RABBI Mendy Chitrik wants to clear something up before we begin our conversation — reports of his community’s slow death have been greatly exaggerated.
The amiable 44-year-old is the head of the Ashkenazi Community of Turkey. That is despite most of the country’s Jews being of Sephardi heritage.
And even though Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has implemented a vehemently anti-Israel agenda, the Jews of Muslim Turkey are perfectly happy.
“I understand how things are portrayed in the media,” Rabbi Chitrik told me from his home in Istanbul. “Judaism is the longest surviving and practised religion in Turkey.
“I have been here for over 20 years and not once have I encountered any direct antisemitism.
“I obviously look like a rabbi and I sometimes walk in the streets speaking Hebrew, but there has never been an issue.”
A few months ago, Israel-born Rabbi Chitrik met President Erdogan, together with numerous luminaries, including Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar and Erol Kohen, president of the Turkish Jewish community, at his palace in Ankara.
There, they presented him with an ornate menorah to mark Chanukah.
“It is normal for Jews to live in Muslim countries, as it has been for thousands of years,” Rabbi Chitrik said.
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