Jews and Turkey: A Review

Two weeks ago, I co-chaired an event with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – more commonly referred to as JDC – that took a deep dive into the experiences of the Turkish Jewish community. The event, titled “Inside Jewish Turkey: Where East Meets West,” featured a panel of young Jews who grew up or spent considerable time in Turkey, and was held at Agora Restaurant in Dupont – guaranteeing delicious Turkish food and drink.

The panelists included Sedat, who grew up in Istanbul and reflected on the good relations he experienced with his Muslim peers. He and the two other panelists, Can and Jamie, emphasized to the audience of 150 DC-ers that the biggest challenge to the Jewish community in Turkey is not anti-Jewish or Israel sentiment – rather it is the dwindling size of the community due to young people leaving for Israel or the U.S. and intermarriage.

The panel was moderated by Michelle Gorman and organized by the JDC, the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian organization. JDC works in 70 countries around the world to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, meet the needs of Israel’s must vulnerable citizens, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and manmade disasters.

I was lucky enough to see firsthand JDC’s work when I traveled to Istanbul as part of a young professionals trip last March. JDC has young professionals trips all over the world and is currently accepting applications for Turkey 2012. For more information on this trip and others, visit:









Check out more pictures from the event at JDC’s Next Gen Facebook page:

1 reply
  1. Stephen Richer
    Stephen Richer says:

    I went to this event — very well done. Lots of people, food, etc.

    However, I don’t think you can talk about “anti-Jewish or Israel sentiment” and Jews leaving Israel as two separate things. Though our panelists might not have felt it (this is great!) the Turkish attitude towards Jews and Israelis is NOT a good one. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Jews are leaving Turkey.

    Putting the flotilla aside, and putting Erdogan’s numerous anti-Israel comments aside, and putting aside the fact that Turkey recently kicked out Israel’s ambassador… Look at a few polls on what the average Turk thinks of Israel / Jews :

    “A new survey conducted in Turkey by SETA demonstrated that 74% of Turks don’t like the Armenians, 71% dislike Israel and the Jews.”

    “23 percent of [of Turkish respondents] singled out Israel as the main enemy of the Eurasian nation.”

    “when Justice and Development Party came to power, anti-Semitic mood has intensified in Turkey,” director of the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University Svante Cornell said. (2011)

    As for the United States…

    “In 2009, with the advent of the Obama administration, there has been only a minimal increase of 2 percent in U.S. favorability in Turkey, from 12 to 14 percent.”

    “According to Pew, the United States is viewed as an enemy by 77 percent of Palestinians … 40 percent of Turks.”

    “Forty-two percent of the respondents saw the United States as Turkey’s number one enemy.”

    All told, regardless of whose fault it is, these are hardly the type of numbers that make me — a Jewish American who is passionately pro-America and pro-Israel — want to snuggle up to the Turkish population.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *