While the vast majority of Jews living in the Ottoman Empire were the descendants of the Sephardic exiles from Spain and Portugal, at least since the 17th century communities of Ashkenazic Jews had lived in Istanbul and in other Ottoman cities. Because of their importance in international trade between Istanbul, the Black Sea area and Poland, Ashkenazim were continually aware both of the Sephardim and of the Turks. After the Ottoman conquest of Podolia in 1672 and the period of Phanariot Greek rule in Moldova (beginning 1711), Ashkenazim, Turks and Greeks were drawn into closer contact. This contact had many cultural repercussions, including the humor of the 18th century Hasidic jester Hershele Ostropolier of Balta (1770?-1810), based in part on the stories of Turkish Nasreddin Hodja, and structural similarities between Ottoman Sufism and Hasidism, which arise in the formerly Ottoman Podolian Ukraine.
Faculty: Walter Zev Feldman