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Two Turkish Jews Killed in Quake, Community Helps Countrymen Rebuild

August 25, 1999
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Two vacationing Jews from Istanbul and 25 Israeli tourists were killed in last week’s devastating earthquake in Turkey, according to the World Jewish Congress.

Despite the deaths and scope of the tragedy, most Jewish citizens of Turkey emerged largely unscathed.

But the Jewish community — which numbers about 23,000 people, mostly in Istanbul — is still shaken, and is helping with the relief effort.

“Some of us have suffered damage at plants and factories but it cannot compare to what the poor population is going through,” wrote Lina Filiba, a Turkish Jewish community professional, in an e-mail message to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

There have been no reports of damage to synagogues or other Jewish institutions.

In an effort coordinated by Turkey’s chief rabbi, the Jewish community collected $50,000 for earthquake relief, said Tilda Levi, chief editor of Shalom, Turkey’s Jewish newspaper. The chief rabbi could not be reached for comment.

According to Levi, Turkish Jews are also helping to construct pre-fabricated homes for the many people left homeless by the earthquake and each day, 30 to 40 Turkish Jews are volunteering as translators for international relief workers.

Jews are also involved in other relief efforts, said another Shalom editor, Luizet Palombo, who spent her Shabbat — with a group of co-workers from an American consulting firm — digging out corpses from a collapsed building.

“We still can feel that smell on our noses,” she said, in a phone interview Monday, recalling the slow rescue work.

“I didn’t lose any relatives, but I lost some friends and neighbors,” she added. “Everybody lost somebody he or she knows.”

The Israeli government and American Jewish community are also aiding in relief efforts. Israel sent a team of more than 200 relief workers and airlifted several plane-loads of supplies collected from Israeli citizens and corporations.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, American Jewish World Service and B’nai B’rith International are collecting funds for earthquake relief.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which sends Jewish doctors to aid in relief efforts throughout the world, also has dispatched disaster relief specialist Dr. Richard Hodes to Turkey to assess medical needs in the field.

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