south of the Bosphorus Bridge is Kuzguncuk.
Two synagogues here played an important
part in the life of the Judeo-Spanish
community in Istanbul.
Kuzguncuk once had a large and active
Jewish community, there are few Jewish
residents today, and the synagogues here
are heavily used only on holidays
and special occasions, though they
are customarily open on Shabbat.
you get as far as Kuzguncuk, you
should make the effort to see nearby Beylerbeyi
a residential suburb just south of
the eastern pylon of the southernmost
Bosphorus Bridge, and north of Üsküdar.
one can take a taxi to Kuzguncuk
from any part of Istanbul, it is
less expensive and far more enjoyable
to cross the Bosphorus by ferryboat,
every 15 minutes from Karaköy
to Haydarpasa or Kadiköy, or
from Eminönü or
Kabatas to Üsküdar, and
then to take a taxi, minibus
dolmush or bus north
for the short ride to Kuzguncuk.
Caddesi, the location of the
synagogues, is the main street
heading inland, right in the
center of Kuzguncuk. If you
go by minibus or bus, get off at
the Kuzguncuk stop, which is right
at Icadiye Caddesi.
TO SEE IN KUZGUNCUK
The Merkez (Central) Synagogue,
Icadiye Caddesi no. 9, also called
the Beth Yaakov Synagogue,
just southeast of the shore road
on the left-hand side, is entered
from a courtyard by marble steps
beneath a small Victorian porch.
marble-floored interior has walls
painted with trompe l'oeil "stone" panels,
but it is the synagogue's interior
dome which attracts attention with
its paintings of scenes from
Israel. The ark is at one
end of the hall, the bema (or
teva) at the other end.
Synagogue, Yakup Sokak No.
8, is less than 300 meters southeast
uphill from the Merkez along pleasant
tree-shaded Icadiye Caddesi. Continue
up Icadiye Caddesi to Icadiye Hamam
Sokak and turn right; Yakup Sokak
is a short dead-end street on the
right-hand side of Icadiye Hamam
Virane is smaller and less impressive
than the Merkez, with walls covered
in wood-grain contact paper, and
small chandeliers. It is an intimate
space, obviously quite old, and interesting
though not impressive. Entry is through
a small courtyard past the midrash (the
ground floor of the synagogue), then
up a flight of steps to the synagogue
proper, on the upper floor.
Merkez and the Virane synagogues
were informally known as the Kal
de Abaso ("Lower Synagogue," the
Merkez) and Kal de Ariva ("Upper
Synagogue," the Virane)
east along Icadiye Caddesi is the Kuzguncuk
Jewish Cemetery, which is still
1-1/3 km (one mile) northeast of
Kuzguncuk on the Bosphorus shore
Palace (closed Monday and
Thursday). Take a taxi, minibus
dolmush or bus north
from Kuzguncuk to the Çayirbasi stop,
then walk a few steps south to the
Kuzguncuk and Beylerbeyi have many
good waterfront restaurants,
just right for a pleasant lunch or
afternoon snack during sightseeing.
Jewish Sites in Istanbul
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