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Bergama’s 140 year old heritage Yabets Synagogue

Yabets synagogue, which was built in Bergama by Ephraim Bengiyat for his father Ishak Bengiyat in 1875, came back to life after renovations.

Source: Municipality of Bergama

The existence of the Jewish community in Bergama dates back to the 16th century. Such so that in the 1570's, the population of the Jewish congregation in Bergama was more than Izmir. (Tanaç, 2004, s.108). According to the registry in Aydın, there were 90 houses and 495 Jewish people around the synagogue in the 19th century. The 1884 yearbook mentions the existence of a synagogue in Bergama. (Eriş, 2003, s.137).

Yabets Synagogue, which is located in the center of Bergama in Turabey Quarter, is situated within a 3rd class archeological site. The synagogue, which was built in 1875 came back to life after renovations. 

There is an epigraph at the entrance of the synagogue in Hebrew that details its construction date and beneficiary.

 “By the grace of God... The tone belittled by the masters became the keystone. This structure was built by Ephraim Bengiyat for his father Ishak Bengiyat- may he rest in peace-. May God bless them. Year 5645 (1875)- the year of abundance and goodness!...”

Active until the 1950's 1950’li  

The synagogue was used continuously until the 50's, until the Jews left Bergama. In later years, it was used as the activity hall of the Society for the Protection of Children. Later on, a wall was built at the entrance to prevent anyone from entering. Access to the synagogue while it was open was via a stone lined podium that ran parallel to the eastern wall and began at the northern exterior. The original stone plating can still be seen today.

The synagogue was built with the masonry style. The rectangular planned structure has two floors. Access to the synagogue is via the canopy braided with cross vaults at the entrance on the eastern wall. The pulpit (bema) is located in the middle. The floor is covered with marble. The ceiling, as we can see from old photos, was covered with wood. The synagogue is covered with a hipped roof made with Turkish tiles. As we can see from the fading plaster, the interior walls were decorated with pencil works.

Pencil decorations on the pulpit

The pulpit is supported by four wooden beams which stand on stone pedestals. The pulpit is covered in bricks and then wooden beams. The pulpit makes a semi-circle protrusion in the east. The pulpit, except for the stairway exit, is surrounded by closets. There are railings between beams above the closets. The upper cover of the pulpit is carried on four columns. There are Corinth style column heads where the arches connect with the beams. Arch pediments and their lower sides are decorated with acanthus leaves. There are pencil decorations inside the arches and the ceiling of the pulpit. 

There are four types of windows in the synagogue. The first are the windows on the ground floor with stone jams and iron railings. The jambs are marble. There are wide clearings strengthened with metal rods on the upper floor.