Due to the secular character of the new educational system, religious instruction was not allowed in public schools. Organized resistance by minorities was suppressed by the government and religious centers were closed. Jewish social relief organizations and Jewish schools found themselves in an unbearable financial position.
Of the 8,000 school-age-obligated [Jewish] children in Istanbul in 1929, 6,000 attended school, about 3,500 at Jewish schools, and 2,500 at Christian mission schools. Foreigners were not permitted to teach at the Jewish schools.
The new republic promised Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood [the motto of the French Revolution] to all the citizens of the state, without distinction as to religion or ethnicity. However, the government demanded that minorities renounce the rights guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Lausanne, and the Jews complied. Family names were Turkified. Hebrew prayer books appeared with Roman letters. [When Turkey became a republic after WWI, the Arabic alphabet was dropped in favor of the Roman, or Latin, alphabet we use and which Turkey still uses to this day.]
After the separation of religion and state, the higher rabbinate, which had played such a large role in the history of Jews in Turkey, was stripped of its official character.
The Turkey of today  is no place for immigrants. The Law for the Promotion of Industry appears to mean that all enterprises, which may work to provide benefit to the state – which is to say, practically all enterprises, period – may employ only Turkish citizens. Foreigners who came to Turkey recently with the hope of finding opportunity were bitterly disappointed.
“The general economic situation,” reported an emigrant, “simply defies any description. We warn all Jewish immigrants thinking of going to Turkey…we are all totally and spiritually sick and broken-down. I think I’m losing my mind.”
On the other hand, a number of Jewish professors and high school managers from Germany were given employment at the reorganized University of Istanbul. A few engineers and merchants have managed to fill certain niches, but it’s only a handful.
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.
About the Author: 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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