Mendy Chitrik
Chair of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States


The Teva in Ankara Synagogue


This is the house of Muhammed Yalçın, in the old Jewish quarter of Ankara.

Mohammed is a very special soul. He loves painting and he beautifully and painstakingly paints on everything. But that means everything, including the walls and steps of his wooden home.

The doors outside painted dazzling and bright colors.

The interior and the exterior…

“Every few years he changes the style and the painting” says Enver Arcak – who is THE expert on anything that has to do with the Jewish community of Ankara. “This is an ancient community, from the Romaniote Jews” he says as we stroll through the collapsing wooden structures…

Enver Arcak produced a film called Hermana, about Jewish life in Ankara and he also collected a lot of data, photos, documents and testimony about Jewish life in the Capitol of the Republic of Turkey.

Enver knows who lived in every house, and has documented more than 40 structures that are no longer existing…

Many of the houses are no longer in use, buy they still maintain their enchanting character. “The Jewish neighborhood still has its soul,” I tell Enver who wholeheartedly agrees with me. “It is amazing in the midst of bustling Ulus to have such place here.”

Most of these houses were built and inhabited by Jewish families…

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern republic of Turkey is alleged to have been hosted at this – now dilapidated house of a Yassef Ruso…

At the center of the Jewish quarter, immediately behind the famous Shengül Hamam, is the Ankara Synagogue, that as a Mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath, in its woman’s section…
Built in 1907 and renovated in 1990’s with the help of Mr. Isak Alton co-founder of Alarko HOLDING, an Istanbul based conglomerate – who was born on these streets – the modest synagogue hosts what, in my opinion, is the most beautiful synagogue arc in all of Turkey.
Look at this beautifully carved wood work…
There are about 30-40 Jews living in Ankara today, including foreign diplomats. Not enough to sustain a functioning synagogue on a regular basis, though they do try to have a Minyan on Yom Kippur and high holidays.
When needed a Hazan, or cantor, come from Istanbul and reads out from the Teva – which is a perfect match to the beautiful Arc.
I took the opportunity to make a prayer for the health and strength of the firefighters and citizens who are battling the terrible fires all around this beautiful country…
I wish I have had more time to spend with Enver and learn from him about the Jewish community of Ankara but I promised him that I will watch the Hermana video and go through the website.

The wall plaques on the Ankara Synagogue, thank the donors to the Angora community in 1907 – Yakov son of Avraham, who was the head of the community and Shlomo Behar Hiya who collected the funds, and the Albukrek family that completed the missing fins for the construction.

I assume that this is the same Albukrek family that lived across the street…

This post originally appeared as a thread on my Twitter @MChitrik please visit to see other threads and feel free to explore the #TurkeyJewishRoadtrip – on the next blog entry, I will write about other fascinating trips to Jewish sites in Turkey. Stay tuned.

About the Author
Mendy Chitrik is the Ashkenazi Rabbi of Turkey and Chair of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States. Follow me on twitter at @mchitrik
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