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When the Turks conquered Constantinople they encountered three Jewish communities: Jews from Greece, Germany, and Italy. The Jewish settlements increased rapidly. Already at the beginning of the 16th century the city shaped itself as a major Jewish center, similar to the significance of today’s New York. At the beginning of the 16th century there were an estimated 18,000 Jews in Constantinople, and by the middle of the century some 50,000 – an unheard of number for that time in history.

In the second decade of the 16th century there were already in Constantinople sixteen communities; by the middle of the 16th century the number had increased to 44.

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Next month we’ll continue with the story of the Jews of European Turkey.

Ezra James Nollet is a retired U.S. government chemist living in Poland where he is officer of the local synagogue in Legnica. Before the Deluge appears the last week of each month.

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