Turkey reclaim Istanbul Sephardic history with highly successful series

the mr orhanOwner of night club, you are in a hurry to ask your subordinate to do the task. “Look for them. There were none in Istanbul? We will try Ankara, Izmir“, says the boss Orhan to Celebi, your worker. “But sir, I’ve been searching for months. It’s not easy to find qualified workers and that they are only Turks. For example, I found a better server than Agopbut he’s not a Muslim either…”, replies Çelebi.

Orhan loses patience. Pressured by his own ambition, he wants the job done quickly: to fire all non-Turkish workers from his company. “Sir, can I ask you a question? Out of curiosity. Why fire non-Turks?”the country is changing, Celebi. Non-Muslims will have to accept it,” replies the boss.

The conversation, which takes place in Istanbul in the 1950s, could really have taken place, but it is fiction. This is the seriesClub Istanbul’ (Netflix), the latest Turkish soap opera breaking audience records. Like other Turkish productions, the series is full of subjects of love, betrayal, sex, intrigue and lots of drama.

But ‘Club Istanbul’ has something else: political content. This is the life of a jewish mother and her daughter at a time, in the 1950s, when Turkish nationalism dealt the final blow to the remaining Greek, Armenian and Jewish minorities in Istanbul. At early 20th century, the city was inhabited half by Turks, half by members of these communities. Today, in Istanbul, there is hardly a few thousand Jews, Greeks and Armenians.

“It had a big positive impact. level of knowledge. Until now, most Turks didn’t know anything about us, the community, and now they know more. Also, the way the series deals with Sephardim and the issue of Turkish citizenship is a breath of fresh air. Nesi Altarasmember of the Sephardic community in Turkey.

represent the other

“It was a first time. In Turkish series, minorities are usually portrayed as Men’s or, if there is a woman, it is a kind of fatal Woman; nail unscrupulous woman. But this series was different. The protagonists are normal women, who live a normal life and whom society stigmatizes to belong to the minority,” says Altaras, editor-in-chief of “Avlaremoz” magazine, an online platform promoting communication between different communities from Turkey.

“The ostracism suffered by the community in Turkey cannot be solved with a single series, but it is a step forward. For example, November – the month of the premiere of ‘Club Istanbul’ – was the month when ‘Avlaremoz’ received the most visits. Every year we have more readers and more followers,” added this Sephardic representative.

children of this land

‘Avlaremos’ is a word in ladino and it means the same thing, ‘we speak’. It is the language preserved by a few thousand Sephardim in Istanbul, a legacy of the Spanish they spoke when, in 1492, The Catholic Kings they expelled the 150,000 Jews who lived in Iberian Peninsula.

Most ended in extinction Ottoman Empireespecially in the cities of Thessaloniki, Izmir (now Izmir) and Istanbul, where for centuries it has been one of the most socially, culturally and economically active communities. Now, however, they live apart and closed in their circle.

“Istanbul and Anatolian is the place in the world where cultures and religions live more peace and communion. This land is also your land, so if someone asks you where you are from, you must say that you are from this country!” an Istanbul borough mayor said last December during the city’s celebration of Hanukkah (a Jewish religious holiday), despite the fact that Sephardim live on the banks of the river. Bosphorus. Said mayor, in fact, was born in a village thousands of kilometers east of Istanbul.

“It is exactly the dynamic of Turkish nationalism to present itself as hosts. And the Jewish elites participated in it, thinking that the closer you are to power, the better off you are. But this is not true. This idea hasn’t worked in the past and doesn’t work now: the community is losing more people every year. They leave more and moresaid Altaras.

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‘Club Istanbul’, the fashion series, however, offers an alternative, a communion which, despite everything, has existed and continues to exist. “What a beautiful song,” said a worker from the same club to the protagonist, Matilda Grooming. The worker recently arrived in Istanbul from a rural town in Anatolia. “It’s an old Sephardic song,” replies the protagonist, who continues to explain herself to the incomprehension of her interlocutor:

“The Sephardim are the Jews who migrated here centuries ago. Like me,” says Matilda. The boy’s response defines Turkey: “Oh, well. Well, like us”.

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