views updated May 29 2018


IZMIR (Smyrna) , provincial capital and principal harbor of W. Anatolia, *Turkey, on the coast of the Aegean Sea. There were Jews settled in Izmir at the beginning of the Christian era as attested by the New Testament (Rev. 1:11; 2:8). It is thought that many pagans became proselytes as a result of Jewish influence. Christianity was accepted by only a few Jews there. A few Greek inscriptions of the second and third centuries c.e. have been preserved. From one of them it appears that the community was authorized to impose punishments on any person who showed disrespect toward it, and that a woman named Rufina was then "Mother of the synagogue." One of the seals found in the proximity of the town has a fine representation of a menorah very similar to the one on the arch of Titus at Rome. During the Middle Ages the number of Jews decreased and they may have disappeared completely from the town. However, when the descendants of the Spanish exiles arrived in the 16th century, they found a small *Romaniot community.

The development of Izmir dates from the beginning of the 17th century, when it was a flourishing center of Mediterranean commerce. The Jewish community increased in numbers and became one of the most important of the Ottoman Empire. Jews from *Salonika, Constantinople, and neighboring towns also settled in Izmir. The new settlers established their own communities (Eẓ Ḥayyim, Gerush, Portugal, etc.) and appointed R. Joseph *Escapa of Salonica as their rabbi (before 1630). After some time R. Azariah Joshua Ashkenazi, also from Salonika, arrived in the town. A controversy broke out between Escapa and Ashkenazi, as a result of which the community split into two factions. However, after the death of the latter in 1648, Escapa was appointed rabbi over all the Jewish population, which was thus of diverse origins and had different customs. Escapa endeavored to unite the community. He issued important takkanot still in force in Izmir and the neighboring localities. He instituted tax laws and appointed councils for the spiritual and material administration of the community. As a result religious and social standards improved; one of the eminent rabbis of Salonika during that period, R. Samuel Isaac Modigliano, said of Izmir that it was "a holy and pure community, all of whose regulations are decreed with ability and justice, through the counsel of sages and wise men."

This period was the golden era of the Izmir community. Large yeshivot, schools, synagogues (i.e, the Portuguese synagogue in 1710, the Algazi synagogue – Kal de Ariva – in 1728, etc.) and a Hebrew printing press (1658) were founded. The local Jewish population included prosperous merchants, translators, agents of European merchants, banks and consulates, customs offıcials, usurers and eminent rabbis who ranked among the most distinguished of that generation – R. Aaron *Lapapa, R. Solomon *Algazi, and R. Ḥayyim *Benveniste, all of them during the 17th century. *Shabbetai ẓevi was born in Izmir and began his activities there. His appearance shook the Jewish world, and the violent conflict which ensued in Izmir in its wake had an adverse influence on the community. The dispute subsequently subsided and the community returned to its former prosperity. Jews then held important economic positions and Jewish merchants maintained commercial relations with the Balkan countries, the Near East and Far East, Africa, and the large European cities. In addition to the six existing synagogues, another three were erected. Literature also flourished. Important and fundamental works in the fields of halakhah and ethics were written. These include the works of Ḥayyim Benveniste on the Shulhan Arukh entitled Keneset ha-Gedolah ("Great Assembly"), and that of *Elijah ha-Kohen of Izmir, Shevet Musar ("Rod of Admonition").

The most renowned rabbis of the late 17th and early 18th centuries were Jacob b. Na'im, who headed a large yeshivah from which many disciples graduated; his disciple R. Abraham ibn Ezra, author of the important work Battei Kenesiyyot (Salonika, 1806); R. Joseph Ḥazzan, author of the well-known commentaries on Ein Yosef (Izmir, 1675); and R. Aaron *Alfandari, author of Yad Aharon (Izmir, 1735). Special mention should be made of R. Ḥayyim *Abulafia, who was chief rabbi of Izmir from 1720 to 1740 and was a distinguished and active scholar. In 1740 he emigrated, together with his disciples, to Tiberias.

The most prolific of the 19th century's rabbis was R. Ḥayyim Palacci (*Palache), who represented the old generation of strict old-fashioned rabbis. He wrote over 72 works in all the fields of scholarship (54 of his books were lost in the great fire of 1841).

Towards the end of the 18th century, many of Izmir's Jews were engaged in the manufacture of wool from goats' fleece. There was both an organization of workshop owners and a workers' organization. Two manufacturers (not among the biggest) employed 130 workmen (Ḥikrei Lev of R. Joseph Ḥazzan, Sh. Ar. yd, 2:37, Salonika, 1806). Over a period of some 180 years five great fires broke out (1743, 1772, 1841, 1881, 1922), in which large sections, mostly of the Jewish quarters of Izmir, were destroyed. There were also frequent epidemics, mostly between 1770 and 1892, and big earthquakes. The Greek population of the town frequently brought *blood libels against the Jews; there were six cases between 1864 and 1901. In the 19th century, there were 15,000–20,000 Jews in Izmir. At the end of the 19th century a general decline of Izmir Jewry set in. In 1905, an Ashkenazi community was founded in Izmir by Russian refugees. Its last rabbi was Meir Melammed. After the Turco-Greek War (1919–21), many Jews left the town for Greece or emigrated to France and the United States.

Social institutions that were established between the 16th and 18th centuries, such as Ḥevrat Bikkur Ḥolim, were still active in the 19th century, together with new modern institutions – pharmacies, hospitals, etc.

Modern Period

Beginning from the 19th century, Izmir – a commercial city situated on a major transportation route – became one of the most prominent financial and cultural centers in the world. This financial growth and the consequent cultural and spiritual recrudescence attracted many Jews to Izmir.

The westernization and modernization of the Ottoman Empire, stepped up from the end of 18th century, had a profound impact on Ottoman Jewry in general and on the Izmir community in particular. This outside influence was further strengthened by the settlement of the Francos (European Jewish merchants) from the 17th century in Izmir, and brought changes to the social and financial infrastructure of the Izmir community. Also strengthening the modernization processes in Izmir was the establishment of new *Alliance schools there starting in 1873 and accompanied by the invasion of Western cultural ideas. It was also Izmir where the first Jewish journal, La Buena Esperansa ("The Good Hope"), was published in 1843, testifying to the flourishing of Jewish journalism that went hand in hand with the accelerated cultural development of the city. The local Jewish theater performed original plays in Ladino and foreign plays in their original language. Groups of dancers appeared for the first time outside religious frameworks. These changes were accompanied by the partial adoption of European dress; by new living quarters, i.e., the move from the Jewish Quarter near the market (Çarşı) to new mixed neighborhoods in the western part of the city: Göstepe, Karataş, and Karantina; by the use of European languages (French and later Turkish) at the expense of Ladino; and by new professions made possible by an Alliance education.

These processes of modernization, westernization, and progress at the same time underscored the polaritization that spread within Jewish society. The disintegration of traditional frameworks was also felt within the religious establishment. With the enforcement of the Tanzimat regulations and the legislation of the Chief Rabbinate Law in 1865, the prestige of the rabbis began to decline. The constitution weakened the rabbis and strengthened, in their stead, the rich community leaders. As Izmir was known for the strict religious attitude of its rabbis, spirited struggles, sometimes violent, took place among different groups in the community.

In the beginning of the 20th century there were over 20,000 Jews in Izmir. After World War i, many emigrated to South America. After the establishment of the State of Israel and between 1948 and 1950, about 10,000 immigrated to Israel as well, so that, in 1965, the chief rabbinate of the town reported that there were about 4,000 Jews there. In 1968 their number was estimated at around 3,000, and at the beginning of the 21st century at approximately 2,000, mostly concentrated in the Alsancak quarter. As a result of the large-scale emigration, the Jewish orphanage was closed. The only Jewish talmud torah was closed in 1999, probably as a consequence of changes in the educational system in Turkey (Tevhid-i Tedrisat). Wealthy Jews sent their children to the French St. Joseph School, which is located in the old Jewish school building, or to private schools such as the American College. If the family was not wealthy, its children were sent to public schools. Seven of the synagogues in the town remained in some use, usually on the High Holidays; two of them were in constant use: Shaar Shamayim situated in Alsancak and Beth Israel in Karataş. The most significant events in those two were the festivals. The community retained a hospital which was mainly used for deliveries, and a Moshav Zekenim Retirement Home (Assyl De Viar) in Karataş. The community also operated a Hevra Kaddisha, a youth club (called the Liga (League)), and the La Dame de Bonne volunteer organization. There was also a rabbinical court headed by R. Nissim Barmaimon.

There are three cemeteries in Izmir, only one in use: the Bornova Cemetery located in Bornova, was established in 1881 by Alexandre Sidi; the Gurt Çeşme, or Kan Çeşme, Cemetery, which was in use from 1885 to 1934, where the Izmir rabbis' tombstones are located at the entrance; and the New Cemetery, which was opened in the 1930s and is the only one still in use.

Most of the Jews who remained in Izmir are merchants, some of them exporters and industrialists, and the economic situation of the community is relatively good, since thousands of the poor left for Israel. There were no assaults on Jews, apart from attacks on Jewish shops during the demonstrations connected with the problem of Cyprus in September 1955.

[Haim J. Cohen /

Efrat E. Aviv (2nd ed.)]

Hebrew Printing

Izmir was one of the three printing centers in the Ottoman Empire, following Constantinople and Salonika. The first Jewish printer in Izmir was Abraham b. Jedidiah Gabbay (1657–75). His first book was J. Escapa's Rosh Yosef (1657). Besides several Hebrew works, Gabbay also printed two in Spanish, in Latin characters: a second edition of Mikveh Yisrael (Esperanza de Israel) by Manasseh Ben Israel; and Apologia por la noble nación de los Judíos, por Eduardo Nicholas, translated from English into Spanish by R. Manasseh. In 1675 he printed 16 books; he left Izmir in 1683 and from that year all printing activity ceased for the next 50 years. Jonah b. Jacob of Zalocze established a new printing house in 1728 in partnership with Rabbi David Hazzan. It was closed in 1739. In 1754 a new printing house was established by Judah Hazzan and Jacob Valensi. The printing house of Osta Maragos, the Greek printer, was also active during this period. Printing activity ceased in Izmir after this period for nearly 60 years for unknown reasons

From the fourth decade of the 19th century on, several printing houses were active in Izmir. In 1838, the English printing house of Griffith was established, mainly to serve the Anglican Mission. Griffith also printed some journals in Ladino which appeared in Izmir.

In the 1850s another printing house was in operation, the one of Judah Samuel Ashkenazi's two sons. It ceased operation at some stage and Benzion Benjamin began printing in 1857 using the equipment of this printing house after its closure.

In 1862 Roditi was given the opportunity to use a new printing house. By 1884 he had published no fewer than 71 books, among them many important religious works, such as *Me-Am Lo'ez. The printing house of the De Seguras was founded in 1862 and existed until 1906. Abraham Pontremoli founded a new printing house which operated from 1876 to 1889. Pontremoli published some of Palacci's books.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, a few other printing houses were founded but operated for only a short while (i.e., Shevet Ahim, 1876, etc.). During the 20th century the most prominent printer was Ephraim Melamed, whose printing house operated between 1901 and 1924. Hebrew books continued to be issued in Izmir until the 1950s. These printers produced more than 400 books, ranging over the entire field of biblical, talmudic and rabbinic literature, besides a large amount of liturgy and *Kabbalah. Many of the authors were local scholars. From 1838, 117 books were printed entirely, or partially, in Ladino. These were at first religious works only, but toward the end of the 19th century stories, novels, poetry, etc., were also published. Additionally, from 1842, Jewish newspapers such as La Buena Esperanza (1842), El Novelista (1889–1922), and El Messerret (1897–1922) were printed in Ladino.

[Avraham Yaari /

Efrat E. Aviv (2nd ed.)]


Rosanes, Togarmah, index; A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 1 (1937); idem, Appendice à l'Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie (1948), 5–15; Werses, in: Yavneh, 3 (1942), 93–111; Scholem, Shabbetai Zevi, 1 (1957), 298–353; Yaari, in: Aresheth, 1 (1958), 97–222; C. Roth, in: ks, 28 (1952/53), 390–3; Frey, Corpus, 2 (1952) 9–12. add. bibliography: Y. Ben Na'eh, "Hebrew Printing Houses in the Ottoman Empire," in: G. Nassi (ed.), Jewish Journalism and Printing Houses in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (2000); S. Bora, Izmir Yahudileri Tarihi (1995); H. Nahum, Izmir Yahudileri 1920 yüzyıl (2000); E. Bashan, "Contacts between Jews in Smyrna and the Levant Company of London in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries," in: Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 29 (1988), pp. 53–73; E. Eldem, D. Goffman and B. Masters (eds.), The Ottoman City between East and West-Aleppo, Izmir and Istanbul (1999); D. Goffman, Izmir and the Levantine World, 15501650 (1990); S.J. Shaw, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic (1991); A. Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (1992); A. Levy (ed.), The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994); H. Gerber and J. Barnai, The Jews of Izmir in the 19th CenturyOttoman Documents from Shar'i Court (1984) (Hebrew); E. Benbassa and A. Rodrigue, The Jews of the Balkans. The Judeo-Spanish Community, 15th to 20th Centuries (2001) (Hebrew).


views updated May 09 2018


Third largest city in Turkey and seaport on the Aegean Sea.

İzmir (formerly known in English as Smyrna) is situated at the head of a long bay. With mountains in the Aegean region of western Anatolia stretching east to west, the river valleys from the Anatolian plateau leading to the Aegean Sea allow easy communication with a considerable hinterland. Due to these advantages, the city has been an important trading center over a long period of time: Its origins go back to the third millennium b.c.e., and it maintained its prominence during Hittite, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine domination. During the fourteenth century, İzmir was held by the Turkish Aydin Beyliği (emi-rate), and when Aydinlike other Anatolian Turkish emirateswas incorporated into the rising Ottoman state around 1400, İzmir became an Ottoman city.

During the early nineteenth century, İzmir's European trade was disrupted first by the Napoleonic Wars and then, in the 1820s, by the war of Greek independence. However, beginning in the 1830s, industrializing Europe's demand for Anatolian raw cotton and wool soon restored trade. Dried fruits (raisins and figs), tobacco, olive oil, and animal hides were also exported at unprecedented levels. Its population increased considerably, as the city attracted not only foreigners but also an influx of population from both Anatolia and the Aegean islands. The first railroad to be built in Anatolia was laid between İzmir and Aydin to facilitate the exports of its rich hinterland. Just before World War I, İzmir and its vicinity had a total population of
210,000, of which 100,000 were Muslims, 74,000 Greeks, 10,000 Armenians, 24,000 Jews, and 2,000 Europeans.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the victorious allies allowed Greek occupation of the city and its hinterland. But Greek occupation sparked a nascent Anatolian resistance, and the Turkish war of independence ended with the recapture of İzmir in September 1922. The city was devastated by a huge conflagration as the Greek forces and population withdrew to the Aegean; its burgeoning industry was wrecked and its foreign trade sharply declined. The new Turkish Republic, however, was determined to restore İzmir's prominent commercial role and held its first national congress there in 1923 to set economic policy. Although İzmir became a much more Turkish city than it had been in Ottoman times, Muslims immigrating from Crete, the Aegean islands, and Salonika replaced the Greek population and helped preserve a relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere; the city quickly regained its historic role as Turkey's leading exporter and it was second only to Istanbul in imports.

Since the 1950s, İzmir has experienced a significant degree of industrialization, establishing strong automotive and food processing sectors and modernizing its traditional textile production. In 2002, it produced 13.5 percent of Turkey's gross domestic product and employed 9.7 percent of the country's total labor force. İzmir has grown faster than any other Turkish city except Istanbul; its population reached 3,370,866 in 2000. In addition to its commercial importance, İzmir serves as the focus of a hinterland rich in classical and Turkish cultural heritage. Among the nearby sites of importance are Ephesus, Pergamum, and Sardis.

see also aegean sea; anatolia; ottoman empire.


Güvenç, Bozkurt, ed. Social Change in Izmir: A Collection of Five Papers. Ankara: Social Science Association, 1975.

Kasaba, Reşat. "İzmir." Review: Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations XVI, no. 4 (Fall 1993).

Taylor Saçlioğlu, Virginia. Three Ages of İzmir: Palimpsest of Cultures. İstanbul: Yapi Kredi Yayinlari, 1993.

Turkish Ministry of Culture. Information available at <http://www.kultur.gov.tr/portal/default_en.asp?belgeno=2069>.

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views updated May 18 2018

Izmir (formerly Smyrna) City and seaport on the Gulf of Izmir, w Turkey. It was settled by Greeks at the beginning of the 1st millennium bc. Izmir was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1424–1919, when it was assigned to Greece. It passed to Turkey under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). Industries: tourism, tobacco, silk, carpets, cotton and woollen textiles, petrochemicals, foodstuffs, cement. Pop. (1997) 2,061,473.