The Neve Shalom Synagogue is located near the Galata Tower. It is not only Istanbul’s central synagogue of Sephardic Jews and the seat of the Istanbul Chief Rabbinate, it is also the largest house of worship of the Jewish Community in Turkey.
Weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvahs (Jewish ritual for the transition into religious adulthood) as well as the inauguration of the Chief Rabbi are regularly held here.
Its construction was decided in the 1930s due to the rapidly increasing Jewish population in Galata and completed after two years of construction on May 25, 1951. The structure was built on the foundation of a 15th-century Sephardic synagogue and designed by the young architects Elyo Ventura and Bernar Motola, who had completed their architectural studies at the Istanbul Technical University in the late 1940s. Thus, it is considered as an example of modern architecture from the early days of the Turkish Republic.
Its dome is decorated with an eight-ton chandelier; the windows of the Neve Shalom were designed at the Mimar Sinan Academy of Fine Arts and made with valuable stained glass from England. It is the only synagogue on the Golden Horn that has an intact Jewish bath (Mikveh), which serves to correct the condition of ritual impurity through ablution.
Neve Shalom means “Oasis of Peace” but the peace came to a sudden end in 1986 and 2003 when the house of prayer became a target of vicious terrorist attacks.
The first attack took place on September 6, 1986, during a Shabbat service, leading to the deaths of 22 Jewish citizens.
The second attack was carried out on Saturday, November 15, 2003, once again during a Shabbat prayer. Two vehicles in front of the synagogues Neve Shalom and Bet Israel in Şişli exploded simultaneously. The suicide attacks were committed by the Turkish affiliate of the Al-Qaeda network “Ebu Hafsa el-Mısri Tugayları”. Twenty-eight people were killed in the massive detonations, including six Jews, 17 Muslims and the assassins themselves. 240 people were injured, some of them seriously.
Today, the synagogue is hidden behind a concrete wall and can not be seen from the street.
The premises of the Jewish Museum of Turkey are also situated here.