Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, Nos. 3-4 / Winter 1997-98
Turkish Synagogues

Joel Zack and Dervon Jarvis Document Turkish Synagogues

Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey. Karaite Synagogue. Photo: Devon Jarvis.

Over a two month period in 1996, New York-based architect (and ISJM member) Joel Zack and photographer Devon Jarvis; along with Turkish architectural student Ceren Kahraman and Muharrem Zeybek, driver and guide, traveled 6,000 miles documenting fifty Turkish synagogues and former synagogues, producing a rich descriptive, graphic and photographic archive. Sixty photographs, including many large-format color prints, were recently exhibited at the 92nd St. Y in New City. The project was funded by the Maurice Amado Foundation and the Mitrani Family Foundation.

In this work, Zack has continued an effort begun 12 years ago when he received an ISJM grant to begin work in Morocco. This was continued in 1989 in association with Isaiah Wyner as a project of the World Monuments Fund. Zack has also carried out on-site research on Romania synagogues as a Fullbright grant recipient. During these research trips Zack has developed an effective and efficient methodology which includes enlisting the support of local Jewish communities to locate Jewish quarters and synagogues and working quickly with a small team to measure and photograph buildings, as well as to interview local people for additional information about the history of the sites. Zack reports that he received full cooperation from the Turkish Jewish community and no interference from government officials, despite the concerns at the time about the anti-secular policies of the (now former) government.

The work of Zack, Jarvis and Kahraman adds significantly to a growing body of documentation about Turkish Jewish monuments. In recent years a number of research and documentation projects have been carried out in the country, including the recording of cemetery epitaphs by a team lead by Mina Rozen of Hebrew University; photography and film making with an ethnographic slant by Ayse GÀÀrsan-Salzmann and Laurence Salzmann; documentation of Turkish synagogues and Judaica by the Center for Jewish Art; and the photography of Turkish synagogues by Erson Alik. These projects, together with other documentation efforts in Morocco, Egypt and Syria, are greatly altering the Eurocentric view of architectural achievements in synagogue building. -- SG

[Table of Contents] [Top of Article] [Next Article]

Contact the Editor of Jewish Heritage Report
Updated: 23-July-98