Turkey's chief rabbi takes office

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2002

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's Jewish community has installed Isak Haleva as chief rabbi, a 550-year-old post created when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul.

The 62-year-old Haleva has been acting chief rabbi and leader of the 25,000-member Jewish community since his election to the post in October.

In an elaborate ceremony Dec. 19 in Istanbul's main synagogue, Haleva was presented with a white, fringed prayer shawl by Israel's chief rabbi, Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron. A Turkish rabbi then draped a chain holding two golden tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments around his neck. The chain and the tablets are a symbol of the chief rabbi's office.

The post of Turkey's chief rabbi was first established by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453.

''I would like to emphasize that I am very proud of being a modest link in the chain of Turkey's chief rabbis,'' Haleva said in his address in Hebrew and Turkish.

Haleva replaces chief rabbi David Asseo -- who led the community for 41 years until his death in July, at the age of 88.

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