Ashkenazi Jews are the Jews of Germany, France, and Eastern Europe and their descendants. Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants.
Until the 1400s, the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa and the Middle East were all controlled by Muslims, who generally allowed Jews to move freely throughout the region. When the Jews were expelled by Christian rulers from Spain in 1492, many of them were absorbed into existing communities in Holland, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, and North Africa and the Middle East.
The word "Ashkenazi" is derived from the Hebrew word for Germany and "Sephardic" from the Hebrew word for Spain.
The beliefs of Sephardic Judaism are basically in accord with those of Orthodox Judaism, though Sephardic interpretations of Jewish Law (halakhah) are somewhat different from Ashkenazi ones. One of these differences relates to the holiday of Pesach (Passover): Sephardic Jews may eat rice, corn, peanuts and beans during this holiday, while Ashkenazi Jews avoid them.
Historically, Sephardic Jews have been more integrated into the local non-Jewish culture than Ashkenazi Jews. In the Christian lands where Ashkenazi Judaism flourished, the tension between Christians and Jews was great, and Jews tended to be isolated from their non-Jewish neighbors. In the Islamic lands where Sephardic Judaism developed, there was less segregation and oppression. Sephardic Jewish thought and culture was strongly influenced by Muslim and Greek philosophy and science.
Sephardic prayer services are somewhat different from Ashkenazi ones, and they use different melodies in their services. Sephardic Jews also have different holiday customs and different traditional foods.
The Yiddish language, which many people think of as the international language of Judaism, is really the language of Ashkenazi Jews. Sephardi Jews had their own international language: Ladino, which was based on Spanish and Hebrew in the same way that Yiddish was based on German and Hebrew.
Compared to music or theatre, there is less of a specifically Jewish tradition in the visual arts. The most likely and accepted reason is that, as has been previously shown with Jewish music and literature, before Emancipation Jewish culture was dominated by religious tradition. As most Rabbinical authorities believed that the Second Commandment prohibited much visual art that would qualify as "graven images", Jewish artists were relatively rare until they lived in assimilated European communities beginning in the late 18th century.
The delay in Jewish participation in the visual arts in Europe parallels the lack of Jewish participation in European classical music until the nineteenth century. This delay was progressively overcome with the rise of Modernism in the 20th century. Jewish artistic activity boomed after World War I. Jews became emancipated, committed themselves in politics and became artists. This marked a Jewish cultural renaissance.
Jews figured in the modern artistic movements of Europe- Art Deco (Tamara de Lempicka), Bauhaus (Mordecai Ardon), Constructivism (Boris Aronson), Cubism (Nathan Altman), Expressionism (Chaim Soutine), Impressionism (Leonid Pasternak), Minimalism (Richard Serra), Orphism (Sonia Delaunay), Realism (Raphael Soyer), Surrealism (Victor Brauner), as well as some not necessarily affiliated with a single movement, such as Maurycy Gottlieb, Nahum Gutman, and Charlotte Salomon.
Günümüzde dünyadaki bilinen toplam nüfusları 13-14 Milyon kişi kadar olan Museviler; tarih boyunca olduğu gibi bugün de, değişik kültürlerde farklı şekillerde adlandırılırlar. Bu farklı adlandırma şekilleri; bir bakıma Musevilerin tarihinden kaynaklanırken, bir bakıma onları adlandıran kültürlerin bu adlandırmayla Musevi tanımında belirginleştirmek istedikleri niteliklere, bir bakıma da, o kültürlerin alt yapısında bulunan kültür öğeleri temelinden kaynaklanan anlatım geleneklerine bağlı bulunmaktadır.
Bu çalışmanın başlangıcında "Museviler/Musevi inançlılar" adı ve tanımının kullanılıyor olması, bu tanımın benimsemiş veya tercih etmiş olmasına değil, çalışmanın Türkçe kaleme alınıyor olması dikkate alınarak; Müslüman/Türk/Osmanlı kültüründe bu ad ve tanımın daha yaygın biliniyor/kullanılıyor olması ve sözü edilen halkın din ve inanç sistemine ilişkin bilgileri derliyor olması nedeniyledir.
* * *
Adlandırmalar / Tanımlamalar:
Sami / Semit:
Museviler, Noah’ın üç oğlundan biri olan "Şem/Sam"ın soyundan geliyor olmaları itibariyle; "Sami/ Semit" olarak tanımlanıp adlandırılırlar. Mezopotamya yaşayanlarının, bu arada örneğin Aramların, Kildanların ve en geniş tanımıyla Arap halklarının da bu soydan geldikleri bilinmekteyse de, "Sami/Semit" adı ve tanımı biraz da Musevilerin bunu benimsemesi nedeniyle özellikle Musevileri adlandırma ve tanımlamada kullanılmakta, örneğin "Antisemitizm" dendiğinde; dünyanın hemen her yerinde "Sami karşıtlığı" değil, herhangi bir tereddüt söz konusu olmaksızın "Musevi karşıtlığı" anlatılmak istenmekte ve öyle anlaşılmaktadır. Çağımızda da "Sami/Semit" tanımı Musevileri tanımlamaya özgü bir ad ve tanım olarak kullanıla gelmektedir.
İbrani / İvri:
Museviler Noah’ınn 10. göbekten torunu, ilk İbrani ata "Avraham Avinu"nun soyundan gelmeleri itibariyle; "İvri/İbrani" olarak tanımlanıp adlandırırlar. Tora'daki anlatıma göre ilk İbrani ata "Avraham Avinu", babası önderliğinde ailesiyle birlikte doğduğu Ur Kasdim kentinden; önce kuzeydeki Harran'a sonra da, babasının ölümü üzerine Tanrısal buyruk gereği güneydeki Kenaan diyarına göç etmiş, bu göçü nedeniyle de "İvri/Geçen/Göçen" sanını almış ve bu san "Avraham Avinu" soyundan gelenleri tanımlamak için kullanılır olmuştur. "İbrani" ad ve tanımı ilk İbrani ata "Avraham/İbrahim"in, "İvri/Geçen/Göçen" anlamına gelen sanından türemiş olduğuna ve onun soyundan gelenlere de bu tanım verildiğine göre; örneğin günümüz Arap uluslarının hemen tümü de onun ilk oğlu "Yişmael"in soyundan türemiş olmaları itibariyle "İbrani" sayılmak durumundadır. Oysa dünyanın hemen her yerinde ve tarihin hemen her diliminde "İbrani-Hebrew-Hebreu-Evreo-İvrin" dendiğinde, anlatılmak istenen de, hiç bir tereddüt söz konusu olmaksızın anlaşılan da yalınızca Musevilerdir.
Museviler İbrani ataların üçüncüsü ve sonuncusu; "Yisrael" lakaplı "Yaakov Avinu"nun torunları olmakla "Bene Yisrael/İsrailoğulları/İsrael" olarak tanımlanıp adlandırılırlar. Bu tanım ve adlandırma, tarihsel gelişim süreci içinde bir ölçüde en belirgini sayılmaktadır. Bu noktadan itibaren; "Bene Yisrael/İsrailoğulları/İsrael" dendiğinde anlatılmak istenen de, tereddütsüz anlaşılabilen de Musevilerdir ve bu tanımla adlandırma içine, günümüzde de Museviler olarak bilinenlerden başkası girmemektedir.
"Bene Yisrael/İsrailoğulları/İsrael" tanım ve adlandırması, günümüzde Museviler olarak bilinenlerin soy/sop/boyları itibariyle tanımlanmasının sonuncusudur. Bir başka anlatımla, Tora metinleri incelendiğinde; günümüz Musevilerin soy/sop/boy itibariyle: "Şem/Sam" soyundan gelmekle "Sami" soy’lu, ilk İbrani ata "Avraham Avinu"nun zürriyetinden gelmekle "İvri/İbrani" sop’lu ve "Yisrael" lakaplı "Yaakov Avinu"nun boyundan gelmekle de "Bene Yisrael/İsrailoğulları/İsrael" boy'lu oldukları açıkça görülmektedir.
Burada asıl üzerinde durulması gereken husus, günümüz Musevilerinin boyları bakımından değilse de soyları ve sopları bakımından ortak atalara sahip oldukları öteki halk ve ulusların bir bölümünün hala varlıklarını sürdürüyor olmalarına karşın, bu soy ve sop adlarının yalnız Musevileri tanımlıyor ve öteki soydaşları dışlar biçimde kullanılıyor olmasıdır ki, bunun nedenlerini eldeki konuya ilişkin bilgilerin kaynağı olan Tora’nın anlatım üslubunda aramak gerekir.
Tora bu konuya ilişkin bilgileri verirken "Eklektik/Seçkinci" bir tutum izlemiş görünmektedir: Tora'nın bu tutumunu örneklendirmek gerekirse; ilk İbrani ata "Avraham"ın karısı "Sara"dan doğma oğlu "Yitshak" Tora tarafından izlenirken, cariyesi "Hagar"dan doğma ve İbrani sayılması gereken, günümüz Arap halklarının atası olarak da bilinen oğlu "Yişmael" bir ölçünün ötesinde izlenmediği gibi, Ketura adlı eşinden doğma ve yine İbrani sayılması gereken çocukları da izlenmez. "Yitshak"ın oğullarından "Yaakov" izlenirken, doğal olarak İbrani sayılması gereken ikiz kardeşi "Esav" belli bir ölçünün ötesinde izlenmez.
Tevrat'ın "soy saçaklanması"na ilişkin ve amacına bakılırsa kendi içinde tutarlı sayılabilecek bu anlatım üslubunun, soy/sop tanımının sadece izlenenlere özgü sayılması/sanılması sonucunu doğurmuş olduğu görülüyor.
Museviler, Tanrı'nın "Moşe Rabenu" aracılığıyla tebliğ ettiği; "İlk Göksel Tek Tanrılı Kitabi Din Disiplini"nin mensupları ve o dönemden beri uygulayıcıları olmaları itibariyle "Musevi/Mosaique" olarak da adlandırılıp tanımlanırlar. Bu ad ve tanım, daha öncekilerin aksine geldikleri soy/sop/boy ölçütlerine göre değil, tuttukları yola ya da yaşam disiplini biçimlerine göre verilmiş bir ad ve tanımdır ki; genelde günümüz Musevilerini inançları itibariyle tanımlamak gerektiğinde ve bu konuda belirginlik amaçlandığı hallerde kullanılır.
"Musevi/Mosaique" adı ve tanımı kullanıldığında anlatılmak istenen de, tereddütsüz anlaşılan da, dinsel aidiyetleri açısından da olsa doğal olarak Musevilerdir ve bu tanımın içine Musevilerden başkası girmez.
Günümüz Musevileri, "Yehuda/Judea" bölgesi oturanları ve en son yıkılan "Yehuda/Judea" devleti yurttaşı olan bir halk ve ulusken ve bu ulusun kurucu öğelerinden biri olan Yehuda Kabilesi mensupları sayılmaktayken dünyanın hemen her bölgesine dağılmış olmaları itibariyle "Yahudi" olarak da adlandırılır ve tanımlanırlar.
Bu adlandırmanın; Babil sürgününden dönen Musevilerin, ülkelerine Asurluların yerleştirdiği ve yaklaşık yetmiş yıl içinde birtakım Musevi dini esaslarını uyguladıkları halde, önemli ölçüde eski pagan geleneklerine bağlı kalan ve kendilerinin gerçek "Museviler" ve "Yisrael" adlı Musevi devletinin ardılları olduklarını iddia eden Sumer kökenli "Şomronim/Semiriler" diye de bilinen toplulukları kendilerinden ayrı tutmak amacıyla benimsemek durumunda kaldıkları bir adlandırma olduğu dikkat çekici tarihi bir olgudur.
Görüldüğü gibi bu ad ve tanım, Musevilerin yaşadığı coğrafi bölgenin, ulusallıklarının ve kurdukları son devletin adına gönderme yapan, dahası Musevi inancını kısmen benimseyenleri dışarıda tutan bir anlayışın ürünüdür ve bu ad ve tanım içine de günümüzde Museviler olarak bilinenlerden başka bir halk girmez. Bütün bu ad ve tanımlardan da anlaşılacağı gibi günümüzde Museviler olarak tanımlanıp adlandırılanların; a)"Sami” soyundan, b)"İbrani” sopundan, c)"İsrail” boyundan, d) "Musevi" inancından ve e)"Yehuda" bölgesi yerleşenleri ve eski "Yehuda" devleti yurttaşlarının torunları olduklarını varsaymak gerekmektedir.
Bu ad ve tanımların her birinin tek başına günümüz Musevilerini adlandırıp tanımlar olarak kullanılmakta olduğu nasıl bir gerçekse, bu tanımlardan her birinin aslında Musevilerin değişik bir yönünü tanımladığı da öyle bir gerçektir. Asıl önemli gerçekse bütün bunlar bilindiği halde; çoğu kez bunların eş anlamlı olarak kullanılması ve bunun sonucu olarak da birbiriyle uzlaşmazmış izlenimini veren tamlamalar meydana gelmiş olmasıdır.
Örneğin Slav kültürlü toplumların hemen hepsinde Musevilerden söz edildiğinde "İbrani" tanımı kullanılırken örneğin "İbrani halkı", "İbrani gelenekleri", "İbrani dini", "İbrani huzurevi" ve "İbrani okulu" gibi tamlamalara rastlamak mümkündür. Grek/Helen kültüründe de durum bundan farklı değildir. Latin kültürlü toplumlarda Musevilerin "İsrail" tanımları öne yansıtılmakta ve buralarda da örneğin "İsrail halkı", "İsrail dini", "İsrail geleneği", "İsrail Hastanesi" ve "İsrail yetimhanesi" türünden tamlamalar bulunmaktadır.
Hıristiyan kültürlü batılı toplumlarda Musevilerden söz edilirken, günümüzde olanak oranında "Yahudi" ad ve tanımından kaçınılmasının nedeni, Hıristiyanlığın batıya yayılma süremi olan Greko-Romen döneminde, "Yahudi" tanımının Yahudiler ve Yahudiliğin aşağılanması amaçlandığında bolca kullanılmış olmasıdır. Esasen Matta İncil’inde de bu hava yoğunca hissedilir. Bu noktadan hareket edildiğinde sözü edilen kültürlerde günümüzde Musevilerden söz edilirken "İbrani" veya "İsrail" ad ve tanımlarının tercih ediliyor olmasını bir nezaket kaygısı sonucu olarak değerlendirmek yanlış olmayacaktır. Sözü edilen kültürlerde "Yahudi" ad ve tanımı hala aşağılayıcı bir tanım olarak değerlendirilmekte, Museviliği ve Musevileri aşağılama amaçlandığında hala bolca kullanılmaktadır. Anglosakson ve Cermen kültürlerinde Musevilerden söz edildiğinde "Yahudi" ad ve tanımı kullanılır.
Genelde İslam kültürü "Yahudi" tanımını kullanmayı tercih ederken, bazı hallerde "İsrail oğulları" anlamında "Ben-i İsrail" tanımına da yer verir ve bu din disiplini içine sızdığını iddia ettiği Musevi inancı kökenli olarak tanımladığı davranışları "İsrailiyat" olarak nitelendirip adlandırır. Cumhuriyet öncesi Müslüman/Osmanlı söyleminde gerek resmi belgelerde gerekse günlük konuşmada çoğunlukla kullanılan tanım "Yahudi" olup, "Musevi" tanımına daha az rastlanır. O dönemlere ilişkin belgelerde; örneğin "Yahudi Taifesi", "Millet-i Museviyye","Millet-i Yahud" "Yahudi Eytamhanesi","Ebna-yı Museviyyeden Salamon Yahudi", "Yahudi mahallesi", "Yahudi çeşmesi" ve aşağılar anlamda "Yahudi Havrası" gibi tamlamalarla karşılaşılması olağandır ve sonuncusu hariç bu tamlamalar aşağılama ifadesi taşımaz.
Osmanlı döneminde Musevileri aşağılamak amacıyla kullanılan tanımsa; yine Yahudi adının Farsça "Cehüd" ve/veya Batı dillerindeki "Jew-Juif"in bozulmuş hali olduğu sanılan "Çıfıt" tanımıdır. "Çıfıt çarşısı" tanımı dağınıklığı/düzensizliği ifade eder. Türkiye’de özellikle Cumhuriyet döneminde Musevilerin resmi adı "Musevi"dir ve nüfus kütüklerinde olduğu gibi, Nüfus Hüviyet Cüzdanlarında da "Musevi" oldukları belirtilir, bu şekilde de resmen dinsel kimlikleriyle adlandırılıp tanımlanmış olurlar. Gerçeklerle ne ölçüde örtüştüğü incelenmesi gereken şu ön kabule göre de kısaca: "İbraniler Sami'dir, İsraioğulları İbranidir, Yahudiler İsrailoğullarıdır, Musevilik Yahudilere verilmiş bir kabile dinidir ve Yahudi olmayan Musevi olamaz.
Öyleyse aralarındaki zorunlu ilintiler gereği bu ad ve tanımlardan hangisi kullanılırsa kullanılsın dile getirilmeyen ötekilerini de içerir. Dolayısıyla bunların birbiri yerine kullanılması da eş anlamlı olarak kullanılması da anlatım pratiğinin doğası gereğidir." Temelinde bir tür toptan kolaycılık ve uygulamayı kuramlaştırma izlenimi veren bu ön kabulün, günlük yaşamda yansımasını bulduğu da bir gerçektir.
;The Maftirim phenomenon, an association of Jewish singers, poets and composers dedicated to the creation and performance of Hebrew sacred poetry according to Ottoman classical music in paraliturgical gatherings, is one of the unique forms of Jewish piety in the Ottoman Empire. Not much has been written about this phenomenon, which as the present recordings testify, still attracts the keen attention of all those who are interested in the musical culture of the Ottoman Jews.
Regretfully much information about the history of the Maftirim phenomenon has been lost in the course of time. On the other hand, pieces of unfounded information regarding this topic are still being reproduced once and again. Without pretending to be a definitive study of this musico-poetical religious phenomenon, in this essay I will attempt to summarize most of the available data on the topic. We hope that further studies, especially those based on the unread documents that are still extant, will shed more light on this phenomenon.
* * *
The adoption of the Turkish makam (plural makamlar) by Jewish Ottoman musicians since at least the mid-16th century is one particular manifestation of the unique circumstances under which Jewish culture flourished in the Ottoman Empire. The refined and complex qualities of the Turkish makam tradition, a product of the Ottoman urban elite which demanded high standards of musicianship both in performance and composition, was favored by the predominantly urban Ottoman Jewish communities, especially after the massive immigration of Sephardi Jews to the Empire following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492-1497. Jews rapidly became proficient in the courtly makam, actively participating in the actual shaping of the musical culture of the non‑Jewish aristocratic society, especially within the Seraglio, together with musicians from the other religious minorities of the Ottoman Empire. By the 17th century, music composition and performance in the makam style had become important professions for Ottoman Jews.
The expertise of Jewish musicians in the Ottoman makam tradition was reflected in the use of makamlar in the performance of the liturgy and most especially in the development of a distinctive Hebrew musical repertoire for performance in the synagogues or in private homes. This repertoire was performed in special religious events, usually in the early morning hours or in the afternoon of the Sabbath. Gatherings of this nature apparently developed among the kabbalistic (mystical) circles of Sephardi Jews in the Upper Galilee towards the mid-16th century. Indeed, the central role of music and sacred poetry in these Jewish religious events bear some common characteristics with the Sufi sema (see Fenton; Shiloah). Although the primordial mystic rationale of these gatherings eroded since their heyday in the 16th-18th centuries, Jewish singers faithfully continued to carry on with this musical tradition well into the contemporary period. Preserving a venerable religious tradition (minhag) and the aesthetic pleasure provided by the music to performers and listeners alike were among the strong reasons for the resilience of this practice.
In spite of the many close musical correlations between this Hebrew religious repertoire and the general Turkish makam repertoire, the Jewish tradition bears specific characteristics, one of which is its exclusive vocal and choral character. The performance of a Hebrew vocal fasıl, an Ottoman suite following the makam rules, forms and genres, became the task of a selected group of singers who were specially trained within choral associations that developed in the synagogues. The most celebrated among these choral organizations, but certainly not the only one, was the Maftirim association of Edirne (formerly Adrianople).
The main source towards a comprehensive historical study of the repertoire of the Maftirim of Edirne and, in general, of all the Ottoman Hebrew music tradition are manuscripts and printed collections of Hebrew sacred songs (piyyutim and pizmonim) containing indications pertaining to their musical performance, such as the names of makams, usuls and musical genres, and/or references to the opening lines or title of compositions in Turkish written in Hebrew characters. These compilations of Hebrew sacred songs classified according to the Turkish makams dating from the late 16th to the early 20th centuries can be called mecmuas as their Turkish counterparts (see Wright).
These manuscripts were generally overlooked by scholars of Ottoman Jewish culture in general and sacred Hebrew poetry in the Ottoman Empire in particular. Historians and students of literature were incapable of evaluating such documents because they ignored their crucial musical background. Moreover, the growing influence of musical creativity was detrimental to the literary quality of sacred Hebrew poetry in the Ottoman Empire after the early 17th century. As a result of their submission to the musical composition, piyyutim very often acquired awkward forms, e.g. stanzas of different number of lines, lines of different number of syllables within the same stanza, different rhymes in one stanza and many stanzas or verses of non-sense syllables (terrenüm). This awkwardness can now be explained by an interdisciplinary approach that considers the musical context of this Hebrew sacred poetry (see, for example, Beeri 1994a).
The literally thousands of Hebrew poems composed to be performed with Ottoman classic music throughout the 16th to the early 20th centuries remained unpublished until the 20th century. Moreover, only a minuscule fraction of these songs remained alive in oral tradition. This living repertoire is reflected in the most important, and practically only, printed Hebrew mecmua that appeared in Istanbul c. 1921 under the title of Shirei Israel be-Eretz ha-Qedem (hereafter SHIBHA). This collection reflects the repertoire performed by the association of Jewish singers active in Istanbul in the 1920s under the leadership of immigrants from Edirne. Printed by the printer from Edirne Binyamin Bekhor Yosef at the initiative of the journalist, scholar and poet Isaac Eliyahu Navon, another native from Edirne, SHIBHA is based on the repertoire of the Maftirim from Edirne. This repertoire was brought to Istanbul after World War I when many Edirneli Jews moved there in the aftermath of the devastation of their city. In addition to the specific repertoire of the Maftirim from Edirne, SHIBHA incorporated additional pieces composed by contemporary musicians from Istanbul and Izmir who were active in the same circle of musicians. Beginnings of the Maftirim/SHIBHA tradition: the contribution of Rabbi Israel Najara.
It is not improbable that the Jewish involvement with Ottoman courtly music started before the arrival of the Sephardi Jews. Early records of Hebrew sacred poems sung to Turkish music are found among Romaniote (Byzantine) Hebrew poets who were influenced by the Spanish style of Hebrew poetry in the early 16th century. In his collection Shirim ve-zemirot u-tushbahot (Constantinople 1545), the poet Shlomo Mazal Tov includes a section of poems (nos. 233‑244) bearing the superscriptions "be‑niggun ishma'eli" or "be-shinui niggun yishma'eli" ("[to be sung] with a Muslim melody). The historian Salomon Rozanes deduced from these superscriptions that Mazal Tov was the first Jewish poet to use the makam. Rozanes' assumption, however, has no solid foundation and therefore Mazal Tov's involvement with the then emergent Ottoman classical music is impossible to determine. (see Beeri 1994) Following the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula and their resettlement in Ottoman lands in impressive numbers, there is an influx of Andalusian Jews who brought with them a Western style of music whose nature is also impossible to establish. Yet, this Western style may have had a certain impact in Istanbul as revealed by the following story included in Seder Eliyahu Zuta by Rabbi Eliyahu b. Elkanah Capsali (1483-1555; see Capsali, vol. 1, pp. 91ff): a Jewish musician from Spain is discovered by the Sultan during one of the monarch's clandestine visits to his new Jewish subjects. After being summoned to the court a day after, this Andalusian Jew first fails to perform but eventually recovers from his initial shock and becomes the chief musician of the court. Even if apocryphal, this story is indicative of some early involvement of Spanish Jews in the music of the Ottoman court.
Lacking any tangible information prior to the late 16th century, we can firmly establish that the genuine initiator of the Ottoman Jewish music tradition is Rabbi Israel Najara (c. 1555-1625). Considered by scholars for the past hundred years or so as the most outstanding poet of the Sephardi Jewry in the Eastern Mediterranean after the expulsion from Spain, Najara’s main novelty consisted of adopting the emergent Ottoman makam system to Hebrew sacred poetry (see Bacher; Benayahu; Gaon; Idelsohn; Rozanes; Seroussi 1990; Yahalom). A close examination of the two compendia of religious poems written by Najara, Zemirot Yisrael (published in three different editions: Safed 1587, Saloniki 1599/1600 and Venice 1600) and She’erit Yisrael (published in a very partial version by M.H. Friedlander as Pizmonim, Vienna 1858; mostly still in manuscript) shows his progressive involvement with Ottoman music. Zemirot Israel is divided in three sections containing respectively piyyutim for the early morning (Olat ha‑tamid), the Sabbath (Olat ha-shabbat) and the New Moon (Olat ha‑hodesh). The piyyutim in the first section are those arranged according to the Turkish makams. Twelve makamlar are employed by Najara in Zemirot Israel: Rast, Dügah, Hüseyni, Buselik, Segah, Segah‑Irak, Nebrus‑Acem, Mahur, Neva, Uzzal, Naks‑Hüseyni, and Nikriz. During Najara’s youth, the Turkish makam tradition, which emanated from the medieval Arabic and Persian musical systems, was in a process of consolidation. Thus, although the makam names appearing in Zemirot Yisrael are found in modern Turkish practice, any projection of present day musical practice to Najara's time is conjectural.
It is still a matter of conjecture too how Najara managed to be so updated on this music while he carried his activities mostly along the Damascus-Safed axis. The possibility that Najara may have traveled to Turkey and even to Saloniki may account for his remarkable expertise in the makam system.
During the first stages of his work, his models were Turkish songs from two sources: the coffee houses, particularly those of the Janissaries with whom the Jews had close ties in Syria and, in some cases, from the Sufi sects, as testified by the mention of songs by Sufi poets such as Pir Sultan Abdal of the Bektaši order in Najara’s mecmua (see Tietze and Yahalom). Later writings by Najara show his awareness of more modern musical forms. In She’erit Yisrael, his last, and mostly unpublished, collection of religious poems, he mentions, in addition to the makamlar, few usuls (cyclic rhythms) and instrumental musical genres (particularly the peşrev) which compose the compound form of Ottoman court music, the fasıl. In the manuscript of Sheherit Israel in the K.K. Hofbibliothek (now National Library) in Vienna (printed by M. Friedlander in 1858 as Pizmonim) we find superscriptions such as "yasadeti 'al peşrev Kabul Hassan" ("I based [this song] on the peşrev [by] Kabul Hassan"). The peşrev is a Turkish instrumental form favored by Jewish composers since Najara (Seroussi 1991). She’erit Yisrael can then be considered as the first truly Hebrew mecmua, and as a model and inspiration for Jewish composers and poets throughout the Ottoman Empire.
In conclusion, Najara achieved the following accomplishmen
- Established a tradition of Ottoman Hebrew music. This tradition is reflected in the compilation of his Hebrew sacred poems following the Turkish pattern, i.e. according to the makamlar.
- Assigned specific religious contexts for the performance of this Ottoman Hebrew vocal music, such as the early Sabbath morning vigils;
- Composed melodies for the piyyutim, for in manuscripts of Sheherit Israel he often writes "lahan hidashti ani" ("melody composed by
- Had disciples who continued to compose Hebrew sacred poetry set to Ottoman art music and even refined the musical aspect of this tradition according to the latest developments in the Ottoman court. This musical refinement was usually at the expense of the level of the poetry that was in a constant decline since the peak achieved by Najara.
Consolidation of the Ottoman Jewish musical tradition after Israel Najara
By the early 17th century, while Najara was still alive, Jewish musicians from Constantinople who were proficient in the popular and courtly musical traditions of the Ottoman Empire had become main figures at the seraglio. Describing the reception of Alomoro Nani, the new Venetian ambassador to Constantinople, in 1614, the traveler Pietro della Valle testifies that “after the meal, all left the palace in order to watch Jewish entertainers for an hour or two playing instruments, singing and dancing, all in the Turkish manner”. This proficiency was also applied to the area of sacred Hebrew songs.
Three important facts should be pointed out in the development of the singing of piyyutim according to Ottoman courtly music after Najara:
- Edirne gradually became the center of Ottoman Hebrew music creativity after the early 17th century; however, the geographical span of this tradition expanded to other Western areas of the Ottoman Empire (such as Bulgaria and Bosnia) and even beyond, to the important Levantine Jewish community in Venice as well as to Egypt.
- Since the second half of the 17th century Jewish poets and composers became closer to Muslim and Christian musicians serving at the seraglio and to the musicians of the Mevlevi tarikat
- Ottoman Jewish musicians were bi-cultural: they served the Jewish community and at the same time they appeared before non-Jewish audiences.
We can trace the development of this musical tradition from the 17th century on by studying dozens of Hebrew mecmuas that survived the passing of time and are scattered today in many libraries in Israel, Europe and the USA. The earliest manuscripts consist of expanded versions of She'erit Yisrael by Najara, emanating from circles of poets and musicians from Damascus who were very close to him. Among them we can mention Najara's own sons, Levi and Moshe (named after his grandfather and father respectively) who were almost unknown until recently (Beeri 1995 and 2000/2001), the renowned kabbalist, poet and physician Shmuel Vital (1598-c. 1678), the younger son of the great kabbalist Rabbi Haim Vital, and Yehuda ben Noaj, a prolific poet about whom we hardly know anything.
Najara's influence and the wide geographical distribution of the type of Hebrew poetry and musical practice that he developed are reflected in other manuscript mecmuas. Two among the most important of these manuscript collections dating from the mid-17th and early 18th centuries originate in the confines of the Ottoman Empire, at the Levantine Jewish community of Venice.
The first manuscript is a hymnal compiled by David ben Abraham de Silva, cantor in Venice circa 1650. The poems in this manuscript are classified as in Najara's Zemirot Yisrael, i.e. according to functional (for the Sabbath, the New Moon, the High Holidays, Purim, Hanukah, etc.) and partially musical (makam) criteria. De Silva employs the following Turkish makamlar: Buselik (pronounced by the Jews as Puselik), Rast, Uzzal, Dügah, Hüseyni, and Neva-Irak. The second manuscript from Venice was compiled by cantor Moshe Hacohen who was originally from Sarajevo. The manuscript dates from 1702 and contains additions by several later hands of the Hacohen family. The overall organization of this codex follows the format set by Zemirot Israel. The first part, entitled by the compiler Ne'im zemirot, is divided into two sections: the first contains piyyutim arranged according to ten Turkish makams and the second includes piyyutim classified according to liturgical or life cycle events. The makams mentioned in this first part are: Rast, Dügah, Hüseyni, Neva, Sikah, Acem, Irak, Segah, Puselik, and Uzzal. The second part of the manuscript, named Na'avah tehillah, contains several indices which show the dominant role of the makam system in the musical performances of the cantors of the Levantine synagogue during the 18th century. One index lists groups of melodies of piyyutim in the same makam to be used to sing prayers in prose at specific liturgical events. From this information one can assume that the cantors unified the performance of entire liturgical events by employing a single makam, a practice that has survived in Sephardi synagogues to this very day.
Another important source for the study of the legacy by Najara is the manuscripts of one of his apparently closest disciples, Avtaliyon ben Mordecai. The precise dating of Avtaliyon’s life span is still very problematic. A detailed and yet totally undocumented account of Avtaliyon's life is presented by Rozanes and is worthwhile to quote here:Avtaliyon ben Mordecai was from a family originating in Constantinople.
He was born in Constantinople in 1570, and moved to the Land of Israel where he was educated at the yeshiva [religious school] of the poet Rabbi Israel Najara. After the death of his rabbi he returned to the European part of Turkey settling in Adrianople. His successors settled in Ruschuk, and they are until the present well-known and celebrated businessmen and bankers in Burcharest, Ruschuk and Paris. According to the testimony of Rabbi Moshe Halevy from Bosnia [Sarajevo], a manuscript found in possession of the community there was written by this poet and at the end of the manuscript it is written: "This is my share in the effort I made in the sacrifice for the Torah and wrote with my hands [this manuscript] to my teacher and light, the crown of the splendor of youth, the learned teacher and rabbi Rabbi Israel Najara, may he live forever… Avtaliyon ben Mordecai."
This poet was famous among the Turks who called him Küçük Hoca Hakham Avtaliyon and is noted by all for his musical compositions [in the form of] peşrev, yürük semai, fasıl Kurdaniani, etc., and his songs were in manuscripts for many years and were published in SHIBA and in the collection Ne'im Zemirot [Salokini 1929]. From the Land of Israel these songs and melodies were spread over to European Turkey (Rumelia) and Asian Turkey (Anadol). When the poet Avtaliyon ben Mordecai came to Adrianople he brought [these songs] with him and introduced them to the [local Jewish] community. And he was constantly in the monastery of the dervishes, the mystical monks, founded by Celaleddin Rumi, called Mevleya. This sect was called Mevlana after him; its members gather each Friday and dance to the sound of musical instruments (Rozanes 1929, introduction; a succinct version of this passage appears in French, without crediting Rozanes, in Nehama, pp. 185-186).
Regretfully the manuscript from Sarajevo that Rozanes mentions is now lost. While according to this source Avtaliyon appears to have been a younger disciple of Najara, the same Rozanes (in his short introduction to SHIBA) places him as living in Edirne around 1760! In the notes to the CD Maftirim, the year 1747 is given for Avtaliyon's birth, again with no documental support. Be as it is, the musical terminology employed by Avtaliyon in his manuscript collection (see below), a tangible piece of evidence, reflects the state of Ottoman art music in the second half of the 17th century. For this reason we propose the following hypothesis: there were two poets named Avtaliyon, a famous grandfather (late 16th to mid-17th century) and a less famous grandson (late 17th- first half of 18th century) who apparently used the name Avtaliyon ben Mordecai Avtaliyon, to differentiate himself from his grandfather, Avtaliyon ben Mordecai.
We have located so far four manuscript copies of Avtaliyon’s impressive mecmua titled Hadashim la-bqarim (“[They are] new every morning”, after Threni 3:23, a reference to the urge that the poet felt to innovate because of the demand of his public). The most complete version of this collection is Ms. Sassoon, no. 1031, the only copy that contains the detailed introduction by the author (see Sassoon, p. 818). We assume this manuscript to be an autograph.
Even a superficial examination of Avtaliyon’s work shows that his involvement with the courtly tradition is far more deep and advanced than Najara's. He uses a much larger number of makamlar (including compound ones), as a rule his compositions bear in their title the correspondent usul and the musical forms employed by him are the standard ones used in the Ottoman court in the late 17th century. While Najara composed only vocal peşrevs and very few semais, Avtaliyon’s collection includes, in addition to many peşrevs and semais, pieces in other genres such as beste, kâr, nakş, yürük semai and the peşrev semai, the latter a form mentioned only in Hebrew sources from the late 17th century on. Avtaliyon's pieces were intended to be performed in cycles based on one makam, as in the courtly fasıl, the Mevlevi ayin and the Maftirim gatherings.Another Ottoman Jewish poet/musician worth mentioning here is Yosef Ganso from Bursa. He is the only poet from this period, besides Najara, who succeeded in publishing a collection of Hebrew poetry from the 17th century set to Ottoman music. Only a single, partial copy of this printed collection titled Pizmonim u-baqqashot (Constantinople ca. 1648) is preserved at the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
On the footsteps of Najara, Avtaliyon and Ganso, a school of Ottoman Jewish musicians was established in Edirne as well as in other cities of the Ottoman Empire. Some of these Jewish musicians attained fame in non-Jewish circles and are mentioned in Turkish sources of the late 17th and 18th centuries (see Feldman, pp. 48-50). Among them are instrumentalists such as miskali Yahudi Yako and tamburi Yahudi Kara Kaş. But most Jewish musicians were both performers and composers, such as Çelebiko (a teacher of Cantemir); Aharon Hamon (known as Yahudi Harun, died in 1721; see Schirmann) a member of a distinguished Jewish family from Istanbul (also active in Edirne at the end of the 17th century) whose widely popular poems were included in several later collections, as well as in the Karaite liturgy; Moshe Faro (known also as Musî or tamburi hakham Muşe, d. 1776), a player of the long-necked tanbûr mentioned by the French Orientalist Charles Fonton, who was in Istanbul between 1746-1753, as a leading musician at the court of Sultan Mahmud I (reigned 1730-1754); Isaac Fresco Romano (Tanbûrî Izak or Ishak, c. 1745-1814), chief musician at the court of Sultan Selim III (reigned 1789-1807), teacher of the sultan and innovator (he designed the makam Gülizar). Hebrew mecmuas show that some of these Jewish masters, including Isaac Fresco Romano, wrote piyyutim too. However, most of the prolific composers appearing in the Hebrew Ottoman mecmuas of the late 17th and 18th centuries are not mentioned in Turkish sources at all. Among these poets/musicians we can mention Isaac Amigo, Abraham Toledo, Abraham Reuven, Aharon bar Itzhak Alidi, Moshe Shani and his son Shlomo Moshe Shani (called in Hebrew sources by the acronym Sheme"sh), Yaakov Amron, Eliyah Walid, Moshe Yehuda Abbas, Shelomo Rav Huna, Eliyahu Falkhon, Moshe ben Shlomo ibn Habib, Mordecai Shimon ben Shlomo and others.
Almost no biographical details related to these musicians/poets/rabbis are extant. According to Rozanes (1929), Amigo lived in Eretz Israel during Israel Najara's lifespan. According to Rabbi Moshe Halevy from Sarajevo, eighty four of Amigo's poems were appended to Najara's collection (he does not specify which, but apparently he refers to the Sarajevo manuscript credited to Avtaliyon) and others appear in SHIBA. Moshe ben Shlomo Ibn Habib (1654-1696) is the author of Get pashut (Ortaköy [Constantinople], 1719/1720). Abraham Toledo, who lived in the late 17th century, was one of the most prolific writers of new poetry in Ladino. His masterpiece, Coplas de Yosef Hasadic (published in Saloniki in 1732, long after his death; see Peretz), is a massive Biblical epos set within a musical framework that shows his expertise in Ottoman classic music (see Seroussi 1996; Peretz). Abraham Reuven is the author of Beit Abraham (Constantinople, 1741/2) and was cantor at the Ahrida synagogue in the Balat district. Aharon Alidi and Shelomo Rav Huna were his colleagues and contemporaries (they wrote an introduction to his work from which we learn that they were still alive around 1740), i.e. cantors active at the first half of the 18th century. Moshe Yehuda Abbas, one of the most prolific Ottoman Hebrew poets, was active towards the mid-17th century in Egypt and Syria (see Wallenstein 1944-1950). Mordecai Shimon ben Shlomo is the author of Mate Shim'on (Saloniki 1797-1819).
In the late 18th and 19th centuries the Maftirim of Edirne produced new generations of poets/composers, many of them members of the major rabbinical families of the city, whose poems appear in SHIBA. Among them we can mention members of the Mordecai and Geron families who shared since 1725 the rabbinical leadership of the city, such as Menakhem ben Shimon Mordecai, author of Divrei Menakhem and Shmuel Geron. Members of the Ben Aroya family also played an important role, most especially Yehuda ben Israel Ben Aroya (late 18th century) and Abraham Ben Aroya (rabbi in Tatar Bazarcik). Other authors from Adrianople in SHIBA are Mehakhem and Isaac Dabah, Haim (d. circa 1885) and Mordecai ben Basat, Shlomo Moshe Mitrani, Refael Yosef (grandfather of the printer of SHIBA, Binyamin Yosef), Bekhor Yosef Danon (d. 1905) av beit din (member of the rabbinical court) of Adrianople, Bekhor Mevorakh, Israel Hasid, Bekhor bin Nun (cantor and composer from the synagogue in Ortaköy), Rabbi Bekhor Papo (a force behind the Maftirim organization in Istanbul) and Rabbi Haim Bejerano (born in Zagora, Bulgaria, 1846 - died in Istanbul 1931), active in Ruschuk (1874-1879) and Bucharest (after 1887), and eventually rabbi of Edirne (after 1910) and Chief Rabbi in Istanbul (from 1920 onward). We may attribute the lack of any mention of these Jewish masters in Turkish sources to the fact that they only composed Hebrew pieces for the internal use of their community.
In the late 19th century Jewish composers in Turkey split into two groups: those who wrote songs in Turkish and instrumental compositions, such as Abraham Levi Hayyat, alias Mısırlı Ûdî Avram İbrahim (1872-1933) and Isaac Varon (b. 1884 in Gallipolis, moved in 1918 to Istanbul were he passed away in 1962), and those who wrote Hebrew pieces, such as Moshe Cordova (1881-1967) in Istanbul and Isaac Algazi (1889-1951) from Izmir. This split reflects a break between secular and religious Jews in the sphere of music.
During the 19th century, and certainly by the early 20th century, the role of the Maftirim as a purely religious association was expanded. Many of the new songs being composed reflected social concerns and current events affecting the members of the community rather than theological or eschatological concerns. We find songs about the appointments of rabbis to important offices, the departure of important figures in the community to the Land of Israel, miracles that occurred to the leaders of the community such as the survival from a road ambush by robbers, and a song (by Yehuda ben Israel ben Aroya) about the truce between the two antagonistic rabbinical families in Adrianople, the Menahem and the Geron families, after a strife that lasted for about one hundred and fifty years (SHIBA, p. 203). Put differently, the piyyut had become a vehicle for recording the chronicle of the community, expanding dramatically its original religious role. It is therefore not surprising that modern scholars, such as Abraham Danon and Isaac Eliyahu Navon, composed Hebrew songs included in SHIBA. These songs stand already on the border between traditional piyyutim and modern, non-religious poetry. We can add to this last trend that the role of music as an object of pure enjoyment certainly was an important factor in maintaining this tradition alive in a period of social and religious upheaval.
A description of the Maftirim
Information regarding the Maftirim is scattered in few sources, most of them very late (1920s). Abraham Danon, a scholar who grew closely associated with the Maftirim, offers us a relatively detailed description in his introduction to SHIBA:
The institution for which these songs [SHIBA] were intended is the choir called Maftirim, who are the singers or assistant cantors. From ancient times this was the custom in Adrianople: each Sabbath morning, before the morning prayer (in recent times they set it to the time of the Sabbath eve), the Levite's disciples gathered at the Portugal synagogue and sang with their throats songs to praise the Lord and afterwards each one walked to his synagogue (which were thirteen in number before the great fire) where the [opening] prayer Barukh she-amar did not start before the ending of the Qaddish by the Maftirim. In the course of time, the cantors joined with the Levites' assistants (mezammerim) and sang together songs to the joy of the listeners gathered around them who were avid for the songs and they opened their mouths as if they wanted to swallow the rain. This is the reason the majority of the [Jewish] inhabitants of Adrianople had some expertise in the art of song, because since their youth they were educated on the laps [of music]. I heard that the refugees who flew from that city due to the War moved to Constantinople where they reestablished the gathering of the Maftirim at the Galata quarter.…..
Why did [Adrianople have] the exclusive privilege [of being a center of music and poetry] unlike any other city? Because for a long time the whirling dervishes (monks) were found there, the disciples of the mystic (Sufi) Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi who dance every Friday to the sound of musical instruments in their sanctuary called by them tekke… And the persecuted [Jewish] refugees who came [to Adrianople] from Spain and Portugal, exhausted and fatigued from their journey, found a tradition ready for them [to adopt] and they too established a choir of musicians in the format of the Muslims in order to forget their sorrowfulness.
Each Sabbath the Maftirim performed a fasıl in one makam. The event started with a prayer in Aramaic Beresh ormanuta and a freely improvised vocal piece on two fixed Biblical verses (Psalms 69, 31 and Judges 5, 3) performed by the choir director in the makam of the week. The event ended with Mizmor shir le-yom hashabbat (Psalm 92) and Qaddish (doxology) in the same makam. This last text, which marks points of articulation in regular liturgical events, emphasizes the para‑liturgical character of these gatherings.
The Maftirim played an important socializing role in the very stratified Jewish community. It granted access to its poor members to musical performances of high quality. Members of the lower classes of the Jewish community could hear this type of elevated music in the synagogue, unlike their poor Muslim counterparts who depended on getting access to the performances of music at the saloons of the aristocracy or the Mevlevi tekke.
Most members of the Maftirim choir moved to Istanbul during World War I due to the devastation of Edirne and its Jewish community. They continued to gather in this city, although their activities declined in the following decades. To what extent the materials included in SHIBA were actually performed is hard to know. It is certain however that these pieces were printed for their historical value and not necessarily because they were performed. Perceived from such a perspective, SHIBA is as much an anthology for singers as it is a modern edition of old poetry from manuscripts, in the spirit of the philological concerns of the modern Science of Judaism.
Some informants knowledgeable of the Maftirim repertory live today in Israel, but they do not perform it on a regular basis. One of the most illustrious members of the Maftirim association in Istanbul during its flourishing in the 1920s was the poet and journalist Isaac Eliyahu Navon, the editor of SHIBA (see Navon's report on Mafitirm in Navon 1930; see also Avenary 1972; Geshuri 1930, all based on information brought to Israel by Navon after his immigration in the late 1920s). Navon taught a few songs from the Maftirim repertoire to the famous Jewish singer Bracha Zefira. One of these songs, Ysmah har tziyon, a yürük semai in makam Segah, became an Israeli folksong (Seroussi 1991a). The SHIBA/Maftirim tradition in other Ottoman cities In the 19th century we also witness the development of two other important Jewish centers of musical activity similar to the Maftirim of Edirne. In Izmir, following the leadership of the composer Rabbi Abraham Ariyas (late 18th century), named by the Turks hoca‑i berzukar ("consummate master"), a strong school of composers and poets developed a distinctive style that reflected the local circumstances, most especially the strong presence of Greek Orthodox Church in that city. Rabbi Israel Moshe Hazzan, in his responsum of 1848 printed in his Kerah shel romi, (Livorno, 1876, fol. 4b; see Seroussi 1997) testifies that cantors from Izmir (he specifically mentions Rabbi Abraham Ariyas) used to listen to holiday services of the churches of the Greek Byzantine rite by standing outside their walls in order to learn new tunes for the High Holidays. Jewish musicians from Izmir composed both instrumental music and Hebrew sacred songs. The most outstanding among them were the members of the Algazi family, Salomon ("bulbuli Salomon," "Salomon the nightingale," died in Izmir, 1930) and Isaac (Izmir, 1889 - Montevideo, 1950), Shem Tov Shikiar (Santo Şikiar or Hoca Santo, Magnesia, 1840- Izmir, 1920), Isaac Barki, a violinist and composer of fasıls and Haim Alazraki (known as Şapçı Haim, d. 1913).
Also the Jewish community of Saloniki had a rich tradition of makam performance and composition. Societies of Jewish poets and composers were active in this city in the 19th and early 20th century. The school of Saloniki was founded by the violinist and cantor Aharon Barzilay (second half of 19th century) who studied in Istanbul. His grandfather, Abraham ben Barzilay, was a famous musician from Izmir. This tradition was maintained by Sa'adi ben Betzalel Halevy Ashkenazi, Aharon Barzilay's disciple, who was a learned scholar, poet and printer of the local collections of piyyutim. Rabbi Abraham Shealtiel (d. 1891) promoted the organization of the society Hallel vezimra, who was the Saloniki counterpart to the Maftirim of Edirne and Istanbul (see Seroussi 1998).
According to Recanati, each Sabbath's prayer in Saloniki used to be performed according to a different Turkish makam. In addition, special programs of paraliturgical gatherings on Sabbath afternoons opened with the text Shime'u malakhim (as the meetings of the Maftirim in Turkey did), and continued with a choral peşrev conducted by the leading singer, a classic beste and kâr, a more joyful semai and nakş, and a closing Qaddish performed as a taksim by the leader singer and called Qaddish cantado (Spanish for "sung Qaddish"), also following the Maftirim model.
The singing societies of Saloniki published the texts of the new compositions produced by their members. A specimen of one such publication is a fasıl in makam Nihavend by the composer Zadiq Nehemia Gershon with texts by Yaacov Cohen and Barukh ben Yaacov, premiered at a meeting of Hallel vezimra in the synagogue Beit Shaul in March 1918. The program for this event included a fasıl in five movements (peşrev, beste, kâr, nakş, and semai), the Greek national hymn, a speech by a rabbinical authority, a conference on a secular topic, and Hatikva, the hymn of the Zionist movement. Thus, sacred poetry and music served as a framework for the public display of religious, ethnic, and national ideals. Also in this respect, the Saloniki society was similar to the Turkish Maftirim.
Relations of the SHIBA/Maftirim tradition to non-Jewish Ottoman music
A recurrent theme in the development of the Jewish school of Ottoman classic music from its inception is, as we have seen, the close relations of Jewish musicians to the Ottoman court and the Mevlevi tarikat. Even musicians whose activities were limited to the synagogue were in one way or another exposed to the non-Jewish soundscape.
We have already mentioned Najara's awareness of Sufi Turkish poetry and Avtaliyon's close contacts with the Mevlevi tekke in Edirne. These connections are further testified by mentions in Hebrew manuscripts of musical compositions by court and Mevlevi composers from the late 17th to the early 18th centuries. The names of specific pieces by Ottoman composers, many of which appear in the manuscript collections by Ali Ufqi and Prince Cantemir, are mentioned in these Hebrew manuscripts as musical references for the singing of piyyutim.
Two Hebrew mecmuas (Ms. 1214 of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and Ms. Heb. 3395 of the Strasbourg Municipal Library) are particularly rich in the number of non-Jewish Ottoman compositions mentioned in them. Just as an example, the pešrev in makam Bestenigar (Besteni gyar in Hebrew sources), usul berefšan by Cantemir (Cantemir 1992, no. 281) is mentioned as the music used by Aharon Hamon for one of his Hebrew compositions. Other Ottoman composers, besides Cantemir and Ali Ufqi, whose compositions are mentioned in Hebrew manuscripts are Mehmed Kasım (d. ca. 1730), Osman Dede (1652-1730), Baba Zeytun, Aga Mumin, miskali Şolakzade (d. 1658), the Greek tamburi Angelos; Selim-zade Aga, Aga Reza and Husni Hoca. Pieces of this type appear in SHIBA, such as the peşrev Feriade Yusuf (p. 104) by Aharon Alidi and the peşrev Sultan zade set to a text by Najara (p. 96). Sometimes the name of the non-Jewish Ottoman composer is not mentioned, as in the case of the famous peşrev in makam Segah by Yusuf Paşa set to the piyyut by Najara "Yeheme levavi" (a recording of this piece by the late Samuel Benaroya can be heard in the CD Ottoman Hebrew Sacred Songs)
The close relation of Jewish Ottoman musicians to the Mevlevi tarikat continued well into the 20th century. Testimonies of these ties were reported by cantors such as Moshe Vital, originally from Magnesia and later active in Izmir, Rhodes and Jerusalem. He used to attend in his youth (ca. 1920), as did other Jewish cantors in Turkey, the Mevlevi gatherings on Friday afternoons to learn melodies for the synagogue (see Vital).
Rabbinical attitudes to the SHIBA/Maftirim musical tradition
he growing presence of learned music based on the makam tradition in the religious services of the Ottoman Jews was not accepted without any opposition. Some rabbinical sources offer us a glimpse of such negative attitudes to makam-based music.
Rabbi Eliyahu Hacohen, in his influential morality compendium Sefer shevet musar (Constantinopla 1712, fol. 77v), warns against the "hazzanim (cantors) who engage in sinful behavior by wasting their time with melodies, adapting their voices to those of the lower class masses, saying tir tir tir many times and i-o for an hour and bini bini bino, each one submerged in his dreams". Notice the association that Rabbi Eliyahu Hacohen makes with music and the lower classes, as if this art was a distraction for the ignorant masses that cannot understand the liturgical texts.
In his Zobeah torah (Costandina [Constantinople] 1732/3, fol. 7v), Rabbi Mordekhai Atzban explicitly complains against synagogue cantors who are fully engaged in the makamlar and pay less attention to religious piety: "a calamity expanded among those who are accustomed to wake up early in the morning to expand the number of supplications and the poems of atonement during the month of Elul… and with their drowsy eyelids they sing poems with different melodies and prepare for each day what they are going to sing the next day… long makams. The cantors will not achieve fame if they think that this is their responsibility, even if they see that their fame grows in the eyes of those passionate for songs and melodies… and they have no shame in inventing a new melody for each morning".
Rabbi Haim ben Yaacov Palache from Izmir, one of the most respected rabbinical authorities in 19th century Turkey, also shows a hostile attitude to makam oriented music, especially in the liturgy. In his Kaf ha-hayyim (Saloniki 1859/1860, chapter 13, 6) he says: "Who will allow and warn poets and singers [payytanim ve-meshorerim] that they should not sing the qaddish and the qeddushah [among the most important liturgical texts] in the manner of the gentiles with makam [because] it is known that [singing in makam] leads [the singer] to evil contemplations".
Musical transcriptions of the Maftirim/SHIBHA repertoire
Few musical notations of makam Hebrew compositions from the Maftirim/SHIBA repertoire in the old Turkish system of Western notation were published until now by scholars and by Jewish Turkish musicians. The earliest publications date from around 1925, when the renowned singer Isaac Algazi from Izmir printed in Istanbul two Hebrew fasıls: 1) Makam Hüsseyni deriving from the SHIBA repertoire and including pieces by Avtaliyon; 2) Fasil de Bestinigar, consisting of Algazi's own compositions (a rare autographed copy of this fasıl that belonged to Moshe Cordova is in possession of Rabbi Refael Elnadav in Brooklyn. I thank Rabbi Elnadav for preparing for me a copy of this precious document).
Other scattered, poor musical transcriptions of sacred Hebrew Ottoman songs were printed as illustrations to books and articles. Theodor Fuchs published in Zagreb in 1936/7 three songs in the makam style, two by Israel Najara (Shaday el mah norah and Matai tishlah yah el) and one by Rabbi "Avdalim" (most probably Avtaliyon), the last one without text underlay. Two other songs by Najara, also transcribed without text underlay by Yossef Fleischman of Vienna from the singer Rabbi Eleazar ben Nessim of Ruschuk (Bulgaria), are appended to one of Rozanes' volumes (Rozanes 1938).
However, the vast majority of sacred Hebrew Ottoman songs in musical notation still remain in rare manuscripts. Four main collections of music manuscripts are now extant, the fruit of our research for the past twenty years: The Algazi collection, the Cordova/Elnadav collection, the Uzziel collection and the Behar collection.The personal library of Isaac Algazi, found in Montevideo (Uruguay), where Algazi spent the last fifteen years of his life, included several priceless music manuscripts. They contain unpublished compositions by the most distinguished Jewish composers from Izmir, Abraham Ariyas, Santo Şikiar, and his father Salomon Algazi. The collection also includes compositions by his colleague in Istanbul, Moshe Cordova and by other anonymous composers. These compositions were apparently prepared for publication in Istanbul after Algazi's arrival to the city. This project never materialized.
The Cordova/Elnadav collection was discovered very recently in the possession of Cordova's nephew in Israel, Mr. Nissan Galili. It was supplemented by precious materials in possession of Rabbi Refael Elnadav of Brooklyn, New York, Moshe Cordova's most outstanding disciple in Israel. Our research has shown that the Algazi and Cordova collections complement each other. Many pieces are written by the same music handwriting. We assume that upon leaving Istanbul almost in the same year (1932/3), Algazi and Cordova split the musical scores in possession of the Maftirim society and took them to their new places of settlement, Montevideo and Tel Aviv respectively. Another substantial section of this collection includes Elnadav's own transcriptions of the legacy of Moshe Cordova.
The Uzziel collection was in the hands of the family of the great cantor from Saloniki Simon Uzziel from Tel Aviv. It consists of several items related to the repertoire of the Hallel vezimra society in Saloniki transcribed by Uzziel and dating from the 1930s and 1940s. It also includes copies of few pieces from the Maftirim repertoire transcribed by Refael Elnadav, a close associate of Uzziel in Tel Aviv.
The David Behar collection is of a later period and preserves the repertoire of the Maftirim in Istanbul that was still alive in the memory of the very few singers who remained in Istanbul, such as Hazzan Izak Machorro and Hazzan David Sevi. Kanuni David Behar is a conservatory trained expert in Turkish classical music and therefore his comprehensive musical transcriptions are of primary importance for the performance of this repertoire today.
The living legacy of the SHIBA/Maftirim tradition
During a short period in the 1920s, the three hundred year old Maftirim tradition of Edirne flourished for the last time. A rare confluence of the best singers from most of the major cities of the former Ottoman Empire created the soil for this short lived renaissance. At first the Jewish immigrants from Edirne met in a private house in Sirkeci. In 1926/7 they started to meet at the Kneset Yisrael synagogue in Şişhane under the leadership of Rabbi Behor Papo. Towering figures, who immigrated to Istanbul from other cities, such as the composer Moshe Cordova, the singer/composer Isaac Algazi, and cantor Nessim Sevilla, joined this group.
The motivation of Sephardi intellectuals, such as Isaac Eliyahu Navon, who perceived the tremendous historical value of this musical tradition, provided further impetus for this renaissance. SHIBA is but one of the expressions of this renewed interest. But one cannot explain the phenomenon of the Maftirim/SHIBA as a simple continuation of older religious practices. The impact of current events such as WWI, the final disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the influx of contemporary Jewish movements such as Zionism and the emancipation from religion are reflected in the literary output of the Maftirim in Istanbul of the 1920s. We find, for example, a march about the suffering of the war composed by Moshe Cordova to words by Isaac Eliyahu Navon (p. 87). Other modern, non-religious poems by Isaac Eliyahu Navon are included, such as a song praising the Baron Hirsch and his wife Clara cherishing their philanthropic support for the Bikur Holim hospital in Istanbul (p. 66). The Zionist anthem Hatiqva (p. 89) is included in SHIBA as well, as an expression of the political orientation of the Maftirim leaders.
However, the social and economical difficulties and political pressures created by the post-WWI transition from the old Ottoman Empire to the new Republic forced most of the Jews from the former Ottoman lands to immigrate to Western Europe, the Americas or Israel. Cordova, Algazi, the young Samuel Benaroya (see below) and many others left during the short period of 1932-1935.
A small group of dedicated Jewish singers remained in Istanbul and continued to gather in the 1940s at the Ahrida synagogue in Balat under the leadership of Nessim Cohen.
SHIBA was intended for the professional performers who took part in the gatherings of the Maftirim in Istanbul during its short heyday. It is arranged in chapters, each one based on a single makam. Forty makams are mentioned in this collection: Rast, Rehavi, Yegyah, Dugyah, Segyah, Chergyah, Penchgyah, Hüseyni, Acem, Acem Aşiran, Muhayyer, Nihavend, Isfahan, Neva, Saba, Hicaz, Şehnaz, Hüzzam, Ferahnak, Nigris, Bayati, Evic, Uşşak, Tahir, Araban, Sazgyar, Suzinak, Mustar, Buselik, Buselik Aşiran, Bistiniar, Nühüft, Arisbar, Neşabur, Uzzal, Hisar. Three fasıls composed and compiled by Isaac Algazi from Izmir in makamlar Suzidil, Bestenigar and Şevk‑Efza are appended to the main collection of SHIBA (pp. 241-247). This impressive diversification of the makam repertoire, which includes rare, compound makams, is a sign of the development of the musical art among the Ottoman Jews since Najara's days. Following a long standing tradition, certain makams are associated with Jewish holidays, such as Saba for Purim and Uşşak for Hanukah. The usul of most songs is also written down. Within each chapter the poems are ordered by musical genres as in the Turkish fasıl. The genres mentioned are: peşrev, kâr, beste, ağır semai, yürük semai, and şarkı. For each Sabbath the performers selected a piece from each genre in order to compose a suite in one makam.
This precious collection reflects three hundred years of musical creativity among the Turkish Jews, specifically among those involved with the "Portugal" synagogue choir of Edirne ‑‑ the Maftirim. Its poetry focuses on messianic redemption and the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, topics which were also treated intensively by Najara and his followers. In more modern periods the poetry of the Maftirim started to reflect the concerns of the contemporary Jewish society.
In the late 1970s, when I began to be interested in the SHIBA repertoire, hardly any document was available. Few Turkish Jewish singers in Israel who had participated in the Maftirim performances in Istanbul as youngsters had recollections of this repertoire. The interest of scholars on this repertoire was almost nil. Therefore this musical tradition was considered, for all practical purposes, extinct.
Several events, however, dramatically reversed this situation. In 1987 the Algazi collection was brought to Israel and in 1989 I heard for the first time the voice of the Reverend Samuel Benaroya of blessed memory. Benaroya was hazzan at the Bikur Holim Sephardi community in Seattle, where he settled in the early 1950s after leaving Turkey in 1935 and spending the WWII period in Switzerland. Benaroya was the last member of the famous lineage of poets and singers. He was educated in Edirne and moved to Istanbul as a child. There as a teenager in the 1920s he attended the Maftirim gatherings and was an apprentice, sitting next to the great masters of the period, Nissim Sevilla, Moshe Cordova and Isaac Algazi. For this reason, Benaroya's legacy was of extreme value in the preservation of the SHIBA/Maftirim repertoire. During the last decade of Benaroya's life, numerous pieces sung by him were recorded, even though his voice was failing.
In 1995 I learned about the musical transcriptions by Kanuni David Behar and received a copy of this precious collection. The exact musical transcriptions of David Behar, who is approximately fifteen years younger than Benaroya, are corroborated by the performances of the same pieces by Benaroya.
The precious recordings included in these CDs are a living testimony for one of the most venerable Jewish musical traditions and owe much to the efforts of David Behar and his associates. They bear witness to the unique cultural crossroads that the Ottoman Empire created.
Yahudilerin toplumsal tarihine kısa bir bakış, bu halkın hemen her olguyu törenselleştirip şiirlerle, şarkılarla, hatta kimi hallerde rakslarla da ifade etme geleneğine sahip olduğunu saptamaya yetecektir. Bunun ilk örneklerini Yahudi inanç sisteminin temel ilahi metni "Tora"da ve "Tanah" bütününde de görmek mümkündür.
Yahudilerin İspanya kökenlileri olarak tanımlanan "Sefarad"larda ise bu olgu; İberik yarımadasının o mistik ve şiirsel atmosferinin esiniyle de olsa gerek önemli ölçüde belirgin bir hal almış görünmektedir.
İberya kültüründeki romanslarla madrigaller; daha sonra buradan dünyanın hemen her tarafına dağılacak ve değişik toplumlarla bir ölçüde de olsa kaynaşacak olan Sefaradların popüler kültüründe başkalaşarak Kantes/Kantikas haline dönüşecek ve nesiller boyunca evrilerek günümüze dek ulaşacaktır.
Bunlar arasında belki de en fazla çeşitlilik gösteren ve ilgi çekenleri "Kantikas de Novya/Gelin Şarkıları" ve/veya "Kantes de Boda/Düğün Şarkıları" olarak tanımlayıp bir başlık altında toplayabileceğimiz şarkılardır.
Güzel kızın yakışıklı delikanlıyla göz göze gelmeleriyle başlayan serüven, önceleri hafifçe nazlı ve utangaç tebessümleşmelerle sürecek, delikanlının ısrarlı mandolin serenatlarının etkisiyle kısa zamanda her iki tarafta da ateş bacayı sarınca bir biçimde aileleri işe karışacak, "Kortes" olarak bilinen ailelerin bir araya gelip evlatlarının izdivacına onay vermeleri ve bunun için tarafların yapacakları katkıların kimi hallerde sancılı bir biçimde tartışılıp kararlaştırılmasından sonra genellikle "Besimanto-v" dilekleri ve uzak-yakın dostlara "Alkonfites/Badem Şekeri" dağıtılmasıyla durum bir anlamda resmiyet kazanacaktır.
Bu aşamadan sonra artık neredeyse kızın doğduğu günden beri özenle hazırlanmakta olan çeyizin bitirilmesine hız verilecek, ele güne mahcup olmama adına önemli harcamalara girişilecek ve fazla uzatmamak kaydıyla belli bir nişanlılık döneminden sonra "Şeva Berahot/Evlilik Töreni" gerçekleştirilip süreç tamamlanacaktır.
Genel hatlarıyla anlatılmaya çalışılan bu süreç aslında kendi içinde birtakım aşamalardan oluşmaktadır.
Sefarad Yahudilerinin toplumsal yapısında her bir aşama adeta törenselleştirilerek şiirleştirilmekte ve aşağıda tanımlamaya çalışacağımız temalarda şarkılara konu olmaktadır:
Önce şunu iyi bilmek gerekir ki; güzel kızımızı evliliğe razı etmek pek o kadar kolay olmayacaktır. Yakışıklı delikanlımız hem onun -biraz da gelenek gereği- nazlanmalarına tahammül edecek kadar azimli olmalı hem de bu nazını aşabilme adına ona geleceğe ilişkin cömertçe vaatlerde bulunmayı becerebilmelidir.
Ailelerin onaylamasından sonraki aşama; damat adayının kızımıza "Aniyo de Kiduşin/Nişan Yüzüğü" ile elbiselik ipek kumaş göndermesi, buna karşılık gelin adayımızın yavuklusuna kendi elcikleriyle yaptığı börek-çörek gibi "Koza d’orno"lar yanında hele biraz da romantikse adının baş harflerini işlediği ipek mendil göndermesidir.
Nişanlılık süresinin uzaması kimi hallerde içine gül yaprağı da konmuş mektupların karşılıklı gidip gelmesine de neden olabilir.
Düğün tarihi iyice yaklaştığında delikanlımız nişanlısına içinde peştamalı, baş ve ayak havlusu, hamam tası, gümüş tel kakmalı hamam nalınlarıyla birkaç çeşit kokulu sabunu, gülsuyu ve lavanta kesesi bulunan "Boğo de Banyo/Hamam Bohçası"nı gönderecek, buna karşılık kızımız da yavuklusuna içinde usturası, fırçası, tıraş sabunu, kantaşı ve limon kolonyası da bulunan komple tıraş takımı, bağa tarağı, briyantini, ipek gömleği, keten mendili ve bir çift çorabı olan "Boğo de Novyo/Damatlık Bohça"yı ulaştıracaktır.
Düğün tarihi iyice yaklaşmış, sırada akrabalar, yakınlar ve özelikle kaynanayla görümcelere "Aparar Aşuğar/Çeyiz Sergilenmesi" vardır. "A komer un dulse/Bir tatlı yemek" davetiyle eve gelen kadınlar sergilenen her bir parçayla gelinin elişi, örgü, dikiş, nakış, dantel, tığ gibi becerilerini övüp onu göklere çıkaracaklardır ama kaynanayla görümceler belli belirsiz burun kıvırıp dudak bükecekler, her ne sergilense hepsini yetersizce bulacaklar, evde serince bir havaya neden olacaklardır.
Zaten nedendir bilinmez, şu dünürler de ilk günden beri birbirlerini hor görmekten kendilerini alamamışlardır ama pek renk vermezler. Bu durum düğün yaklaştıkça daha da belirgin bir hal almaktadır.
Düğün öncesi haftanın Cuma günü "Banyo de Novya/Gelin Hamamı" günüdür. O gün yakın akrabalar, gelinin kankası, kaynana ve görümceler gelinin annesi tarafından hamam sefasına davet edilirler. Hamamda yenilir içilir, şarkı türkü eşliğinde göbek taşında gerdan kıvrılıp göbek atılırken, bir ara sanki istemeyerek olmuş gibi gelinin peştamalı sıyrılıp yere düşüverir. Bundan gaye kaynanayla görümcelere gelinlerinin hiçbir bedensel kusuru olmadığını göstermektir.
Düğünden önceki perşembe "Ordenar Kama de Novya/Zifaf yatağının düzenlenmesi" günüdür. Kız tarafından evliliğinde mutlu olan bir kadın zifaf yatağını hazırlayacak, örtünün üstüne badem şekerleri ve gül yaprakları serpiştirecek, bu arada iyi temenniler dile getirilirken, gelinin yüzünün hafifçe kızarmasına sebep olan kimi hafiften erotik takılmalar da hiç ihmal edilmeyecektir.
Düğünden evvelki gece "Nochada de Alhena/Kına gecesi"dir. Yine kız tarafından yakın akrabalarla çok yakın arkadaşların katıldığı şarkılı-türkülü, yemeli-içmeli bu gecede Şark usulü gelinin ellerin kına yakıldığına ilişkin veriler yoksa da kına gecesi geleneğinin şark kültüründen edinildiği kuşkusuzdur.
Bu gecede gelinin annesi bir ölçüde kendi deneyimlerinden de yararlanarak kızına koca evinde nasıl davranması, kayınpeder ve kayınvalidesiyle özelikle de görümceleriyle iyi geçinmek adına nelere dikkat etmesi gerektiğini anlatır, nasihatlerde bulunur.
Düğün şarkılarının en son konusu, damadın zifaf öncesi yüz görümlülüğü olarak gelinin boynuna taktığı gerdanlık veya verdiği incili altın küpelerdir.
Yahudilerin İberik yarımadasında ilk kez varlık göstermeleri kimi uzmanlar tarafından İÖ 6. yy'a tarihlenmektedir. Yeruşalayim'deki Süleyman Mabedinin yıkılışını izleyen yılları başlangıç alan bu "Yahudilerin büyük denizin güneşin battığı tarafındaki topraklarına göçü"; yaklaşık yedi asırdan beri göksel tek tanrılı inanç sistemine sahip bulunan Semitik kültürlü bu halkın vardıkları yerde batı paganizminin temsilcileri durumundaki Vizigotlar ve Vandallarla ilk kez karşılaşmasıdır.
Yahudilerin İberik yarımadasına kitlesel göçü ise II. Mabedin yıkılmasıyla hız kazanan ve Bar Kohba isyanı ertesinde doruğa ulaşan, yani I. yy.'ın ikinci yarısıyla II.yy.'ın ilk yarısı arasında gerçekleşen bir olgudur. Ama nedir ki, bu kez Yahudiler kendi ülkelerinde çoktan Greko-Romen kültürle karşılaşmış, Latin ve Yunan istilacılarıyla son birkaç asırdır birlikte yaşamış, hatta aralarında bu kültürün kimi öğelerini kısmen veya tamamen benimseyenleri bile olmuştur.
Roma egemenliğindeki İberya halkının Hıristiyan kültürünü benimsemeye başlaması yaklaşık aynı dönemlere rastlayan bir gelişme olup, son dönem Yahudi göçüyle birlikte buraya ulaşan Mesihi/Nasrani inançlı Yahudilerin de bu gelişmede önemli bir payının bulunduğu kuşkusuzdur.
II.yy'ın ortalarından itibaren keskinleşen ve sonraları Hıristiyanlık adını alacak olan Mesihilik-Nasranilik'in Yahudilikten ayrışma çabaları sonucunda oluşan husumet akımları buradaki Yahudilerin rahatını kaçıracaktır ama, terk ettikleri vatanlarının göreceli de olsa daha güvenli olmadığını gören Yahudilerin bu topraklarda tutunmaya çalışmalarından başka çıkar yoları yoktur.
İberik yarımadasına yerleşen Yahudilerin İslam kültürüyle karşılaşması ise VIII. yy.'ın hemen başlarında Tarık Bin Ziyad komutasındaki Emevi ordularının yarımadayı fethi ve güney coğrafyasından başlayarak neredeyse tamamına yakınını işgali sayesinde mümkün olabilmiştir.
Söz konusu fetihten hemen iki yıl sonra İberik yarımadasının kuzeybatısındaki Asturias bölgesinde baş gösterip giderek yoğunluk ve yaygınlık kazanan "Rekonquista" hareketiyle ada halkının topraklarını Müslümanlardan geri alma savaşımları işgalcileri önemli ölçüde tedirgin ve rahatsız etmişse de, Müslümanlar bu coğrafyada giderek güney bölgelere çekilmek zorunda kalarak da olsa sekiz asra yaklaşan bir süre kalmışlar ve süre içinde Hıristiyan yarımada halkıyla olanın aksine Muvahhitlerin egemen oldukları dönemler hariç tutulursa burada bulunan Yahudilere karşı müsamahalı sayılabilecek tavırlar sürdürmüşlerdir.
Kuşkusuz bu müsamahalı sayılabilecek tutumun temel harcı Hıristiyan yarımada halkının işgalci Müslümanlara karşı da, tanrısal nitelikler atfettikleri Mesihlerini çarmıha gerdiklerini iddia ettikleri Yahudilere karşı da aynı derecede güçlü husumet hisleri besliyor olmaları, buna karşılık bu kara parçasına sonradan gelen bu iki toplumun özellikle de yukarıdaki nedenlerden ötürü bir tür dayanışma içine girme durumunda kalmalarıydı.
Yahudilerin sözü edilen coğrafyada Müslümanların egemenliği altında bulundukları yaklaşık sekiz asrın çok büyük bir bölümünde sosyal ve kültürel bakımdan "Altın Çağ" yaşadıklarına ilişkin pek yaygın iddialar önemli ölçüde gerçeklik payı taşıyorsa da, belli bir göreceliliğe dayandırıldıkları anlaşılan bu iddialarda önemli ölçüde abartı payı bulunduğu da kuşkusuzdur.
İberik yarımadasına Yunanlılar tarafından "Baetica" ve "Hispania" adının verilmiş olduğu, İspanya adının da İbranca'da "Sefarad" sözcüğüyle karşılandığı bilinmektedir. Nedir ki, İberik yarımadasından dünyanın hemen her bölgesine dağılmış bulunan Yahudilere bugün bilinen şekliyle "Sefarad" sanının verilmesi ve onların bu sanla tanımlanmaları bu coğrafyada yaşadıkları dönemlerden ziyade, "Reconquista" sürecinin İspanyollar bakımından tamamlanmış olması nedeniyle bölgeden çıkmaya zorlanıp Avrupa ve Akdeniz havzasının hemen her bölgesine göç ettikleri 1492'den sonra oluşmuş bir durumdur.
1492'de İberik yarımadasını terk etmeye zorlanarak dünyanın hemen her tarafına dağılan "Sefarad"lar nasıl bir toplumdu?
Sefaradlar her şeyden önce Yahudiydi, 28 asra yakın bir süreden beri Musevi din disiplinine bir tür saplantıyla bağlıydı, yaklaşık 14 asır boyunca halkı Hıristiyanlığa giderek artan bir tutkuyla bağlanan İspanya'da Hıristiyanlarla başlangıçlarda iyi ilişkiler içinde de olsa sonralarında yıpratıcı çelişkilerle dolu bir tür bir arada yaşama serüvenini paylaşmışlardı, yine yaklaşık 8 asır boyunca İslamiyet'in batıdaki bayraktarlığı iddiasını taşıyan Emevi, Murabıt ve Muvahhid egemenliği altında Müslümanlarla birlikte yaşamışlardı ve bütün bunlar peş peşe değil iç içe zaman dilimlerinde gerçekleşmişti.
Yahudilerin bir hesaba göre 21, bir başka hesaba göre ise 15 asır yaşadıkları ülkelerini terk etmeye zorlandıklarında beraberlerinde götürebildikleri tek ve en önemli şeyleri "gayri maddi kültürel varlıkları"ydı. Bir başka anlatımla Sefaradlar ülkeleri İspanyayı terke mecbur edildiklerinde bir anlamda "yaşamlarını kurtarmak"la kalmamışlar "yaşanmışlıklarını" da taşımışlardı.
İberik yarımadasındaki Asturias, Kastilya, Leon, Katalunya, Aragon, Sevilya ve Navar gibi az çok sosyokültürel farklılıklar da taşıyan bölgelerden sürgün edilen Yahudiler bu kez kuzey Afrika'nın Mısır, Cezayir, Fas gibi ülkelerine, orta Avrupa'nın hemen her ülkesine, Mora yarımadası ve Ege adalarına, Osmanlı/Türk coğrafyasının egemenliği altındaki Selanik, Balkanlar ve Trakya'ya, Edirne, İstanbul ve Marmara denizini çevreleyen bölgelere, Küçük Asya'nın hemen her yöresine yerleşecekler buralardaki halklarla sosyal ve kültürel etkileşim içine gireceklerdir.
Başkaca zenginleştirici etmenlerin varlığı bir an için göz ardı edilebilse bile, yukarıda kısaca tanımlamaya çalıştığımız yaşanmışlıkların Sefaradlara bahşettiği kültürel zenginliğin boyutlarının hesaplanabilmesi için fazlaca bir maharet sahibi olunmasını gerekli kılmayacağı açıktır.
Bugün Sefaradlardan söz edildiğinde anlaşılması gereken böylesi bir var olma deneyiminin genetik ve kültürel mirasçılarından da söz edilmekte olunduğudur.
Hiç kuşkusuz umulan ve temenni edilen; günümüz Sefaradlarının da böylesi bir mirasın varisleri olduklarının farkındalığını taşımaları, bu mirasın paha biçilemez değerinin bilincinde olmaları ve bu mirasa sahip çıkma iradesini göstermeleridir.
The Ukrainian Jew Abraham Goldfaden founded the first professional Yiddish-language theatre troupe in Iaşi, Romania in 1876. The next year, his troupe achieved enormous success in Bucharest. Within a decade, Goldfaden and others brought Yiddish theatre to Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Germany, New York City, and other cities with significant Ashkenazic populations. Between 1890 and 1940, over a dozen Yiddish theatre groups existed in New York City alone, performing original plays, musicals, and Yiddish translations of theatrical works and opera. Perhaps the most famous of Yiddish-language plays is The Dybbuk (1919) by S. Ansky.
Yiddish theatre in New York in the early 20th century rivalled English-language theatre in quantity and often surpassed it in quality. The extensive New York Yiddish-language press of the time included seven daily newspapers.
In fact, however, the next generation of American Jews spoke mainly English to the exclusion of Yiddish; they brought the artistic energy of Yiddish theatre into the American theatrical mainstream, but usually in a less specifically Jewish form.
In Europe, Jews were very active and sometimes even dominant in certain forms of theatre, and after the Holocaust many Jews continued that cultural form. For example, in pre-Nazi Germany, where Nietzsche asked "What good actor of today is not Jewish?", acting, directing and writing positions were often filled by Jews; it has reported that in Berlin 80% of theatrical directors were Jewish and 75% of plays produced were by Jewish playwrights.
The British historian Paul Johnson, commenting on Jewish contributions to European culture at the fin de siècle, writes, "The area where Jewish influence was strongest was the theatre, especially in Berlin. Playwrights like Carl Sternheim, Arthur Schnitzler, Ernst Toller, Erwin Piscator, Walter Hasenclever, Ferenc Molnar and Carl Zuckmayer, and influential producers like Max Reinhardt, appeared at times to dominate the stage, which tended to be modishly left-wing, pro-republican, experimental and sexually daring. But it was certainly not revolutionary, and it was cosmopolitan rather than Jewish.
Jews also made similar contributions to theatre and drama in Austria, Britain, France, and Russia (in the national languages of those countries). The involvement of Jews in Central European theatre was halted during the rise of the Nazis and the purging of Jews from cultural posts, though many emigrated to Western Europe or the United States and continued working there.Films
In the era when Yiddish theatre was still a major force in the world of theatre, over 100 films were made in Yiddish. Many are now lost. Prominent films included Shulamith (1931), the first Yiddish musical on film His Wife's Lover (1931), A Daughter of Her People (1932), the anti-Nazi film The Wandering Jew (1933), The Yiddish King Lear (1934), Shir Hashirim (1935), the biggest Yiddish film hit of all time Yidl Mitn Fidl (1936), Where Is My Child? (1937), Green Fields (1937), Dybuk (1937), The Singing Blacksmith (1938), Tevye (1939), Mirele Efros (1939), Lang ist der Weg (1948), and God, Man and Devil (1950).
The roster of Jewish entrepreneurs in the English-language American film industry is legendary: Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, the Warner Brothers, David O. Selznick, Marcus Loew, and Adolph Zukor, to name just a few, and continuing into recent times with such industry giants as Michael Ovitz, Michael Eisner, Lew Wasserman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, and David Geffen. However, few of these brought a specifically Jewish sensibility either to the art of film or, with the sometime exception of Spielberg, to their choice of subject matter. A much more specifically Jewish sensibility can be seen in the films of the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, or Woody Allen; other examples of specifically Jewish films from the Hollywood film industry are the Barbra Streisand vehicle Yentl (1983), or John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968).
Jewish film composers have also written scores to a large amount of the great films of the 20th century. Among the most prolific have been Elmer Bernstein, Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Alan Menken, Alfred Newman, Lalo Schifrin, the Sherman Brothers, Howard Shore, Max Steiner, and Dimitri Tiomkin.
The oldest and most treasured books of the Jewish people have been the Torah and Tanakh (i.e. the Hebrew Bible) written almost entirely in Biblical Hebrew and widely used by Jews during their history. Jews maintained a belief that Hebrew was God's "language" as well (as it was the language God uses in the Torah itself), hence its name "lashon hakodesh" ("Holy language" or "tongue").
By the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, most Jews had shifted to speaking Aramaic, with a significant number in the large diaspora speaking Greek. As Jews emigrated to far-flung countries, and as the languages of the countries they were in changed, they often adopted the local languages, and thus came to speak a great variety of languages. During the early Middle Ages, Aramaic was the principal Jewish language. Later in the Middle Ages, most Jewish literary activity was carried out in Judæo-Arabic: Arabic written in the Hebrew alphabet; this is the language Maimonides wrote in. Hebrew itself remained in vigorous use for religious and official uses such as for all religious events.
As time passed, these Jewish dialects often became so different from the parent languages as to constitute new languages, typically with a heavy influx of Hebrew and Aramaic loanwords and other innovations within the language. Thus were formed a variety of languages specific to the Jewish community; perhaps the most notable of these are Yiddish in Europe (mainly from German) and Ladino (from Spanish), originally in al-Andalus but spreading to other locations, mainly around the Mediterranean, due to the 1492 expulsion of practicing Jews from Spain.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Yiddish was the main language of Jews in Eastern Europe (thus making it the language spoken by the majority of Jews in the world), while Ladino was widespread in the Maghreb, Greece, and Turkey; smaller groups in Europe spoke such languages as Judæo-Italian, Yevanic, or Karaim. The Jews of the Arab world spoke Judæo-Arabic varieties, while those of Iran spoke Dzhidi (Judæo-Persian); smaller groups spoke Judæo-Berber, Judæo-Tat or even, in Kurdistan, Judæo-Aramaic.
This broad picture was substantially modified by major historical shifts beginning in the late nineteenth century. The immigration of millions of European Jews to North America caused a dramatic increase in the number of Jewish English-speakers; colonialism in the Maghreb led most of its Jews to shift to French or Spanish; Hebrew was revived as a spoken language, giving it a substantially increased vocabulary and a simplified sound system; the Holocaust tragically and massively eradicated the vast majority of Yiddish- and German-speaking European Jews; and the Arab-Israeli conflict led many Jews to leave the Arab world for other countries (mainly Hebrew-speaking Israel and French-speaking France), whose languages they largely adopted.
Jews today speak a large variety of languages, typically adopting the languages of their countries of residence. The largest single language spoken by Jews is English, closely followed by Modern Hebrew.
Literary and theatrical expressions of Jewish culture may be in specifically Jewish languages such as Hebrew, Yiddish or Ladino, or it may be in the language of the surrounding cultures, such as English or German. Secular literature and theatre in Yiddish largely began in the 19th century and was in decline by the middle of the 20th century. Generally, whether a Jewish community will speak a Jewish or non-Jewish language as its main vehicle of discourse is dependent on how isolated or assimilated that community is. For example, the Jews in the shtetls of Poland and the Lower East Side of New York (during the early 20th century) spoke Yiddish at most times, while assimilated Jews in Germany during the 19th century or the United States today would or do speak German or English in general.Literature In some places where there have been relatively high concentrations of Jews, distinct secular Jewish subcultures have arisen. For example, ethnic Jews formed an enormous proportion of the literary and artistic life of Vienna, Austria at the end of the 19th century, or of New York City 50 years later (and Los Angeles in the mid-late 20th century), and for the most part these were not particularly religious people. In general, however, Jewish artistic culture in various periods reflected the culture in which they lived.
Jewish authors have both created a unique Jewish literature and contributed to the national literatures of many of the countries in which they live. Though not strictly secular, the Yiddish works of authors like Sholem Aleichem (whose collected works amounted to 28 volumes) and Isaac Bashevis Singer (winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize), form their own canon, focusing on the Jewish experience in both Eastern Europe, and in America. In the United States, Jewish writers like Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and many others are considered among the greatest American authors, and incorporate a distinctly secular Jewish view into many of their works. The poetry of Allen Ginsberg often touches on Jewish themes (notably the early autobiographical works such as Howl and Kaddish). Other famous Jewish authors that made contributions to world literature include Heinrich Heine, German poet, Isaac Babel, Russian author, and Franz Kafka, of Prague.
In "Modern Judaism: An Oxford Guide," Professor Yaakov Malkin writes: "Secular Jewish culture embraces literary works that have stood the test of time as sources of aesthetic pleasure and ideas shared by Jews and non-Jews, works that live on beyond the immediate socio-cultural context within which they were created. They include the writings of such Jewish authors as Sholem Aleichem, Itzik Manger, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, S.Y. Agnon, Isaac Babel, Martin Buber, Isaiah Berlin, Haim Nahman Bialik, Yehuda Amichai, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman. It boasts masterpieces that have had a considerable influence on all of western culture, Jewish culture included - works such as those of Heinrich Heine, Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Chagall, Jacob Epstein, Ben Shahn, Amedeo Modigliani, Franz Kafka, Max Reinhardt (Goldman), Ernst Lubitsch, and Woody Allen."
Traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity. A standard mourner's prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased. In many ways, charitable donation has taken the place of animal sacrifice in Jewish life: for Jewish believers, giving to charity is an almost instinctive response to express thanks to God, to ask forgiveness from God, or to request a favor from God. According to Jewish tradition, the spiritual benefit of giving to the poor is so great that a beggar actually does the giver a favor by giving a person the opportunity to perform tzedakah.
"Tzedakah" is the Hebrew word for the acts that we call "charity" in English: giving aid, assistance and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. However, the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word "charity" suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word "tzedakah" is derived from the Hebrew root meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due.
Giving to the poor is an obligation in Judaism, a duty that cannot be forsaken even by those who are themselves in need. Some sages have said that tzedakah is the highest of all commandments, equal to all of them combined, and that a person who does not perform tzedakah is equivalent to an idol worshipper. This illustrates the importance of tzedakah in Jewish thought. Tzedakah, alongside teshuvah (repentance) and tefilah (prayer), is one of the three acts that gain forgiveness from sins.
The word "halakhah" is usually translated as "Jewish Law," although a more literal (and more appropriate) translation might be "the path that one walks." The word is derived from the Hebrew root meaning to go, to walk or to travel.
Some non-Jews and non-observant Jews criticize this legalistic aspect of traditional Judaism, saying that it reduces the religion to a set of rituals devoid of spirituality. But those who observe halakhah have a different view: they believe it increases the spirituality in a person's life, because it turns the most trivial, mundane acts, such as eating and getting dressed, into acts of religious significance. They believe that the prayers and observance of religious rules constantly remind them of their relationship with the Divine, and it becomes an integral part of their existence.
The Jewish people are an ethnoreligious community rather than solely a religious grouping. Judaism guides its adherents in both practice and belief so that it has been called not only a religion, but also a "way of life". This makes it difficult to draw a clear distinction between the cultural production of members of the Jewish people, and culture that is specifically Jewish.
Throughout history, in eras and places as diverse as the ancient Hellenic world, in Europe before and after the Age of Enlightenment, in Islamic Spain and Portugal, in North Africa and the Middle East, in India and China, and in the contemporary United States and Israel, Jewish communities have seen the development of cultural phenomena that are in some sense characteristically Jewish without being at all specifically religious. Some factors in this come from within Judaism, others from the interaction of Jews with others around them, and others from the inner social and cultural dynamics of the community, as opposed to religion itself. This phenomenon has led to considerably different Jewish cultures unique to their own communities, each as authentically Jewish as the next.
For at least 2,000 years, there has not been a unity of Jewish culture. Jews during this period were always geographically dispersed, so that by the 19th century the Ashkenazi Jews were mainly in Europe, especially Eastern Europe; the Sephardi Jews were largely spread among various communities in North Africa, Turkey, and various smaller communities in a diverse range of other locations; Mizrahi Jews were primarily spread around the Arab world; and other populations of Jews were scattered in such places as Ethiopia the Caucasus, and India.
Although there was a high degree of communication and traffic between these communities - many Sephardic exiles blended into the Central European Ashkenazi community following the Spanish Inquisition; many Ashkenazim migrated to the Middle East, giving rise to the characteristic Syrian-Jewish family name "Ashkenazi"; Iraqi-Jewish traders formed a distinct Jewish community in India; and so forth - many of these populations were cut off to some degree from the surrounding cultures by ghettoization, by laws of dhimma, and other circumstances.
Medieval Jewish communities in Eastern Europe displayed distinct cultural traits over the centuries. Despite the universalist leanings of the European Enlightenment, many Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern Europe continued to see themselves as forming a distinct national group. But, adapting this idea to European Enlightenment values, they assimilated the concept as that of an ethnic group whose identity did not depend on religion.
Constanin Măciucă writes of "a differentiated but not isolated Jewish spirit" permeating the culture of Yiddish-speaking Jews. This was only intensified as the rise of Romanticism amplified the sense of national identity across Europe generally. Thus, for example, Bund members - that is, members of the General Jewish Labour Union in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - were generally non-religious, and one of the historical leaders of the Bund was the child of converts to Christianity, though not a practising or believing Christian himself.
The Jewish Emancipation movement in Central and Western Europe created an opportunity for Jews to enter secular society. At the same time, pogroms in Eastern Europe provoked a surge of migration, in large part to the United States, where some 2 million Jewish immigrants resettled between 1880 and 1920. During the 1940s, the Holocaust uprooted and destroyed most of the European Jewish population. This, in combination with the creation of the State of Israel and the consequent Jewish exodus from Arab lands, resulted in a further geographic shift.
Defining secular culture among those who practice traditional Judaism is difficult, because the entire culture is, by definition, entwined with religious traditions. Gary Tobin, head of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, said of traditional Jewish culture, "The dichotomy between religion and culture doesn't really exist. Every religious attribute is filled with culture; every cultural act filled with religiosity. Synagogues themselves are great centres of Jewish culture. After all, what is life really about? Food, relationships, enrichment; so is Jewish life. So many of our traditions inherently contain aspects of culture. Look at the Passover Seder - it's essentially great theatre. Jewish education and religiosity bereft of culture is not as interesting."
Humour has a long tradition in Judaism dating back to the Torah, but Jewish humour generally refers to the more recent stream of verbal, self-deprecating and often anecdotal humour originating in Eastern Europe and which took root in the United States over the last hundred years.
Jewish humour is rooted in several traditions. The first is the intellectual and legal methods of the Talmud, which uses elaborate legal arguments and situations often seen as so absurd as to be humorous in order to tease out the meaning of religious law.
Hillel Halkin in his essay about Jewish humour traces some roots of the Jewish self-deprecating humour to the medieval influence of Arabic traditions on the Hebrew literature by quoting a witticism from Yehuda Alharizi's Tahkemoni.
A more recent one is an egalitarian tradition among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in which the powerful were often mocked subtly, rather than attacked overtly-as Saul Bellow once put it, "oppressed people tend to be witty." Jesters known as badchens used to poke fun at prominent members of the community during weddings, creating a good-natured tradition of humour as a levelling device.
Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, a scholar of Jewish humour, argued: "You have a lot of shtoch, or jab, humour, which is usually meant to deflate pomposity or ego, and to deflate people who consider themselves high and mighty. But Jewish humour was also a device for self-criticism within the community, and I think that's where it really was the most powerful. The humourist, like the prophet, would basically take people to task for their failings. The humour of Eastern Europe especially was cantered on defending the poor against the exploitation of the upper classes or other authority figures, so rabbis were made fun of, authority figures were made fun of and rich people were made fun of. It really served as a social catharsis."
Jewish musical contributions tend to reflect the cultures of the countries in which Jews live, the most notable examples being classical and popular music in the United States and Europe. Some music, however, is unique to particular Jewish communities, such as Israeli music, Klezmer, Sephardic and Ladino music, and Mizrahi music.
Jews have also contributed to popular music and, in the United States, they have become dominant in some specific forms of popular music. This is true to a lesser extent in Europe, but some of the first influential Jewish popular musicians in the US were actually natives of Europe, such as Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill and Sigmund Romberg. The most visible early forms of American popular music in which Jews have contributed are the popular song and musical theatre. Approximately half of the members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame are Jewish. However, the latter especially has been dominated by Jewish composers and lyricists throughout its history and to a certain extent still today.
While Jazz is primarily considered an art form with African-American originators, many Jewish musicians have contributed to it including clarinettists Mezz Mezzrow, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, saxophonists Michael Brecker, Paul Desmond, Kenny G, Stan Getz, Benny Green, Lee Konitz, Ronnie Scott and Zoot Sims, trumpeters and cornetists Randy Brecker, Ruby Braff, Red Rodney and Shorty Rogers, drummers Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis, and Victor Feldman, and singers and pianists Billy Joel, Al Jolson, Ben Sidran, and Mel Tormé. Some artists such as Harry Kandel were famous for mixing Jazz with klezmer as was modern Texas klezmer Bill Averbach, and others like Flora Purim have worked with Latin jazz and Jazz fusion. Since a great deal of Jazz music consisted of musical cooperation of Jewish and African-American musicians or black musicians funded by Jewish producers, the art form became "the racist's worst nightmare".
Although the early rock and roll performers were mostly either African Americans or Southern Whites, Jewish songwriters played a key role: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, and nearly all of the other Brill Building songwriters were Jewish, as was Phil Spector. With the mid-1960s rise of the singer-songwriter, some (King, Diamond, Sedaka) became performers; others (such as Burt Bacharach) managed to continue to work primarily as songwriters. In the rock era, Jewish musicians were by no means dominant, but many worked with a mix of folk and rock forms, including Bob Dylan, David Bromberg, David Grisman, Kinky Friedman Jorma Kaukonen, Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel; more purely on the rock side are David Lee Roth, Lenny Kravitz, pop bands such as Army of Lovers and all three Beastie Boys.
In classical music, Jewish contribution to the European music scene steadily increased after Jews were admitted to mainstream society in England, France, Austria-Hungary, the German Empire, and Russia. Notable examples of Jewish Romantic composers are Charles-Valentin Alkan, Paul Dukas and Fromental Halévy from France, Josef Dessauer, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, Karl Goldmark and Gustav Mahler from Bohemia, Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer from Germany, and Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein from Russia.
During the 20th century the number of Jewish composers and notable instrumentalists increased, as did their geographical distribution. Jewish composers were most heavily concentrated in Vienna and other cities in pre-Nazi Austria and Germany. During the late 19th century and early 20th century, Jews comprised a third of the students of Vienna's conservatories.
Beyond Vienna, Jews were also to a certain extent prominent in Paris and New York (the latter's Jewish population being heavily multiplied by waves of immigration). During the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s, when works by Jews were labelled as degenerate music, many European Jewish composers emigrated to the United States and Argentina, strengthening classical music in those countries. Sample Jewish 20th-century composers include Arnold Schönberg and Alexander von Zemlinsky from Austria, Hanns Eisler, Kurt Weill and Theodor W. Adorno from Germany, Viktor Ullmann and Jaromír Weinberger from Bohemia and later the Czech Republic (the former perished at the Auschwitz extermination camps), George Gershwin and Aaron Copland from the United States, Darius Milhaud and Alexandre Tansman from France, and Alfred Schnittke from Russia.
There are some genres and forms of classical music that Jewish composers have been associated with, including notably during the Romantic period French Grand Opera. The most prolific composers of this genre included Giacomo Meyerbeer, Fromental Halévy, and the later Jacques Offenbach.
In addition to composers, many Jews have been prominent music critics, music theorists and musicologists, such as Guido Adler, Leon Botstein, Eduard Hanslick, Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, Julius Korngold and Hedi Stadlen. Jewish classical performers have most frequently been violinists, pianists and cellists. Notable examples are Isaac Stern, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Leonard Rose, respectively. Beginning with Gustav Mahler and most frequently today, Jewish conductors have also been prominent, with many like Leonard Bernstein achieving international stature.
A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism.
It is important to note that being a Jew has nothing to do with what you believe or what you do. A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism, and a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions, and being Jewish is like a citizenship.
This has been established since the earliest days of Judaism. In the Torah, you will see many references to "the strangers who dwell among you" or "righteous proselytes" or "righteous strangers." These are various classifications of non-Jews who lived among Jews, adopting some or all of the beliefs and practices of Judaism without going through the formal process of conversion and becoming Jews. Once a person has converted to Judaism, he is not referred to by any special term; he is as much a Jew as anyone born Jewish.
Kashrut is the body of Jewish law dealing with what foods practicing Jews can and cannot eat and how those foods must be prepared and eaten. "Kashrut" comes from the Hebrew root meaning fit, proper or correct. It is the same root as the more commonly known word "kosher," which describes food that meets these standards. The word "kosher" can also be used, and often is used, to describe ritual objects that are made in accordance with Jewish law and are fit for ritual use.
Contrary to popular misconception, rabbis or other religious officials do not "bless" food to make it kosher. There are blessings that observant Jews recite over food before eating it, but these blessings have nothing to do with making the food kosher.
There is no such thing as "kosher-style" food. Kosher is not a style of cooking. French, Moroccan or Indian food can be kosher if they are prepared in accordance with Jewish law.
Of the "beasts of the earth", Jews may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud. The Torah specifies that the camel, the rock badger, the hare and the pig are not kosher because each lacks one of these two qualifications. Sheep, cattle, goats and deer, for example, are kosher.
Judaism, like other major religions, has a set of beliefs, but one does not have to adhere to them to be a Jew. In Judaism, actions are as important as beliefs.
The closest that anyone has ever come to creating a widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs is Maimonides, who formulated thirteen principles of faith.
Maimonides, known to Muslims as Ibn Maimun, was a renowned Jewish philosopher in the twelfth century.
Jews call him Rambam.
The thirteen principles of faith, which Maimonides thought were the minimum requirements of Jewish belief, are:
- God exists
- God is one and unique
- God is incorporeal
- God is eternal
- Prayer is to be directed to God alone and to no other
- The words of the prophets are true
- Moses' prophecies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets
- The Written Torah and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses
- There will be no other Torah
- God knows the thoughts and deeds of men
- God will reward the good and punish the wicked
- The dead will be resurrected
As basic as these principles are, the necessity of believing each one of these has been disputed at one time or another, and the liberal movements of Judaism dispute many of these principles.
Unlike many other religions, Judaism does not focus much on abstract cosmological concepts. Although Jews have certainly considered the nature of God, man, the universe, life and the afterlife at great length, there is no mandated, official, definitive belief on these subjects, outside of the very general concepts discussed above. There is substantial room for personal opinion on all of these matters. Indeed, learned Rabbis (Jewish theologians) have been discussing these issues since ancient times and continue to do so today.
Judaism focuses on relationships: the relationship between God and mankind, between God and the Jewish people, and between human beings. Our scriptures tell the story of the development of these relationships, from the time of creation, through the creation of the relationship between God and Abraham, to the creation of the relationship between God and the Jewish people, and forward. The scriptures also specify the mutual obligations created by these relationships, although various movements of Judaism disagree about the nature of these obligations. Some say they are absolute, unchanging laws from God (Orthodox); some say they are laws from God that change and evolve over time (Conservative); some say that they are guidelines that you can choose whether or not to follow (Reform, Reconstructionist).
1 Who is Jewish?
According to Jewish tradition, a child born of a Jewish mother is Jewish, as well as anyone who converts to Judaism following strict rules and rituals. A person can be Jewish, but at the same time not religious. Non-religious Jews are referred to as secular Jews. Jewish religious tradition includes different movements, from the strict Orthodox tradition to conservative and Liberal Judaism.
2 How many Jews are there in the world today?
Approximately thirteen million Jews live throughout the world, a tiny fraction of the total world population of 6.6 billion. About half of them live in Israel, while the United States, Russia and France also have sizeable Jewish populations. In the past thirty years the Jewish population in the world has only grown by two percent, in contrast to a 60 percent increase in the total world population.
3 Are Jews a race?
No. In terms of biology, there is only one race: the human race. But in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, some influential European scientists were interested in proving the superiority of their own race - the "white race". Their ideas were used by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s to distinguish the Aryans from other races. The Nazis devised a "race ladder" which put the Aryans at the top and the "Semitic race" at the bottom. Modern science and genetic studies have conclusively disproved the notion of race classifications.
4 What is anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism is a synonym for the hatred of Jews and anti-Semitic means anti-Jewish. The word anti-Semitism became popular around 1880 because of articles and pamphlets written by Wilhelm Marr, a German journalist who came to be known as the "father of anti-Semitism". While political anti-Semitism arose in the nineteenth century, religious anti-Semitism (also known as anti-Judaism) began in ancient times and continued into the Middle Ages, particularly within the Christian Church. The legitimacy of religious anti-Judaism was based on the accusation that the Jews incited the Romans to murder Jesus Christ, a Jewish preacher who the Jews did not recognize as the Biblical Messiah.
5 Is there a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world?
While hatred of Jews goes back a long time in history, the idea that Jews are out to dominate the world gained currency in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This myth, which played an important part in Nazi propaganda in Germany, was revitalized at the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia with the release of the book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This book was produced by the Tsarist regime in Russia to divert public opinion from the country's severe crises and blame the Jews for the plight of the Russian people. The Protocols provide an alleged account of twenty-four secret gatherings of the so-called Elders of Zion, a fictitious group of rich Jews. These men gather to discuss the question of how they can destroy the Christian community and establish a Jewish world order. The Protocols were first published in a newspaper in St. Petersburg in 1903 and other releases quickly followed - versions often differing extensively.Sadly, the Arabic and Persian versions of the Protocols are widely distributed in the Muslim world, and Muslims are being misled by this forgery. In 2002, Egyptian television launched a major soap opera series based on the Protocols. The series, entitled Horseman Without a Horse, has been broadcast in a number of Arab countries, continuing to propagate this myth.
6 Is U.S. foreign policy dominated by the Jews?
Political lobbying is institutionalized in the U.S. and organized groups who want to promote certain interests are officially registered and are required to work in a transparent manner. There are pro-Arab and pro-Iranian lobbying groups, as there are Jewish lobbyists. It is more accurate to speak of a pro-Israel lobby instead of a Jewish lobby. Interestingly, evangelical Christians play a very prominent role in the pro-Israel lobby in the States. There are about seven million Jews in America, making up 2.5% of the population. The Jews in America form a vastly diverse and often divided community.The influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington on America's Middle East policies is often exaggerated. An extensive survey of hundreds of cases of policymaking related to the Middle East showed that in situations where the viewpoints of the American president and the main pro-Israel lobby in the United States, AIPAC, clashed, Congress sided with AIPAC in only 27 percent of all cases.
7 What does the term "Holocaust" mean?
The Holocaust was the systematic persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community. Gypsies, people with mental and physical disabilities, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons.
8 What does "Final Solution" refer to?
The term "Final Solution" refers to Germany's plan to murder all the Jews of Europe. The term was used at the Wannsee Conference, which took place in Berlin on January 20, 1942, where German officials discussed its implementation. The Nazis used the term "Final Solution" to conceal the plan that, in its entirety, called for the murder of all European Jews by shooting, gassing and other means. Approximately six million Jewish men, women, and children (1.5 million children) were killed during the Holocaust -- two-thirds of the Jews living in Europe before World War II.
9 How many Jews were killed in the Holocaust?
Between five and six million Jews - out of a Jewish population of nine million living in Europe - were killed during the Holocaust. It is impossible to know exactly how many people died as the deaths were comprised of thousands of different events over a period of more than four years. About half of the Jewish victims died in concentration camps or death camps such as Auschwitz. The other half died when Nazi soldiers marched into many large and small towns in Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union and other areas and murdered people by the dozens or by the hundreds.
10 What is the evidence that so many Jews were killed by the Nazis?
The numerous pieces of evidence proving that between five and six million Jews were killed by the Nazis include: Records on the number of people sent to the larger death camps, which were built and used primarily for Jews; Demographic studies of the number of Jews in Europe before and after the war; Progress reports from Nazi commanders of death camps and from organized killing squads in the conquered territories; Post-war testimonies by Nazi leaders and commanders More recent evidence that has come to light, for example, as a result of excavation of mass graves of Jewish victims in the Ukraine.
Nazi leaders made numerous references to the extermination of Jews, including:
Diary of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief (Lochner, The Goebbels Diaries, 1948, pp. 86, 147-148): February 14, 1942: The Führer once again expressed his determination to clean up the Jews in Europe pitilessly. There must be no squeamish sentimentalism about it. The Jews have deserved the catastrophe that has now overtaken them. Their destruction will go hand in hand with the destruction of our enemies. We must hasten this process with cold ruthlessness. March 27, 1942: The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said that about 60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only 40 per cent can be used for forced labor. SS Chief Heinrich Himmler's speech at Posen on October 4, 1943, which was captured on audiotape (Trial of the Major War Criminals, 1948, Vol. XXIX, p. 145): I refer now to the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. This is one of those things that is easily said: "the Jewish people are being exterminated," says every Party member, "quite true, it's part of our plans, the elimination of the Jews, extermination, we're doing it."
11 Why did the Nazis single out the Jews - among all their "enemies" - for extermination?
Hitler started a world war to achieve his dream of world domination. The war left behind an estimated 72 million dead, among them 47 million civilians, of whom some six million were Jewish. Jews were the targets of the Holocaust because Hitler hated Jews and blamed them for all of the problems in the world. He was brought up in Vienna, where Jews played a prominent role in the city's political and cultural life. He especially blamed them for Germany's loss of World War I. Hitler told the German people that they could have won the first war, if Germany had not been "stabbed in the back" by the Jews and their conspirators. Hitler's hatred of Jews was so profound that several of his biographers have called it an obsession. Albert Speer, who was a close confidante to Hitler, wrote in 1977: The hatred of the Jews was Hitler's driving force and central point, perhaps even the only element that moved him. The German people, German greatness, the Reich, all that meant nothing to him in the final analysis. Thus, the closing sentence of his Testament sought to commit us Germans to a merciless hatred of the Jews after the apocalyptic downfall. I was present in the Reichstag session of January 30, 1939 when Hitler guaranteed that, in the event of another war, the Jews, not the Germans, would be exterminated. This sentence was said with such certainty that I would never have doubted his intent of carrying through with it.
12 Did ordinary Germans know about the persecution of Jews while it was happening?
In the 1930s, Nazi persecution of Jews and other opponents were common knowledge in Germany. News reels in cinemas around the world at the time showed footage of attacks on Jews, their properties and synagogues in Germany during Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass). But the Nazis tried to keep the extermination of Jews and their other genocidal acts a secret. While ordinary Germans knew that the Jews had been deported to the east, large segments of the German population were unaware that they were being murdered.
13 Did the people of occupied Europe know what the Germans were doing to Jews at the time?
The attitude of the local population vis-a-vis the persecution and destruction of the Jews ranged from zealous collaboration with the Nazis to indifference to active assistance to Jews. Thus, it is difficult to make generalizations. The situation also varied from country to country. In Eastern Europe and especially in Poland, Russia, Romania and the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), there was much more knowledge of the "Final Solution" because it was implemented in those areas with the participation of part of the local population. In Western Europe, the local population had less information on the details of the "Final Solution." It must be mentioned that in every country in Europe, there were courageous individuals who risked their lives to save Jews. In several countries, there were groups which aided Jews, e.g. Joop Westerweel's group in the Netherlands, Zegota in Poland, and the Assisi underground in Italy and inhabitants of the French village Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
14 Who are "Righteous Among the Nations"?
"Righteous Among the Nations" refers to those non-Jews who on their own initiative often put their lives at risk to aid Jews during the Holocaust. There were "Righteous Among the Nations" in every country overrun or allied with the Nazis, and their deeds often led to the rescue of Jewish lives. Yad Vashem, the Israeli national remembrance authority for the Holocaust, bestows special honors upon these individuals. To date, after carefully evaluating each case, Yad Vashem has recognized approximately 10,000 "Righteous Gentiles" in three different categories of recognition. Seventy Muslims have been recognized to-date as "Righteous Among the Nations".
15 Could anything have done to stop the genocide of the Jews?
The response of the Allies to the persecution and destruction of European Jewry was inadequate and the strongest moral voice - that of the Pope - was silent. On December 17, 1942, the Allies issued a condemnation of Nazi atrocities against the Jews, but this was the only such declaration made prior to 1944. Moreover, no attempt was made to call upon the local population in Europe to refrain from assisting the Nazis in their systematic murder of the Jews. It has been suggested that the Allies could have bombed the death camp at Auschwitz to slow down the Nazi murder machine. But it is unlikely that any such measures could have stopped, or even significantly slowed down, the genocide of the Jews.
16 Why do the Jews regard the Holocaust as unique, while so many human beings have lost their lives in other catastrophes throughout history?
It is morally unjustifiable to rank human suffering in order to diminish the horror of "lesser" forms of human suffering. Every catastrophe or act of genocide has its similarities and differences with other catastrophes and genocides. But historians emphasize that the Holocaust was unique, because it was (and remains) the only time in history when one nation - ranking itself among the league of so-called civilized nations - tried to systematically murder every man, woman, and child of a certain ethnic or religious minority as a political goal, seeking to find and destroy them everywhere, from the bustling metropolitan centers of Europe to remote Greek islands. The Nazis created a complete bureaucratic apparatus to accomplish their goal.
17 What was the difference between concentration camps and extermination camps under the Nazi regime?
The Nazis set up a camp system that included different types of camps serving different purposes. Concentration camp was the generic term for prison camps. "Labor camps" were those that were maintained for the purpose of exploiting slave labor for Germany's war effort. "Extermination camps" were six camps located in Poland where the mass murder of Jews and others took place.
18 Why did the Nazis build the extermination camps outside Germany?
Being outside Germany made the camps easier to conceal from the German people. Also, the vast majority of murdered Jews came from conquered territory to the east and south of the pre-war German borders. The extermination camps were located closer to these areas to facilitate transport.
19 Did the Jews try to fight against the Nazis?
Despite the difficult conditions to which Jews were subjected in Nazi-occupied Europe, many engaged in armed resistance against the Nazis. This resistance can be divided into three basic types of armed activities: ghetto revolts, resistance in concentration and death camps, and partisan warfare. The Warsaw Ghetto revolt, which lasted for about five weeks beginning on April 19, 1943, is probably the best-known example of armed Jewish resistance, but there were many ghetto revolts in which Jews fought against the Nazis. Despite the terrible conditions in the death, concentration, and labor camps, Jewish inmates fought against the Nazis at the following sites: Treblinka (August 2, 1943); Babi Yar (September 29, 1943); Sobibor (October 14, 1943); Janowska (November 19, 1943); and Auschwitz (October 7, 1944). Jews also actively took part in national resistance movements against the Nazi occupiers and in Jewish partisan units.
20 What did the Nazis really think about Muslims?
According to the Nazis' racist ideology, Arabs are racial Semites and thus subhumans, similar to Jews. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler described the struggle for world domination as an ongoing racial, cultural and political battle between Aryans and non-Aryans. He envisaged a "ladder" of racial hierarchy, asserting that German "Aryans" were at the top of the ladder, while Jews and Gypsies were consigned to the bottom of the order. On Hitler's racial ladder, Arabs and Muslims occupied a servile place, held in much the same contempt as the Jews. Hitler made a personal remark in 1939 in which he referred to the populace of the Middle East as "painted half-apes that ought to feel the whip". As in other instances, however, the Nazis never allowed their ideological views to get in the way of more urgent political considerations. The Nazis recognized the importance of wooing the Arab and Muslim world to their side and, in their public proclamations, downplayed their real views of Muslims and Arabs. When Mein Kampf was being translated into Arabic in 1938, Hitler himself tactfully proposed to omit from it his "racial ladder" theory.
21 What was the attitude of Muslims towards the Nazis?
Throughout the 1930s, the Nazis tried to exploit Arab and Persian resentment of Britain's colonial domination of the Middle East. The Nazis promised the Arabs "liberation" from the French and British, a promise which many in the Arab world, not grasping the racist character of a Nazi regime that would likely have reduced them to slaves in their own land, took at face value. Although there was sympathy for Nazi Germany across much of the Muslim world, this was mostly on the grounds of strong anti-British hostility rather than support for Nazi racist doctrines, and it rarely includes an anti-Semitic element. While for the vast majority of Muslims the war in Europe remained a distant conflict, the Nazis managed to recruit some Muslims directly. Two SS divisions were raised from Albanian and Bosnian Muslims, but the Nazis soon discovered that these units were militarily ineffective and unmotivated to fight for the Third Reich. The Nazis made much propaganda about the meeting between Hitler and Haj Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, which took place on November 21, 1941. Al-Husseini or the Muslims troops fighting on the side of the Wehrmacht were not representative of Muslim sentiments in the course of World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from Africa, India, and the Soviet Union fought in the Allies' armies to help to defeat fascism at places like El-Alamein, Monte Cassino, the beaches of Provence, and Stalingrad.
22 Did any Muslims help save the lives of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution?
Yes. The case of Albania is interesting to note. Albania is the sole European country with a Muslim-majority population. Albania was the only country in Europe in which there were more Jews after the war than there had been before the war. Before World War II, there were only 200 Jews in Albania, which had a total population of 800,000. After the war, there were many more Jews after Jewish refugees from some half dozen European countries fled the Nazi persecution and sought shelter in Albania. Among the 70 Muslims officially recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, there are many stories of great courage and sacrifice. These include the Bosnian Dervis Korkut, who harbored a young Jewish woman resistance fighter named Mira Papo and saved the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most valuable Hebrew manuscripts in the world; the Turk Selahattin Ulkumen, whose rescue of fifty Jews from the ovens of Auschwitz led to the death of his wife Mihrinissa soon after she gave birth to their son Mehmet when the Nazis retaliated for his heroism; and the Albanian Refik Vesili who - at the age of 16 - saved eight Jews by hiding them in his family's mountain home.
23 Have Jews and Muslims always been each other's enemies?
No. There are many similarities between Islam and Judaism as religious faiths. Both worship a strictly Unitarian God. Both have sacred laws with strict dietary codes and detailed rules governing gender relations. Both insist on their texts being learned and taught in their original languages. Muslims regard Jews and Christians as "People of the Book". In the Dar al-Islam - the territories ruled by Muslims - they always enjoyed more protection than heathens. For centuries across the Muslim world, Jews and Christians were subject to the rules of the dhimma statutes: in exchange for payment of extra taxes, they were granted the status of inferior citizens. For fourteen centuries, Jewish minorities lived in peace in many countries and under many regimes in the Muslim world. Yet, Muslim countries experienced peaceful periods and tolerant regimes as well as warlike regimes and intolerant periods. Under the rule of many Ottoman Sultans, for example, the religious climate was relatively tolerant. By contrast, the Safavid dynasty in Iran that ruled from 1501 to 1722 was extremely intolerant of religious minorities. Not only Persian Jews, but Zoroastrians and Armenians in Iran were regularly harassed, persecuted and forced to convert under the Safavid kings.
24 Did Jews live better in the past under Islam than under Christianity?
It is difficult to compare fourteen centuries of Islam to twenty centuries of Christianity, but it is generally true that while discrimination occurred against Jews in the Islamic world on a regular basis, they were rarely persecuted. In Christian Europe, much energy was devoted to coercing Jews to repudiate their religious beliefs. For centuries, Christians zealously tried to convert Jews; this occurred much less under Islam. During these times, numerous Christian theologians and Church officials were guilty of propagating anti-Semitic legends and stereotypes. In past centuries, Muslim scholars and Islamic thinkers have been far less guilty of this. Early Muslim literature contains no "Jewish monsters". Anti-Semitic stereotypes first appeared in the Muslim world in the nineteenth century when large parts of the Arab world were conquered by European colonial powers. It is striking that almost all the anti-Semitic myths that proliferate in the Arab and Muslim world today were fashioned in the Christian or Western world.
25 Are there examples of harmonious Jewish-Muslim coexistence in history?
For centuries, most of the world's Jewish population lived in Muslim-ruled territories. Although Jews were always treated as dhimmis, there were periods of tolerance and even prosperity. During the tenth and eleventh centuries in the Muslim-ruled part of the Iberian Peninsula called Andalusia (Al-Andalus), Jewish, Christian, and Islamic arts and sciences flourished in harmony. The most beautiful Moorish palaces were built, calligraphers and illustrators created beautiful Torah scrolls, Bibles, and Korans, and Jewish linguists translated Latin texts into Arabic and Arabic texts into Latin. Jews played an important role at the court of Abd al-Rahaman III (912-961), who ruled the Caliphate of Cordoba for fifty years. This period came to an end when the fanatical Berber Almohad rulers of North Africa invaded Andalusia. The Almohads treated the dhimmis harshly. Faced with the choice of either death or conversion, most Jews and Christians emigrated. Some, such as the family of the prominent Jewish philosopher Maimonides, fled east to more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms. When the Catholic king of Spain ordered the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II issued a decree to the governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire "not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially". According to the American historian, Bernard Lewis, "the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled". Jews prospered under the rule of several Ottoman sultans and made significant contributions to science and administration. The first printing house in a Muslim country was set up by a Jew in Istanbul in 1493.
26 What does Islam say about Jews?
Jews and Christians have a unique status in Islam. Muslims believe that God passed on his will to the prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears in the Koran more than in the New Testament. There are also many references to the Torah and the Jewish prophets in the Koran. Jews are the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, while Muslims see themselves as descendants of Abraham and Hagar, the maid of Abraham's wife, who gave him his first son, Ishmael. According to Islamic tradition, Abraham built the Ka'aba - the sanctuary of Mecca - together with his son Ishmael. Muslims believe that God's original revelations to Moses and Jesus were passed down inaccurately; the revelations to the prophet Mohammed, as recorded in the Koran, are the unique, eternal, true Word of God. Besides allusions to the Torah, the prophets, and the New Testament, the Koran also describes the clashes of Prophet Mohammed with the Jewish tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. Three Jewish tribes who did not want to convert to Islam lived there at the time of Mohammed. The Army of the Prophet expelled two of these tribes from Medina in 624 and 625. A few years later, the men of the third Jewish tribe were killed and their wives and children sold to slavery. Mohammed's conflict with the Jewish tribes of Medina is not one of the Koran's central themes; it is of minor importance. Yet, the Koran's verses about the struggle of Prophet Mohammed against the Jews have been repeatedly used in recent years by extremists who intend to whip up anti-Jewish sentiments among Muslims. These extremists completely ignore the positive treatment of Jews in both the Koran and Prophet Mohammed's oral tradition as exemplified, for example in Surah 2:47 of the Koran: "O Children of Israel! Call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations."
27 Is Islam against the Jews?
No, because the Koran recognizes Jews as "people of the Book". That's why many Muslims are saddened to see so much anti-Semitic myths and legends being propagated in the Muslim world. It must be remembered that there are many diverse movements within the Islamic world. One must not forget that down through fourteen centuries of history, the Islamic world was relatively tolerant of the Jewish minority in its midst, especially compared to the Christian world. Because of the climate of religious tolerance in the Ottoman Empire, the persecution of Jews was uncommon, just as it had been in Andalusia - Medieval Spain - during the time of Muslim rulers. The anti-Semitism appearing in the Muslim world today was invented in Europe, although one must not underestimate the severity and maliciousness of the anti-Semitic ideas and stereotypes now rampant in many Muslim countries. Many of these stereotypes are easily traced back to anti-Semitic images that began ages ago in Christian Europe, among them myths that depict the Jew as traitor or conspirator, the blood libel myths, etc. But it is meaningless to speak of Christian or Islamic anti-Semitism. It is not the religions that are anti-Semitic, but extremists who manipulate religious sentiments for their political gains.
28 The Holocaust is part of European history, so why should it be relevant to Muslims?
The Holocaust - the murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis - is not part of European history, but human history. What happened to millions of human beings in that genocide is relevant to every one of us, regardless of our religion or creed. One of the most tragic mysteries of the Holocaust is how the premeditated, systematic murder of millions of people could occur at the hands of a seemingly advanced society. But if we are to learn from the Holocaust, we must understand that the dark forces that undermined democracy in Germany, betrayed a generation of young people, plunged the world into a global conflict and led to the Holocaust continue to pose a threat to our societies.
29 What is Holocaust denial?
Holocaust denial refers to claims that the mass extermination of the Jews by the Nazis never happened; that the number of Jewish losses has been greatly exaggerated; or that the Holocaust was not systematic nor a result of an official policy; or simply that the Holocaust never took place. The Nazis were the first to try to conceal or destroy evidence of the Holocaust. A Frenchman named Paul Rassinier later stated that only 500,000 to one million Jews died during World War II, mostly due to bad physical conditions and gradually-not systematically at the hands of the Nazis. Other pseudo-scholars and "revisionist historians" have followed suit. With the advent of the Internet, Holocaust deniers have used this medium to spread their messages of hate, Many websites, established by them or by related groups such as white supremacists, offer their skewed version of events.
30 What evidence is there that the Nazis gassed their victims?
Death camp gas chambers were the primary means of execution used against the Jews during the Holocaust. The Nazis issued a directive implementing large-scale gas chambers in the fall of 1941 but, by then, procedures facilitating mass murder, including the utilization of smaller gas chambers, were already in practice. Before their use in death camps, gas chambers were central to Hitler's "eugenics" program. Between January 1940 and August 1941, 70,273 Germans - most of them physically handicapped or mentally ill - were gassed, 20-30 at a time, in hermetically shut chambers disguised as shower rooms. Meanwhile, mass shooting of Jews had been extensively practiced on the heels of Germany's Eastern campaign. But these actions by murder squads had become an increasingly unwieldy process by October 1941. Mobile gassing vans, using the exhaust fumes of diesel engines to kill passengers, were used to kill Jews at Chelmno and Treblinka starting in November 1941. At least 320,000 Chelmno prisoners, most of them Jews, were killed by this method; a total of 870,000 Jews were murdered at Treblinka using gas vans and diesel-powered gas chambers. Gas chambers were installed and operated at Belzec, Lublin, Sobibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau from September 3, 1941, when the first experimental gassing took place at Auschwitz, until November 1944. Authorities have estimated that these gas chambers accounted for the deaths of approximately 2 to 3 million Jews.
31 Why are people who question the "Holocaust" accused of being anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi?
The murder of six million Jews in World War II is the best-documented crime against humanity in history. There is an abundance of documentation - most of it courtesy of the Nazi state - concerning the planning and execution of this atrocity. There is also a large amount of film and photo material of the liberation of the concentration camps, mass graves being uncovered, and there are countless eyewitness accounts, including many from Holocaust survivors. In the face of all this, Holocaust-denial always has political motives. It is frequently used to attract new followers to neo-Nazis. Researchers and academics have amassed hundreds of examples that show a direct correlation often exists between Holocaust-denial and anti-Semitism or Nazism. For example, the main Holocaust-denial outfit in the United States, the Institute for Historical Review, is headed by Greg Raven, who in 1992 stated publicly that Hitler was "a great man...certainly greater than Churchill and FDR put together...about the best thing that could have happened to Germany." It is interesting to note that while hundreds of world-renowned historians have researched the Holocaust over the past few decades, none has subscribed to Holocaust-denial theories.
32 Why is it a crime in most European countries to deny the Holocaust?
Holocaust denial is a crime in European countries, because it is considered an incitmenet to discrimination, violence, racism and xenophobia. A person who says that the Holocaust did not exist, given all the court cases, all the monuments and museums, all the memoirs and films, is alleging a fraud on a massive scale. Holocaust denial, by its very nature, is an allegation of massive fraud. The United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1996 in the case of Robert Faurisson wrote about Holocaust denial that: "It is implied, under the guise of impartial academic research, that the victims of Nazism were guilty of dishonest fabrication." Since Holocaust denial is nothing more than a form of incitement to hatred against Jews, making it a criminal offence makes sense.
33 Why is Holocaust denial so widespread in Arab and Muslim countries?
The recent rise of Holocaust-denial in the Muslim world could be attributed to increasing state sponsorship, the spread of radical Islam, and the aggravation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Holocaust denial regularly occurs throughout the Middle East-in speeches and pronouncements by public figures, in TV programs on state-run television stations, in articles and columns by journalists, and in the resolutions of professional organizations. The main tenet of Holocaust denial-that Jews invented the Holocaust story in an attempt to advance their own interests-appears to be an increasingly accepted belief for many people in Arab and Muslim states.
The Arab and Muslim perception of the Holocaust has never been monolithic, and has often been influenced by the turn of events in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In some cases, Holocaust denial is actively sponsored by national governments, such as Iran and Syria. In other Middle Eastern countries, however, denying or minimizing the extent of the killing of Jews during World War II has been adopted by opposition parties and dissident factions that oppose attempts at normalizing relations with Israel or the United States.
34 How was Holocaust denial "imported" to the Muslim world?
Although Holocaust denial first surfaced in the Arab world in the 1970s, it was not until the 1990s that Holocaust denial became prevalent in popular media throughout the Middle East. Among Holocaust deniers in the West, Roger Garaudy, a former French communist intellectual who converted to Islam, has been influential in spreading Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic literature in the Muslim world. Garaudy was hailed as a hero throughout the Middle East when he faced prosecution by the French government for inciting racial hatred.
One of the most important signs of the growing ties between Western Holocaust deniers and the Arab world came to light in December 2000, when the U.S.-based Institute for Historical Review announced that its fourteenth revisionist conference would take place in Beirut, Lebanon, in early April 2001. Many Arab intellectuals were outraged and openly protested. The conference was eventually banned by the Lebanese government. In the 2006 conference on Holocaust in Tehran, organized by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, key speakers included European and American deniers such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, discredited academics, and several white supremacists.
35 What do Muslims gain in denying the Holocaust?
Nothing, but by denying a human catastrophe Muslims undermine their own self-esteem and moral values. No legitimate cause or agenda can ever be advanced by denying or belittling the immense human suffering caused by the murder of millions of Jews and other minority groups by the Nazi regime and its allies during World War II. Cynical attempts to use Holocaust denial as a political tool in the Middle East conflict will only serve to deepen the level of mistrust and hostility already present in that troubled region.
36 Did Jews use the Holocaust to bring about the creation of Israel?
It would be a mistake to believe that the Jewish state owes its existence to Hitler. Jewish nationalism, Zionism, was more than half a century old when the Jews of Europe were exterminated. All the institutions of a Jewish state were already in place in Palestine when Hitler rose to power in 1933, and when the partition of Palestine was proposed in 1936. Israel, therefore, was not a direct outcome of the Holocaust.
Reading the deliberations of the United Nations and its bodies in 1947-1948, it is difficult to find evidence that the Holocaust played a decisive or even significant role. It is certainly the case that the Holocaust hastened the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland in the eyes of the world. But there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the Holocaust and Israel.
37 Doesn't talking about the Holocaust benefit Israel?
No. The Holocaust is not an Israeli issue, and furthermore, Holocaust denial by Muslims has not proven to be very helpful to the Palestinian cause. No matter what political position we adopt regarding the state of Israel and the policies of the Israeli government, the historical evidence for the Holocaust remains intact. Nothing can provide moral grounds for the denial or undermining of the genocide of the Jewish people. Acknowledging the Holocaust does not lead to disavowal of the rights of Palestinians, nor does its denial or undermining strengthen their case.
38 Why can't the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be compared to the Holocaust?
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not racial, but national; it is political and territorial. It is a struggle between two peoples for a small land. Throughout the decades this struggle has oscillated between violence and attempts to negotiate a settlement. In the absence of a peace settlement, violence continues to torment Arabs and Jews and the plight of the Palestinians goes on.
More than anything else, the murder of the Jews stemmed from Nazi racial ideology. According to that ideology, the Jews were an evil race, whose very existence endangered Germany and all of human civilization. The Nazi campaign against the Jews was not focused on winning tangible gains, such as land and other wealth from the Jews. Its goal was to rid the world of the supposed pernicious influence of the Jews.
The Holocaust stemmed the Nazis' racial ideology and they tried to kill all the Jews. In the Holocaust a sovereign nation harnessed all the apparatus of their state to the goal of the mass systematic murder of a specific people.
The Nazis systematically murdered Jews in shooting actions and by gas in specially designed gas chambers in extermination camps. In the ghettos, camps and slave-labor installations under the Nazis, hundreds of thousands of Jews were also brutally worked to death. The end result was the murder of close to 6 million Jews.
As tragic as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be, it cannot be compared to the Holocaust. Using terms taken from the history of the Holocaust to describe the situation in the Middle East does more to obscure than to clarify the events and their consequences.
39 Why should the Palestinians, who had nothing to do with the Holocaust, pay the price for it?
The question of the Holocaust, as a human catastrophe, must be separated from the creation of the state of Israel and, more particularly, Israeli policies.
The hearts and minds of Palestinians and Israelis are burdened by sacred histories, by traditions of pain, by superstitions about the other, so much so that it is difficult for one to see the suffering of the other, now and in history.
The common Palestinian (and Arab) understanding of Jewish history, like the common Jewish understanding of Palestinian (and Arab) history, is riddled with malice and myth. It is the responsibility of intellectuals on both sides of the divide to try to correct the malice and the myth in the two communities. Muslim intellectuals must be courageous enough to declare that equating the Jews with the Nazis and drawing the Star of David (as a Jewish symbol) as the Nazi Swastika is not only absurd, but also the ultimate affront to victims of the Holocaust and their families - likening the victims to their executioners.
Jewish intellectuals, too, have a duty to erase the myth and malice that clutter their fellow Jews' view of the Palestinians and their legitimate aspirations.
Most importantly, the question of the Holocaust must remain separate from political disputes. Even if the Holocaust had played a decisive role in the creation of Israel, and even though Arabs did not have any part in the tragedy that visited the Jewish people, it would be morally unconscionable for Muslims to deny the Holocaust, or to consider acknowledgement of its having taken place to be a show of support for Israel or a betrayal of the Palestinians' rights.
40 Why is there so much talk about the Holocaust?
The Holocaust is not just about remembering and honoring the victims of Nazism. It stands as a warning of what can happen when leaders of a country are motivated by hate, and use that hate to supply simplistic answers to the problems of their country and blame a specific group of people, based on religious or ethnic divide, for all these problems. Although those willing to use their hatred to achieve their goals are few, if no one stands against them, they appear the majority. If there is one thing we must learn from the Holocaust, it is that silence is the worst enemy of justice. If we are to learn from the mistakes of the past, we cannot dismiss the Holocaust as history; we must take its lessons to heart.
Muslims - and indeed peoples of all faiths and no faith in particular - should study the causes and consequences of the Holocaust, especially the rhetorical devices used by political leaders, columnists and commentators in the decades leading up to it. And we must always remember that the Holocaust did not begin at Auschwitz or in the ghettos. It began long before, in the hearts of those who sat in silence and allowed hatred that was bred in ignorance to grow.