Istambul has a Donmeh Community of 15,000 members, followers of Sabbatai Zevi, the false prophet.
The Donmeh community is to outward appearances Mohammedan, although in secret its members observe certain Jewish writs, in spite of the fact that the Jews themselves are regarded by them as infidels.
They live in sets of houses secretly connected and for each block of houses there is a secret meeting place where prayers are read. Their houses are lighted by green shaded lamps so as to render them less conspicuous.
The men have two sets of names, a religious one, which they keep secret, and a Turkish one. Their children are left in ignorance of their ture religion and are not initiated therein until the age of thirteen or at marriage. They believe that one day the patriarch Jacob will appear and on Saturday they send a woman and her children to the sea-shore to inquire whether the ship has been sighted. Every morning the elders scrutinize the horizon for the same purpose.
The Donmeh rabbis are well versed in the Bible and know the Zohar almost by heart. They regard the Spanish-Judean tongue as sacred because it was the language of Sabbatai Zevi.
A small group of the sect live in Salonica.
During the pre-war persecutions of the Turks in Salonica a number of the sect appealed to Great Britain for help. At the time they admitted they were of pure Jewish origin, never having intermarried and remaining a pure Jewish race.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.