16 Nisan 2018 Pazartesi
The Karaim, Turkish Jews from the Caspian Sea
türkçe links to original Turkish article
(Milliyet Newspaper, 16 April 2018)
The Karaim congregation, known as Jewish Turks, is Turkey's
smallest religious community. Worldwide the number of
Karaim followers does not exceed 20,000 and there are only 70
of them in Turkey, all in Istanbul. Two or three times a year the
congregation meets in their place of worship, called the "Karay
Kenesası", located in the Hasköy section of the city.
The Karaim congregation's leader is Mihail Örme (84) and he
explained to Milliyet that "there are so few of us anymore that
we don't open the Kenesa for months at a time, perhaps 3-4
times a year. Who will be my successor is a question mark
because with so few members we haven't been able to find one."
Örme discussed the congregation's religious and social structure
as follows: "we read Turkish prayers from our sacred book in
our place of worship but the book is different than traditional
Judaism. The Karays' belief is a bit different than that of the
Jews. We take as our basis the Ten Commandments but we
don't accept the Talmud, which was added to the Tevrat at a
later time. Instead of Yehova, we say Tengri. Additionally,
we accept Jesus and Mohammed as prophets. We have
rituals that resemble those of Moslems. For example, before
entering the Kenesa we wash our hands and feet like Moslems.
We also open our hands and caress our faces. We make a
sacrifice every year on 21 August and give 10% of our income
to the poor. A male child must be circumcised within 8 days
of birth. Our marriage customs are like those of Moslem Turks.
We take the bride to a bath before the wedding and the marriage
meal consists of dolma, meats, börek, rice pilav and stewed
Karays' "Kenesa" (place of worship) is in Hasköy on the
With regard to the roots of the Karays and their dispersal in
Turkey, Örme said that "We are the descendants of the Hazar
Turks, who were descended from the Huns. We are Turkish
Jews who aren't Hebrews, a sect of Judaism. During the time
of Fatih Sultan Mehmet (1451-1488) some Karays were brought
from various areas of Anatolia to Istanbul's Karaköy section.
The name 'Karaköy' comes from the fact that there were many
Karays in the neighborhood. In Hebrew the word 'Karay' is
'Kara', meaning 'to read'. The plural for 'Karay' is 'Karaim' and
Most of the congregation live in Karaköy.
Ömre explained how the Hazar Turks first became Jews: "Karay
religious leader İshak Ben Sanghari tried to spread the religion
in 740 A.D. He heard that the Hazar Emperor wanted to hear
about the three major religions so he could be rid of idol worship.
İshak Ben Sanghari went to the empire's capital of İtil on the
western shore of the Caspian Sea and the Khan was persuaded
to accept Judaism and most of his people accepted this religion,
From whence they came.