June 5, 2007

Department of I'm-Not-Making-It-Up

From the Forward:

Shrine of False Messiah in Turkey May Be Razed
Jay Michaelson | Fri. May 18, 2007

Far away from the eyes of the Jewish mainstream, in modern-day Turkey there live hundreds, if not thousands, of crypto-Jews — and today, one of their most sacred shrines is in danger. Article tools

This is the hidden, fascinating tale of the doenmeh, descendants of the faithful followers of the 17th-century false messiah Sabbetai Tzvi, who converted to Islam in 1666. Tzvi’s own conversion came under duress: The Ottoman sultan demanded that he don the turban or die after nearly one-third of European Jewry had come to believe he was the messiah and had begun swarming into Turkey, expecting the long-awaited triumph of the Jews.

Tzvi chose to convert, and most of his followers lost hope — but not all of them. Many saw the conversion as a heroic act of tikkun, or repair, and followed their messiah’s lead by outwardly becoming Muslims while secretly maintaining their messianic Jewish faith. They were called doenmeh, meaning “turncoats”— a pejorative term not unlike marrano (“pig.”) Among themselves, they were called ma’aminim, “believers.” Sabbateanism did not die out in 1666, or even 10 years later when Tzvi himself died. There were subsequent messiahs — largely forgotten men like Baruchiah Russo and Jacob Frank — and, as recent scholarship has shown, Sabbateanism greatly influenced the 18th-century emergence of Hasidism. And then there are the doenmeh, who live on until the present day, in secretive communities, at first primarily in Salonika and today almost entirely in present-day Turkey.

A move to tear down the Turkish home where Tzvi is said to have lived, however, may now disturb the balance the community has cultivated for centuries.

Over the years, most of the doenmeh assimilated into Islam; many more were annihilated during the Holocaust, and still more have, in modern-day Turkey, come to see their background as a curious but largely irrelevant heritage. But even those who did assimilate usually maintained some knowledge of their ancestry, and doenmeh were among the founders of the secular Turkish republic. Today, many doenmeh are among Turkey’s elite, though it is taboo to speak their names; since doenmeh are regarded as traitors by both Muslims and Jews, it is scandalous to accuse a person of being one of them, even if his or her identity is an open, unspoken secret. (Recently-deceased Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem, for example, was “outed” by several Turkish newspapers, but he denied being a Sabbatean, and Iglaz Zorlu’s best-selling 1999 memoir, “Yes, I am a Salonikan,” stirred controversy throughout the country.) But the secret is open, like the doenmeh cemeteries outside of Istanbul, with their distinctively unadorned gravestones, and the mosques where doenmeh are known to pray.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

I've done a little reading on Gnostics and the reaction to them from the mainstream Christians of the time. As in the story of the Doenmeh, some Gnostics joined mainstream churches while keeping their true beliefs secret from all but each other. The "true" Christians kept a wary eye out for them.


Anonymous said...

It is said in Hollywood that the sexy wives of rich movie moguls,who have been forced to convert to Judaism,secretly practice Christianity behind closed doors! These woman,who are knowns as the Dontwork,are secretly enmeshed in the Hollywood Elite...hmmmm!

Anonymous said...

Today, many doenmeh are among Turkey’s elite

There are crypto-Jews in the elite in Turkey? Wow, that's really surprising. I guess there's a first time for everything.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Steve, the Drudge Report seems to think it's a big deal that Turkey is rolling tanks into Iraq today. But, uh, isn't Turkey a NATO ally? What's wrong with rolling into Iraq! Our "allies" are coming to the rescue after backstabbing us by not allowing the northern pincer movement at the beginning of war. So, they're trying to make it up to us now, right?

Technically, if the Kurds attack the Turks, that would be an attack on NATO, and we are required to provide assistance.

Maybe this Iraq thing's gonna work out after all.