Photo Credit: Rabbi Mendy Chitrik / Twitter
Volunteers rescue the ancient Torah scrolls in the earthquake-struck community of Antakya, once known as Antioch, in southeastern Turkey.

The head of the Jewish community in Antakya and his wife are both feared dead in the horrific series of earthquakes that struck Turkey beginning on Monday and continuing into Tuesday.


Saul and his wife Fortuna Cenudioglu remain unaccounted for in the southern Turkish city.

“The president of the Jewish community in Antakya and his wife were apparently killed in the disaster,” Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Irit Lillian said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News.

Antakya, also known as Antioch, is the capital of Hatay province and was home to a 2,300-year-old Jewish community that once was thriving but by Monday, when the earthquake struck, had just 14 members remaining.

Miraculously, the Torah scrolls and sacred texts that were in Antakya’s ancient synagogue were rescued, and have been moved to a safe place.

The Torahs are all very old, including one with an inscription from more than 350 years ago, carrying the names of donors and scribes. Other scrolls are even older, handwritten on deer skin.

The city is in southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria, and southwest of Gaziantep, the epicenter of the first, 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck early Monday morning.

Janudi’s home was destroyed in that initial quake, and it is feared that he and his wife are trapped in the ruins.

Antakya – Antioch – was the seat of power of the Seleucid Empire and of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the monarch responsible for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.