Guler Orgun -- A Turkish-Jewish-Muslim-Tale

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In the traditional Ladino language of her Sephardic Jewish ancestors, Güler Orgun tells us how her family found a new home in the Ottoman Empire after being expelled from Spain in the late 15th century.
We learn why her parents converted to Islam, and how Güler herself later came to find her Jewish roots again - before she married a Muslim man

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Guler traces her story back 500 years – to Spain in 1492 when Christopher Columbus was sailing west from Port of Palos. Columbus departed from this relatively unknown seaport as the larger ports were clogged with Jews departing from Spain.


Guler’s Jewish ancestors arrived in the Ottoman Empire (1300-1923). At its peak, the empire covered most parts of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe as well as parts of the Maghreb and of the Mashriq.


During the First World War, the Allied powers had made a series of agreements that outlined the dismantling and partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The remaining sections of the Empire, which included Istanbul and part of northern Anatolia were overseen by Allied administration. At this time, a Turkish national movement under the leadership of Atatürk began to grow.


Guler Orgun was born in Istanbul in 1937. Two years later, the German invasion of Poland triggered World War II, which led to the destruction of the vast majority of European Jewry, planned during the infamous Wannsee conference in January 1942. 


Guler’s parents converted to Islam as her father wanted to become a Turkish citizen. He then changed his name to Avni Tunçer 

To do so they visited a Mufti. A Mufti is an interpreter of Islamic law.

Guler was born Muslim, but converted to Judaism in order to marry her first husband, Ceki Karasu. They were married in Istanbul’s Neve Shalom Synagogue


Gulur lives in the Turkish capital city of Istanbul. She speaks of it as a place where Europe and Asia meet. In the 1970s the Bosphorus Bridge was constructed, connecting the two continents. 

Istanbul used to be known as Constantinople. In the 1920s Atatürk officially changed the name to Istanbul. 

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