Hillel groups at Yale University, UCLA, and New York University marked the suicide bombing of two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, last Shabbat. The attacks severely damaged the buildings, killed 24, and injured over 300. The victims included Jews and non-Jews alike.
Hillel encourages local groups to undertake appropriate activities to memorialize this event. Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning offers the following text to be read this Shabbat to honor the Turkish Jewish community:
Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi (1450-1526) was the most renowned rabbinic authority in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. He was of Turkish origin and served as the leader of that community and the community of Spanish exiles who came to the Ottoman Empire after the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492. Mizrachi is renowned for his super-commentary on Rashi's popular commentary on the Torah. It is noteworthy to realize that the Jews were welcomed in Turkey during his lifetime and have co-existed peacefully in Moslem Turkey for hundreds of years. Rabbi Mizrachi, in contradistinction to other sages of the time, did not isolate the Karaite Jewish community - a Jewish group which did not accept Rabbinic law -- and chose to teach them religious and secular subjects. In this week's Parsha, Chayyei Sarah, he comments on the verse: "and Yitzhak and Yishmael his (Avraham's) sons buried him (Avraham)..."
Rashi comments: "From here we see that Yishmael returned and was reconciled, for he allowed Yitzhak to walk before him..."
Rabbi Mizrachi elaborates for Rashi: "It is stated in Midrash Rabba on Genesis that Yishmael offered respect to Yitzhak by allowing him to go first, even though Yishmael was the oldest. It is from this gesture that the Rabbis learned that Yishmael had returned and was reconciled during Avraham's lifetime."
In this dark moment of senseless carnage, may the model of the Ottoman Turks who received our brothers and sisters in exile, and the model of modern Turkey be a beacon for what might be possible between the children of Isaac and Ishmael.