Growing Up Jewish in Ankara

November 9, 2015 | Leyla Aglamaz
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Turkey’s present-day capital was once home to a thriving Jewish community, albeit never one as large or prominent as those in Istanbul and Izmir. Leyla Algamaz, who emigrated from there to Israel in 1971, recalls her childhood in the 1940s and 50s. (Interview by Dora Niyego.)

The Jews of Ankara were not very observant; we tried to perform rituals to the best of our abilities. The most important tradition was to attend the synagogue, which we called the kal. If they had to work [on Shabbat], community members would make sure to attend synagogue in the morning, then attend to their businesses. On Friday evenings, men returning early from work would change to their Shabbat clothes and attend services.

Friday-night meals were always better and different [from those served on] other nights. [There was always] delicious food and a meticulously set dinner table. Every woman knew that her husband could come back from services with guests. If anyone was in Ankara due to business or military service and attended the synagogue, he could be sure that he would be invited over to dinner. . . .

Volunteers in the community would help the needy, visit the sick, and offer support and attend to families with members on their death beds as well as [perform the ritual purification of the deceased]. These ladies would perform their duties willingly and sincerely.

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