We begin our tour of Istanbul’s Jewish heritage with a visit to the Galata District of Istanbul and the Ashkenazi Synagogue. Built in 1900 by Austrian Jews, it is the only active Ashkenazi Synagogue in the city. From there we will take a short walk to the Neve Shalom Synagogue*, built by two young Turkish-Jewish architects to meet the demands of the growing Jewish population in the neighborhood in 1930. Afterward, we will visit the Jewish Museum of Turkey, located in the former Zulfaris Synagogue, constructed by Italian Jews in the 15th century, during the Republic of Genoa’s rule of the Galata disctrict as a semi-autonomous precinct. Next, we will take a stroll along the breathtaking Golden Horn to the neighborhood of Balat, once the most important Jewish neighborhood in Istanbul, as evidenced by the superb architecture of its Jewish houses and the Ahrida, Istanbul’s oldest synagogue. First built in the 1400s, the building has been extensively restored and reflects architectural styles from several periods. It houses an immaculate collection of carved wood furniture, including a pulpit that resembles a boat’s prow - possibly a reference to Noah’s Ark. For lunch we’ll enjoy authentic Turkish cuisine in the charming Bosphorus village of Ortakoy. Lunch will be followed by a leisurely tour of the village which boasts an alluring combination of well-preserved historic wooden houses and charming local boutiques. Ortakoy’s Jewish roots will be explored with a visit to the Etz Ahayim Synagogue, rebuilt in 1941 following a fire, within view of the iconic Bosphorus bridge.
*This tour is not available on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays, when the synagogues are in use for services and weddings.