Nov 26 2017

Turkish Jewish community leader ignores Israeli envoy because he is gay - Yedioth Ahronoth

The head of Turkey's Jewish community Ishak Ibrahimzadeh objected the appointment of Israel's new consul general to Turkey, Yossi Levi-Sfari, who is openly gay and lives with his male partner, Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported.

Ibrahimzadeh was "hurt," the newspaper quoted sources in the community, that Israel sent a senior envoy without taking their concerns into account and offended "honour of Turkey's Jews, most of whom are observant."

Times of Israel quoted Ibrahimzadeh as saying:

We respect all in the same way that we expect them to respect us as a community that is committed to halacha and the rules of the Torah. We have nothing against the man or Israel and its envoys, whom we will continue to respect as we maintain good relations with Israel. I do not need to be a close personal friend of the man.

After his appointment, Turkey's Jewish community refrained from inviting envoy Levi-Sfari to events at the central synagogue in Istanbul, Neve Shalom, and instead invited Israel's ambassador in Ankara, Eitan Naeh, to replace him, Yediot Ahronot said.

While Ambassador Naeh sought to find a solution, Israel Foreign Ministry fully supported Levi-Sfari and instructed the consulate to severe ties with Ibrahimzadeh in official conduct. Yediot Ahronot quoted Foreign Ministry as saying:

Yossi Levi-Sfari is an excellent and respected diplomat who served in the past as the head of the embassy in Ankara, and we reject with disgust any attempt to harm him through his private life.

Chief Rabbi of the Turkish Jews, Isak Haleva, welcomed Levi-Sfari and acknowledged him as Israel's representative in Istanbul, Yedioth Ahronoth wrote.

Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at CUNY Brooklyn College, said chief rabbi's endorsement is what matters.

Following Levi-Sfari's appointment at the end of October, Turkish Jewish community's Şalom newspaper has published the biography of the new consul general, noting his diplomatic success during the 2010 Gaza filotilla raid crisis between Turkey and Israel.