- Private tour of Istanbul’s Jewish sites
- See the Galata Tower, built in 1348
- Visit three synagogues
- Entrance fees included
What You Can Expect
First, visit to Ashkenaz Synagogue (upon availability). When the Jewish population in the old Pera and Galata districts (today encompassed by Beyoglu district) increased in the late 1930s, a Jewish primary school in the area was torn down in 1949 in order to build a new synagogue, Neve Shalom, and the construction was completed in 1951. Neve Shalom is the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul, open to service especially on Shabbats, high holidays, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals and weddings. Also visit the Jewish Musuem in this area.
Then drive to Balat along the Golden Horn, residential area of the Ottoman Jews where the 'Star of David' still appears on the facades of some buildings.
Next, visit Ahrida Synagogue in Balat, which is one of the oldest synagogues in Istanbul, built in the 15th century. It was built by Romaniotes (Greek Jews), but after the arrival of the Sephardic Jews it was used exclusively by them. Ahrida Synagogue is also the only synagogue in Istanbul at which Sabbatai Zevi, founder of the Jewish Sabbatean movement, prayed.
Our guide was wonderful. He wqs very warm and inviting. It would have been better, however, if a representative from each of the synagogues we visited had been able to tell us something about the congregation and not merely ask for a donation. Speaking with a congregant would have greatly added to our understanding of the Istanbul Jewish community - their customs, issues, etc. This, however, was not the fault of our guide.
FIrst I want to give the highest praise for our delightful,knowledgeable helpful, sweet, chic,friendly tour guide, Mine pronounced Meenay (hope her name is correct) This is a must see for anyone interested in Jewish Heritage. Our tour was half a day and fine for us.we had read of one dissatisfied traveller's opinion and were concerned. We were so interested in the three Synagogues we saw. Each with a different story. at Neve Shalom the Rabbi himself met with us. The tour for two was so well organized with our guide and driver. I don't know how much you want to read but The tour as set is wonderful and then we were given options of certain sites to see. A tour is a must as it is difficult to get from one area to another unless someone really directs you and takes you. It was surprising to learn that the Neve Shalom Synagogue ( I am pretty sure that is the one) does not have dues but is supported by contributions. Mine told us a great deal of information about the Jewish Community (24,000 Jews) and 16 active Synagogues as well as about Istanbul itself especially since we had just arrived the day before. Be prepared to do some walking on cobblestone streets...some of the fun about this through streets with much to see en route.
THe security is very tight as we appreciated and as it is necessary so plan ahead to send your passport information at least a week or more ahead of your tour.
Marcia and Richard Schaefer Delmar (near Albany) New York