Led by Jewish community leader Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, the Jews in the northwestern province of Edirne hosted a public Iftar meal for their neighbors last week.
The meal which breaks the daily Ramadan fast was held in order to “express appreciation for the recent restoration of the historical Edirne Synagoge by the General Directorate of Foundations,” Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported. The synagogue was reopened on March 26.
Some 700 people showed up for the meal on June 21, according to the newspaper, which quoted the chief rabbi as saying, “We thought that the most convenient way to thank people in Edirne was to share an iftar meal with them.
“We thank them all very much,” Ibrahimzadeh was quoted as saying. “We returned to Edirne and found a more beautiful home than our own.”
According to the report, “Leading figures of the country’s Jewish community personally served guests at the Ramadan fast-breaking dinner in a tent set up by the Social Solidarity Foundation.”
The head of the Edirne office of the General Directorate for Foundations, Osman Güneren, attended the event.
The Grand Synagogue of Edirne was the second-largest synagogue in Europe, built in 1907 after a massive 1905 inferno in the city destroyed 13 separate Jewish houses of worship.
Allegedly “abandoned in 1983 due to a lack of worshipers,” Hurriyet reported, The synagogue was transferred for use as a museum to the local Thrace University after its restoration by the General Directorate of Foundations. Sharp criticism from the Turkish Jewish community put a stop to that plan, however.
Nevertheless, last year Edirne Governor Dursun Ali Sahin decided to punish the local Jewish population for Israeli government measures that were necessary to stop Palestinian Authority Arab violence on the Temple Mount.
In retaliation, Sahin announced the synagogue would be turned into a museum, rather than be returned to the Jewish community for worship following its restoration.
The Edirne governor later claimed his suggestion had “no connection” to Turkish Jews and apologized for the proposal. Four months later, a government ceremony was held to herald the reopening of the synagogue for use by the Jewish community.