working with her mentor Helmuth Bossert, she assisted in the excavation of the ancient Hittite fortress city of Karatepe in Southern Turkey. Karatepe would become her life’s work, as she would spend half of each year over the next half-century at the site.
Halet Cambel died on January 12, 2014 at the age of 97.