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18 December 2017

Captain Ben L. Salomon, Congressional Medal of Honor.

At one time or another most researchers are guilty of not digging deep enough when putting together the history of an ancestor. We have spent so much time digging into their past that once we identify them we quickly move on to the next generation. Yes, we want to find the entire family but what have we left behind, what have we overlooked?
Ancestry.com has a wonderful database on there website, U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947.  In doing some research in that database, I found the record of Capt. Ben I. Salomon.  The card gave the basic information, informing us that Capt. Salomon, age 30 of Los Angeles, California, the son of Bess Salomon, was killed in action on 9 July 1944. He was killed during the Battle of Saipan on the Marianas Islands.
 The information provided on this card does show that Captain Salomon was a hero who gave his life serving his country, yet there is so much more to the story.
On 1 May 2002, almost 70 years after his death, Capt. Salomon was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor. In the citation with the award (shown in its entirety below) his actions in protecting and saving the lifes of the wounded who were in his aid station are documented. He truly is a hero, and his actions that day should be read by all as an example of paying the ultimate sacrifice for others.
May his name always be remembered and may we always try to document the complete story.

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.