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01 December 2017

The Jews of Istanbul

The history of the Jewish community of Istanbul has traces back to the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. As the Sephardic (Spanish) Jews were forced to flee their homes in Spain in order to avoid forced conversion or even death, they needed somewhere with more safe to take their families.  They found that safety in Istanbul, where the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II granted them refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan saw the great benefit of 
having the great knowledge, of science and business, that the Jewish community would bring with them. This support caused the Jewish population of Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire to grow to over 500,000.
Turkey also became a home for Ashkenazic Jews who were fleeing Russia during the 1800 and 1900's. As with previous leaders, Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, also welcomed famous scientists who were under threat in Germany and Austria to the Nazi regime, to find safety in Istanbul.
That once great community of a half of a million is today just a small piece of what it was.  In the early 1940's a wealth tax was put on the people. Even though it was intended for the wealthy Turks, it had severe effects upon the Jewish population. Many people estimate that between 25-35K Jews were forced to flee the country when they became unable to pay their debts. Later the Istanbul pogrom of September 1955 against the Greek, Jewish and Armenian communities caused another 10,000 Jews to flee the country.
Today, the population is about 25,000, with most Turkish Jews living in Istanbul. Even though the numbers are smaller there are still more than 25 synagogues throughout the country. 
Ahrida Synagogue (Tripadvisor.com)
One of these, the Ahrida Synagogue, was built in 1453, before the Muslim conquest, and still is in use today.
For those interested in researching the Jewish family from Istanbul, one of the best ways to start is at the Sephardicgen website. Compiled by Dr. Jeffrey Malka, this site is a must for anyone researching Sephardic roots. Below is just a part of the sources he has for research in Istanbul.




17 November 2017

Solomon and Associated Families Reunion 2018 10-12 March 2018 Melbourne, Australia

  On 4 August 1817, Emanuel and Vaiben Solomon were convicted at the Durham Assizes and sentenced to seven years of transportation. On 22 December 1817, the vessel Lady Castlereagh, loaded with 300 prisoners, including the Solomon brothers, sailed out of Portsmouth, headed for Australia. They arrived in Sydney on 1 May 1818. 
In honor of the upcoming 200th Anniversary of the arrival of the Solomon family in Australia, it is now time for theSolomon Family Reunion 2018. I had the honor to attend the Great Solomon Reunion in 2012, which was held in Melbourne, Australia. It was such a delight to meet some of the nicest people I have ever met. This years reunion will also be held in Melbourne, at the Parkview Hotel Melbourne.
Melborne Synagogue
What a wonderful opportunity for the Solomon and related families worldwide to come together to honor their ancestry. In addition to reunited with old family and friends, the reunion, to be held the 10-12 of March, will include great food and 2 days of talks and presentations about the Solomon family. What a great chance to get out of the cold and snow that many places will be dealing with and head to the warmth of beautiful Melbourne.
All information about the reunion can be found at the Solomon Family Reunion 2018 website.


18 September 2017

Rosh Hashanah 2017


A beautiful sunset as seen from the steps of Yad Vashem, gives us hope for the incredible year ahead. May it be a year of peace, joy and happiness to allyour families. HAPPY ROSH HASHANAH everyone.

The Census Records of Denmark

In September of 2016, I wrote in this blog about FamilySearch adding the database of the 1911 Census of Denmark to their online collections. This database, which at the time only had about 440,000 images, showed what could happen when all interested people work together. The original images were provided by the National Archives of Denmark, the name index provided for by MyHeritage and the database hosted at no charge at FamilySearch.org.
Since the time of that article, the databases containing the Census records of Denmark have continued to grow. This is a continued benefit of the joint efforts of MyHeritage, FamilySearch and the National Archives of Denmark. While a year ago the 1911 Census contained 440,000 images, today it contains over 2.7 million. The number including in the other census years are shown below.


The records themselves, while all a little different are very easy to read and understand. Even without a knowledge of the language, researchers should find good success in finding their families. I few example of the other years are shown below.

1860 Census of Denmark

1890 Census of Denmark

1916 Census of Denmark
Hopefully with the continued efforts of websites and archives working together, we will continue to see great record collections made available for researchers.

06 September 2017

Society For Crypto-Judaic Studies Annual Conference Philadelphia, PA Nov 5-7, 2017

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies (SCJS) founded in 1991 has become the leading society for those researching the history of Sephardic Crypto-Jews. As part of their society, they come together once a year to allow all interested parties to work together to further the studies of Crypto-Jews. This year will be their 27th conference. The 2017 Annual Conference of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 5-7. For more information visit www.cryptojews.com

31 August 2017

The Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island

In a post in January of 2016, I talked about the Jewish history of Rhode Island. In the post I talked about the Sephardic Jews, many from the Caribbean who settled in Newport, and made it a very important place for the Jewish people.  This past week I had the honor of being able to visit the synagogue and take a tour of this beautiful historic building. The synagogue was completed in  1763, making it the oldest existing synagogue in North America. The pictures below, give a small glimpse into the historic treasure.


12 August 2017

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw, Poland 6-10 August


The 2017 IAJGS Conference was a great success and much was learned. Now its time to turn our sights ahead to the 2018 Conference to be held in Warsaw, Poland from the 6th to the 8th of August. Please make plans to join us there.