Jewish Leaders in Turkey Urge Jews to Speak Turkish in Public Places

Acting under pressure of recent criticism in official quarters of minority groups, Istanbul Jewish communal leaders have embarked on a campaign designed to make Jews speak in Turkish in public places.

The campaign, carried on in synagogue and Jewish press, urges Jews not to “shout” in French or Ladino, the language spoken by Sephardic Jews, in buses, restaurants, hotels, night clubs or at the beach.

Although recent remarks in public by important Turkish leaders about the use of foreign languages by minority groups were aimed chiefly at the Greek minorities the Turkish people have generalized these remarks to include all minorities. In a recent debate in Parliament it was suggested that all minority group members be forced to speak Turkish in public.

The Jewish community was the first to react to the “speak Turkish” campaign and a special commission was organized to implement it within the community. Most Turkish Jews over 30 years of age still speak Ladino or French as their major language.

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