Momentous Jewish Wedding in Turkey Sparks anti-Semitism Online

In Edirne a newly reopened Synagogue celebrated its first wedding in over four decades; responses to the live stream included 'kill the Jews' and references to 'occupied Palestine.'

Turkish Jewish community members attend the re-opening ceremony of the Great Synagogue of Edirne in western Turkey, March 26, 2015.
Murad Sezer, Reuters

A historic wedding in Turkey triggered a deluge of anti-Semitic speech online, a leader of the country’s Jewish community said.

Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, president of the Jewish Community of Turkey, said Sunday that some social network users responded with hate speech to his invitation to watch a live streaming video of the first Jewish wedding in 41 years in Edirne, a city in western Turkey near its border with Greece.

“Many anti-Semites regurgitated their hatred in Periscope,” Ibrahimzadeh said in reference to the streaming service that offered the feed from the wedding at the Great Synagogue of Edirne, which reopened last year after decades of disuse following a five-year government-sponsored restoration. “They are the reason for Islamophobia. Hand in hand, we will overcome them.”

Some users wrote “kill the Jews,” the news site nrg reported Sunday. One user wrote: “Such a pity that Hitler didn’t finish the job.” Others referenced “occupied Palestine.”

On Twitter, Ibrahimzadeh urged the Turkish Justice Ministry and the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights Inquiry to investigate those responsible for the hate speech for inciting racist hatred.

“Don’t the comments on Periscope about the Edirne synagogue constitute a hate crime?” Ibrahimzadeh asked.

Edirne has few Jews and nearly all of the hundreds of guests at the wedding of Guneş Mitrani and Harun Esenturk came from Istanbul, elsewhere in Turkey and beyond. Among the guests was the mayor of Edirne, Recep Gürkan.

At the synagogue, guests were under heavy police security. A Turkish television crew filmed police scanning flower arrangements with metal detectors at the entrance.

Still, the guests appeared to be in high spirits inside the ornate interior of the massive, cream-colored building. Dressed in designer suits and white kippahs, the guests cheered and whistled as a relative of the bride lifted the hem of her wedding dress to show off her white shoes.

After the ceremony, guests danced the hora, a Balkan dance that is also popular in Israel and at American Jewish weddings.