Jewish Life in Twenty-First-Century Turkey
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Cosmopolitanism and Jewish identity in Istanbul

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Turkey is famed for a history of tolerance toward minorities, and there is a growing nostalgia for the "Ottoman mosaic." In this richly detailed study, Marcy Brink-Danan examines what it means for Jews to live as a tolerated minority in contemporary Istanbul. Often portrayed as the "good minority," Jews in Turkey celebrate their long history in the region, yet they are subject to discrimination and their institutions are regularly threatened and periodically attacked. Brink-Danan explores the contradictions and gaps in the popular ideology of Turkey as a land of tolerance, describing how Turkish Jews manage the tensions between cosmopolitanism and patriotism, difference as Jews and sameness as Turkish citizens, tolerance and violence.

Preface: The Ends and Beginnings of 1992

1. Tolerance, Difference, and Citizenship
2. Cosmopolitan Signs: Names as Foreign and Local
3. The Limits of Cosmopolitanism
4. Performing Difference: Turkish Jews on The National Stage
5. Intimate Negotiations: Turkish Jews Between Stages
6. The One Who Writes Difference: Inside Secrecy




Publié par
Date de parution 06 décembre 2011
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253005267
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Jewish Life in 21st-Century Turkey
Daphne Berdahl, Matti Bunzl, and Michael Herzfeld, founding editors
Harvey E. Goldberg and Matthias Lehmann, editors
Jewish Life in 21st-Century Turkey
Marcy Brink-Danan
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
601 North Morton Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47404-3797 USA
Telephone orders 800-842-6796
Fax orders 812-855-7931
2012 by Marcy Brink-Danan
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Brink-Danan, Marcy.
Jewish life in twenty-first-century Turkey : the other side of tolerance / Marcy Brink-Danan.
p. cm. - (New anthropologies of Europe) (Indiana series in Sephardi and Mizrahi studies)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-253-35690-1 (cloth : alk. paper) - ISBN 978-0-253-22350-0 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Jews-Turkey-Istanbul-History-21st century. 2. Jews-Turkey-Istanbul-Identity. 3. Istanbul (Turkey)-Ethnic relations. I. Title.
DS135.T8B75 2012
305.892 40561-dc23
1 2 3 4 5 17 16 15 14 13 12
For Sagi, Ari, Eitan, and Zohar
PREFACE : The Ends and Beginnings of 1992
1 Tolerance, Difference, and Citizenship
2 Cosmopolitan Signs: Names as Foreign and Local
3 The Limits of Cosmopolitanism
4 Performing Difference: Turkish Jews on the National Stage
5 Intimate Negotiations: Turkish Jews Between Stages
6 The One Who Writes Difference: Inside Secrecy
The Ends and Beginnings of 1992
Jews? Mete Tapan, Istanbul city planner, had to think for a minute. One knows they are there but they don t even comprise 1% of the population. No one knows how they vote or what their interests would be. They don t count.
-Fleminger 2003
Although there has not been an official census of Jews in Turkey since the 1960s, recent population estimates range from 18,000 to 25,000 (Tuval 2004:xxxiii; Tokta 2006a:123), making Turkey today home to the highest number of Jews outside Israel in the lands that once comprised the Ottoman Empire. Jews in Turkey constitute a negligible fraction of Turkey s overall population of approximately seventy million people and, as described by the city planner, Turkish Jews don t count for much in the polling booth. Nonetheless, over the past few decades Jews in Turkey have taken on an increasingly public role, brokering Turkish diplomatic ties with Israel. As Turkey s model minority, they also have advocated for the republic as it has vied for European Union accession.
During the early years of the Turkish Republic, the process of becoming Turkish and the fear of not being perceived as Turkish enough engendered a profusion of effacing social practices among Jews and other minorities in Istanbul (Bali 2001). Just over half a century later, European Union overtures set the stage for Jews to stand symbolically (and publicly) for the tolerated Other in Turkish society. This role was consolidated in 1992 with a Turkish-led international celebration of the five-hundred-year anniversary of Jews finding refuge from the Spanish Inquisition in the lands of the Ottoman Empire. According to the statement of purpose of the Quincentennial Foundation, an organization led by Jewish and Muslim Turkish elites, the commemoration
not only celebrates the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Sephardic [Spanish] Jews on Turkish soil in 1492, but also the remarkable spirit of tolerance and acceptance which has characterized the entire Jewish experience in Turkey. This spirit is not an insulated instance of humanitarianism; throughout its history Turkey has welcomed people of different creeds, cultures and backgrounds. The Jewish community of Turkey is a part of this tradition. 1
This description, with its claim that Turkey s national spirit is infused with a cosmopolitan regard for others, set the agenda for a public awareness campaign to improve Turkey s international image. If, due to their small numbers and historically low profile, Turkish Jews were previously not considered meaningful players in the Turkish political scene, this campaign, with its museums, academic treatises, and heritage tours, offered them a public platform from which to count as a quintessentially, and quincentennially, tolerated minority. In 1991, Turkey had officially upgraded relations with Israel to the embassy level (Elazar and Weinfeld 2000:367); Quincentennial celebrations, attended by Turkish and Israeli politicians, gathered momentum at the same time that Turkey s relations with Israel were warming. In parallel, the 1990s witnessed an increase in Jewish contributions to Turkish efforts to court Europeans, who made Turkish officials recognition of their country s own heterogeneous population a central condition for Turkey s acceptance into the European Union.
Partially due to the Foundation s sponsorship and energetic activities, academic publication about Ottoman and Turkish Jewry experienced a florescence around the Quincentennial. 2 Stanford Shaw s Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic is dedicated to the Muslim and Jewish Turks of the Republic of Turkey, in celebration of five hundred years of brotherhood and friendship 1492-1992 (1991:frontispiece). Shaw ends his book with reference to the Quincentennial Foundation and its activities and officials, as if Turkish Jewry ceased to exist after this date. Shaul Tuval s ha-Kehilah ha-Yehudit be-Istanbul, 1948-1992 ( The Jewish Community in Istanbul, 1948-1992 ) (2004) collects, for the first time, comprehensive demographic and statistical research about modern Turkish Jewry, yet the Quincentennial year likewise ends his story. The cover of his book borrows the Foundation s imagery (a painting of Spanish exiles arriving at the empire) and its motto: An Example to Humanity.
These chronicles, and many others that appeared contemporaneously, were not only timely in terms of the commemoration but also overdue in the intellectual realm; both Jewish and Turkish Studies canons had largely overlooked the stories of modern Turkish Jews. However, in these accounts, 1992 appears as the denouement of Turkish Jews happy story. In fact, the celebratory events marked, in a dramatic fashion, a new beginning. Life under Ottoman rule had afforded Jews a degree of autonomy that was maintained by keeping to themselves and paying their taxes. Proto-republican political reforms and the new republic s assimilating policies conditioned Turkish Jews (and other minorities) to downplay difference in public. If, historically, Turkish Jews kept a low profile, 3 now they (or, more correctly, their officials and other prominent figures) have changed tactics. Quincentennial fever engendered a role reversal in which Jews could be called upon to perform publicly the very differences (languages, accents, rituals, beliefs, musical traditions, and so on) they had endeavored to keep private for so long. This book enters the scene to document, through ethnography and archival analysis, Jewish life in Turkey since 1992. If portrayals of Turkish Jewry end felicitously at the Quincentennial, this work invites the reader to stick around after the party, to enjoy the afterglow of merriment but also to clean up (at least analytically) the mess created during the festivities.
I developed sections of this book as a fellow at the Center for Jewish History (CJH) in New York in 2003-2004. Studying the archives of the Quincentennial Foundation s American arm, held by the American Sephardi Federation at CJH, allowed me to draw a clear picture of the chronology and dissemination of the Turkish tolerance trope, with trope here being understood as a style of historical discourse (White 1982). Mallet s work (2008) on the history of official self-representations among Turkish Jews meticulously details this process and contextualizes the rise of the tolerance trope against the realpolitik of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a period that has been noted for improved Israel-Turkish relations, Turkish overtures to the European Union, and local political change. As someone with little exposure to the world of public relations but with a deep interest in how texts travel, I found it striking to see how press releases about Turkish tolerance generated by the Foundation s public relations group spread like wildfire across American Jewish and general news venues in anticipation of the Quincentennial celebrations.
Although some have seen increased anthropological attention to historical tropes as an encroachment on the historian s purview (and sometimes at the expense of more traditional ethnographic fieldwork) (see Tsing 2009:61), a basic understanding of the tolerance trope is central to understanding the way Jews understand their past and present as Ottoman subjects and Turkish citizens. At the same time, working on this project strengthened my convictions about the importance of putting media and

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