[merged small][ocr errors]


in many respects out-Mormon Mormons | tion, to the graves of their relatives, there
and have customs as quaint as any to be to excite them to frenzy by reading por-
be found in central Africa. Moreover tions of Scripture, and finally to drive them
they live in Europe in the ancient city of home again like sheep when the ceremony
Salonika, and come of the most ancient is over, with lacerated arms and faces,
stock in the world, namely, the Hebrew; uttering bitter wails. Their cemetery the
they are bound together by ties that none Jews call "the house of the living;
dare break, they are a double-faced race, the dead they look upon as alive, and
a race with two distinct religions, a race passing the first eleven months after their
which leads two distinct lives, professing departure in Gehenna, where they can
openly to be followers of Mahomed, whilst intercede for the living; consequently
in private they profess a religion of their during this period the death wails are
own, accepting the old Hebrew traditions, continued, which are, in point of fact, in
yet believing in the first advent of their many cases more intercessory than the
own Messiah, and living in daily expecta- outcome of genuine grief.
tion of his second coming.

The Turks call them Dünmehs, or renegades, their Jewish brethren call them hypocrites, whilst they call themselves Maimeenim, or true believers. For the sake of simplicity we will call them Dünmehs, and we may take it for granted that they are disliked by both their would-be co-religionists, and in consequence they have been compelled to exercise a secrecy in their acts and deeds, a fact which has rendered them a peculiar people in the midst of a busy mercantile world. During a recent stay at Salonika I set myself the task of investigating this people. I formed the acquaintance of several Dünmehs; I culled information from the rabbi Nehemiah, a wealthy Jew, who has made the Dünmehs a special study; and I found also a Greek priest a valuable ally in corroborating the statements of others.

Salonika may be termed a New Jerusalem, as there are no less than seventy thousand of the seed of Abraham within its walls; almost all the business of the place is carried on by them; the quays are gay with them in their quaint costumes, the men with their long robes lined with fur over a tunic of striped cotton or silk, whilst the women are decked in the gayest colors possible and adorn their heads with caps of green or red, closely bound over their foreheads, and hanging down behind in a thick tail embroidered with gold thread and terminating in a fringe of gold, whilst around their necks hang strings of pearls and other jewels. These Jews of Salonika are perhaps the most fervid adherents of the quaint rabbinical doctrines to be found anywhere nowadays. During the days before the Passover you may see Jewish women at the tombs outside the walls, in their long red cloaks and white mantles round their shoulders, wailing over their dead; turbaned rabbis stand at the gate of Karamilia to conduct families, for a considera

If a rabbi of distinction dies, you see Jewish women rush forward to thrust letters into his hand for delivery to departed friends as he is carried on the bier to the house of the living.

On the Sabbath day no Jew of Salonika may carry any burden in his pocket-no money, no tobacco, no scrip so that a Jew with a cold has to wear his handkerchief round his waist. At a spot where the walls have been pulled down, of late years the rabbis have stretched a wire, so that the idea of the city being surrounded by walls may be kept up, and the computation of a Sabbath day's journey not interfered with. Such are amongst the doctrines of the orthodox Jews; from these their renegade brethren are happily exempt; and though despising them as they do, an orthodox Jew will not scruple to make use of the Dünmeh, who may eat such portions of flesh as his own law forbids, who may come in and light his fire for him on the Sabbath and cook his food, for it is unlawful for a right-minded Jew even so much as to light a brazier to warm himself withal if the weather be cold on a Sabbath day.

The Dünmehs consequently serve in the bazaars on the days when others rest; and the Turks find them extremely useful on Fridays if a little special business has to be done; the Jews give them employment on Saturdays, and the Christians are not above using them on Sundays, so no wonder the Dünmehs grow rich, and other people grumble at the three days of inaction owing to the three different days on which Sunday is observed by the merchants of Salonika. The Dünmehs are acknowledged by all in Salonika to be the best scribes, most of the Turkish government clerks are Dünmehs, and if you see in a tiny hole in the bazaar a turbaned scribe writing anything the illiterate country-folk may want in the shape of appeals to the pasha, or appeals to the tax-col

before a general consensus of opinion was established under a common head. We have a curious documentary account of a deputation conducted by the rabbi Moses to Constantinople, to crave the sultan's protection against the Slavs, and in the year 5328, on the 25th of the month Shebah, the deputation entered the presence of the sultan. After five interviews, and after laying before his Majesty their many grievances, finally on the sixth interview they were presented with a firman sealed with the imperial seal, and still in our possession, which granted us many immunities and protection from our persecutors, and from that day to this, with one exception, a common head has been recognized, and our prosperity has been unique.'

lector, you may be sure he is a Dünmeh. | synagogue, and it was nearly a century Besides these lucrative posts the Dünmehs possess the monopoly of shaving in Salonika, and a barber's post in the East is one of great importance; it brings him en rapport with all the leading men of the day; his shop is the great haunt of the scandalmonger and the intriguer; so we see that our peculiar people are by no means insignificant in their own country. Rabbi Nehemiah was much shocked when I called upon him and asked for information concerning the Dünmehs, "a loathsome people," said he, "a people who deserve to be forgotten and blotted out of mind;" and he shook his head, encircled in its black and white turban, and stroked his long, grey beard, which hung down over his yellow striped silk robe. Some complimentary remarks on the Jews of Salonika, their ancient lineage, and their success in commerce soon conciliated the kind old man. "Yes, we are an ancient people," he said, "and moreover our pedigree is clearer than that of any Jews in the world; our ancestors came to Salonika in the time of Alexander the Great, following in the wake of his victories after the Eastern conquests." This statement of Rabbi Nehemiah's, though a little astounding at first and quite impossible to substantiate, is not at all improbable, for after the first emigration we know that Alexander planted many Jewish colonies in Macedonia, and we also know that at the commencement of our era the Jews of Thessalonica, Berea, and other towns of Macedonia formed important communities.

"The greatest event in our long history," continued the rabbi, "was the Spanish influx in 1493, which converted our colony into the largest body of Jews in existence, and so great was this influx that they absorbed their co-religionists into themselves and taught them the Spanish tongue." Judæo-Spanish, or Ladino as it is called, is still the language of the Jews of Salonika; their books are written in Spanish with Hebrew characters, most extraordinary things to contemplate, and for Salonika Ferdinand and Isabella, when they persecuted the Jews and drove them from Spain, wrought a great deed. "Our records from that date to now have been carefully preserved, and are full of interest," said he; "we have amongst them minute accounts of the persecutions we suffered from the Slavs, and of our internal dissensions, for in the first years after the influx we were composed of many sects, each having its separate

"And that one exception?" inquired I. "Was the detestable heresy of the false Messiah, Sabbatai Sevi," replied Nehemiah, and seeing my anxiety to learn more on this subject he took up his parable and told me all he knew.

A slight sketch of the career of this extraordinary deceiver is all that is here necessary, as we wish more especially to enter into the customs and precepts of the descendants of his followers as we find them now in Salonika only. I was told that a few families of these Dünmehs exist still at Adrianople and in other Turkish towns, but these are of Salonikan origin, so that to all intents and purposes the Dünmehs of Salonika are the sole representatives of the once numerous followers of the false Messiah. This community is formed of about a thousand families, and numbers eight thousand souls, all dwelling together in one quarter of the town, and all held in bondage by the same curious ties.

Sabbatai Sevi was a Smyrniote Jew, born in 1625, and the son of a broker in that city; he was a clever youth, and so well versed in the Cabala and other Jewish books that at the age of eighteen he was made a rabbi. Doubtless some ac counts of the Fifth Monarchy men, and the then much accredited report that the Messiah was to reappear in 1666, reached Smyrna and worked upon his imagination so much that he decided to make himself out to be that Messiah, and to assist his object he secretly caused reports to be promulgated to the effect that a prophet would shortly appear who would rob the sultan of his crown and restore again the kingdom to Israel. When he thought that the right time had come, to the dis

may of the Smyrniote rabbis he pro- to choose between three things: either to nounced the name "Jehovah" aloud in work a miracle and thereby prove his open conclave, for which offence he was identity; or to have three poisoned arrows summoned before a tribunal and con- shot at him by the sultan himself; or to demned to die; but doubtless he had been become a Mahomedan. "I am a follower prepared for this, and had arrangements of Mahomed,” replied Sevi to this test, made for his escape from Smyrna, and and turning to his followers, who were diswith the one object in view he went as a mayed beyond measure at the collapse of pilgrim to Egypt and Jerusalem, where their hero, he added, " And he was numhe chose as his Elijah one Nathan Ben-bered amongst the transgressors." jamin, a man of ascetic life, who professed The extremely firm hold that Sevi had to see visions. Before returning to Smyr-established over his followers is evinced na he sent his attendant Nathan before by the tenacity with which many adhered him to prepare the way, and in the capac- to him after his exposure and his fall; ity of a second St. John the Baptist to announce that he was coming to deliver men from the oppression of the Turks, and to lead back the Jews to Palestine. Nathan did his work well, writing a circular letter addressed to the "Remnant of the Israelites, peace without end," the result being that intense and mad excitement seized upon the Jews of that place. | They nearly killed themselves with penances; they administered to one another thirty-nine lashes, and tortures of all kinds; and an influential Jew, Pennia by name, whose daughter prophesied and wrought miracles, assisted Nathan in his work of preparation.

In due time Sabbatai Sevi landed at Smyrna, styling himself the "King of Kings," and so carried away were the people by his adroit eloquence that a throne was set up for him in the synagogue, and from Smyrna prophets were sent all over the Turkish dominions to all the Jewish colonies to preach that "the true Messiah of the race of David was come, and that to him the crown and the kingdom were given." At this juncture Sevi ventured to elect from amongst his most trusted followers twelve princes who were to act as generals to the twelve tribes on their journey back to their country: we know from English records that the report reached even as far as to our shores, and that there was some talk of sending English ships to assist in the transport; and even the sceptic Spinoza, from all he heard, was at one time inclined to waver in his disbelief. The scenes of frenzied excitement in Smyrna were intense, business was entirely suspended, and gave place to eager fanatical worship of Sevi; presents poured in to him from all parts, until at length the sul tan was roused to action and summoned him to Adrianople. The story of Sevi's interview with the sultan is well known, and how "the holy, noble, and divine Messiah was ordered by that potentate

these devoted followers did not scruple to embrace Islamism themselves and likewise to be numbered amongst the transgressors; and with certain secret reservations, into which we will go presently, large bodies of Jews became Mahomedans at this period. They were the ancestors of the thousand families of Dünmehs who live at Salonika to-day.

Sabbatai Sevi died in 1676 in prison at Belgrade, but his followers gave out that he was not really dead, but had ascended into heaven, and now at Salonika, in their secret places of worship, called kals, they always keep beds ready, on which the Messiah may repose from the fatigues of his second advent. Probably from the fact of his having disappeared from the world at Belgrade, they have decided that at his second coming he will visit them by way of the northern road, known as the Usküp road; therefore every day a man is despatched in this direction to meet him. When at Salonika I was told that lately, since the opening of the railway from Usküp to that town, the point had been raised in their assembly that he might come by train. Accordingly an eye has to be kept on the station on the arri val of each train from the north. This custom finds a parallel amongst the other Jews of Salonika; but their opinion is that the Messiah will come by sea, so on the Day of Atonement they go down to the sea to meet him, and at the same time perform the quaint rite of casting their sins into the Bay of Salonika- - that inexpressibly lovely bay, which, if it could relate to us the customs of the various cults that have flourished on its margin, would have strange tales to tell.

Opposite to Salonika rise the snow-clad peaks of Olympus, the home of the ancient gods, still covered with Greek convents, which have been the chief strongholds of the Greek faith during the centuries of Turkish oppression; and then the minarets with which Salonika bristles point

only to the fact that the religion of Mahomed rules. No place in the world is more polyglot. No place has within its walls a population professing so many creeds.

6. The souls of eggshells go down to Gehenna, but never ascend out of it again.

7. The Jews are not at present Maimeenim, but they will be when their eyes are opened to the truth that Moses and the others are sparks of Sabbatai Sevi, and then they themselves will become sparks of the Messiah.

8. In all their acts and deeds the Mai

9. They are not to hate the Jews, but always to act so as to conciliate them; for in a short time they will become their brethren.

10. They will incur punishments if they commune either with Jew or Turk concerning their religion; God alone will show them the way to the other world.

The Dünmehs, though few in number, are by no means at unity amongst themselves, for they are divided into three sects. The Ismirli, or the orthodox followers of Sevi, whose distinctive mark is that they shave the chin, are generally meenim are to live in accordance with the known by the distinctive term of "gentle-law of Moses. men," and profess to be the descendants of some of the best Spanish Jew families. Then there are the Jacobines, or followers of one Jacobus Querido, supposed to have been the son of Sevi, who claimed for himself the inheritance of the Messiah, but the orthodox will have nothing to say to these Jacobines, who to distinguish themselves from the others shave their heads. The third sect is the least numerous, and profess to be the followers of one Osman Baba, who lived at the beginning of the last century, and who in his attempts to conciliate the other two sects accidentally formed one for himself. The followers of Baba do not shave at all, either the head or the chin; and besides these peculiarities of coiffure the three sects affect other distinctions, such as some drinking out of cups with handles, and others from vessels without handles, and others petty differences too trivial to notice.

We have to do only with the orthodox sect, and before entering more fully into their life and customs it will be as well to peruse and set forth in full the sixteen rules and obligations to which every true believer in the false Messiah is obliged to swear. They are as follows:

1. The unity of God and the truth of the prophesy of Sabbatai Sevi. Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Esther, and other Scriptural characters are all parts of the soul of Sabbatai Sevi; and the Maimeenim believe that he has incarnated himself eighteen times.

2. All the earth was created for the Maimeenim, and the Turks were only made to keep guard over them; for of a truth there is no egg without a shell; the Turks are the shell, kilipa; the Maimeenim are the egg.

3. All who are not Jews are eggshells, kilipa.

4. It is forbidden to the Maimeenim to make mixed marriages with either Jews or eggshells.

5. The Maimeenim have a share in the other world; the others have not.

II. All Maimeenim must outwardly show themselves as Turks, but think in their hearts as Jews.

12. It is not a sin before God to kill a Dünmeh who breaks these rules and obligations, and to keep it secret.

13. All Maimeenim must follow Turkish law, as far as governament is concerned; they are to publish themselves as Turks, read the laws of Mahomed and the Koran; but they are not to go before any Turkish tribunal, but are to judge each other according to the law of Moses, and are to have for this purpose tribunals of their own. They are to be subject to the Turks, but they are in no way to abase themselves before them more than they can help.

14. All Maimeenim must abstain from intoxicating drink.

15. All Maimeenim must have two names, one a Turkish one, for outward publication; and the other a Jewish one, by which only they shall be known amongst themselves.

16. All Maimeenim shall repeat the names of all the higher powers twice every day.

My Dünmeh friend, Mahmed, kept a curiosity shop in the bazaar of Salonika. Out of his treasures I from time to time selected an object of doubtful authenticity for purchase, and thereby established my. self in his favor. On each of my visits to his shop we talked much on the general topics of the day, and at last, after much manœuvring, I contrived to get an invitation for my wife and myself to pay him a visit at his own house, and partake of coffee. To an eye unpractised in the complexity of the costumes of Salonika, there was nothing in Mahmed's outward

appearance, except a distinctly Jewish | by an excellently organized system of chartype of conntenance, to indicate that he ity. Hamdi Bey is said to be the richest was a Dünmeh and not a Turk, pure and amongst them, and there is no better house simple. He was a pallid, middle-aged man, with nc beard, and grizzled hair on his head, from which we gathered that he was a "gentleman," an orthodox follower of Sabbatai Sevi. He wore a variegated turban bound round his head, and the loose, baggy trousers worn by Turks of the middle class, and as we walked from the bazaar to his house all the information he vouchsafed to tell us was that the Dünmehs, or as he called them the Turkish Jews, all lived in blocks and streets adjoining one another, and that the houses in each block and street communicated with one another. Rabbi Nehemiah had told me this, and had added that in each block there is a kal, or meeting-house, where their secret services are held, at which a paytan, for so they call the officiating priest, presides, reading their service in Judæo-Spanish, and since they have no windows to the front for fear of detection, they light their edifices with green-colored lamps. Many people in Salonika affirm that they have seen the Dünmehs wearing the white Jewish cloak worn at the Hebrew service, and that they have a sort of sacrifice at the Passover, blood being seen on their lintels, and on the foreheads of their children, though for this I am not able to vouch; but it is highly probable, from the firmness with which they adhere to the doctrines of the Old Testament.

At all events from the Dünmehs themselves very little information can be extracted, and they are most careful to prove to the outer world that they are Mussulmans. "Which mosque do you worship at?" I inquired of Mahmed. "I don't worship at any mosque in particular. I go to them all in turn," was our host's careful rejoinder; certainly they are adepts at hypocrisy. On every Friday you may see a fair sprinkling of Dünmehs on their way to the mosques. Their women, when they visit a hadji's tomb, tie up the bit of rag to the railings, as Turkish women do, as a memorial of their visit. They take a whiff of the odor of sanctity for a piastre apiece, after the fashion of the true followers of the Prophet, and from time to time they send a few of their own hadjis to Mecca for appearance' sake.

Mahmed's house we found to be a very comfortable one; in fact, all the Dünmehs live comfortably, since they have no poverty amongst them, the richer members of the community assisting the poorer ones

in Salonika than his; in fact, when money is wanted amongst them for any special purpose, it is always forthcoming. For example, they have the greatest horror of allowing a Dünmeh girl to marry or fall into the hands of an "eggshell," or, as we might term it, an outsider. Not long ago an influential Turk coveted a Dünmeh girl, whom he accidentally saw, for his harem, and a subscription of 4,000l. was raised to buy her off. On another occasion an energetic pasha determined to make the Dünmehs a special subject of investigation with a view to publicly denouncing them as only pretended followers of the Prophet. Forthwith, when they heard their danger, the community despatched an influential body of men to Constantinople, and by the judicious outlay of a sum not less than 10,000l. they contrived to get the objectionable pasha removed from Salonika. On one occasion a Dünmeh girl was led astray. They never rested until they got her into their possession. They tried her before their own tribunal, and they condemned and executed her privily. Such is the bond of terrorism by which they are held together a bond which none dare break. In these latter days some young, educated Dünmehs who have travelled abroad, and had intercourse with other nations, have resented this bond, and have entered into a compact not to marry until they can choose wives for themselves, and some actually have gone to live abroad, and taken to themselves wives from amongst the "eggshells."

Mahmed's house occupied a considerable space of ground, and we entered from the street through a heavy, creaking door into a courtyard surrounded on all sides by offices, an oven, a kitchen, a larder, etc, which courtyard was sheltered by a vine which grew upon a trellis erected over the whole. A wooden staircase conducted us up to the dwelling portion of the house, and we first entered a large sitting-room furnished with divans which, on the staircase side, was entirely open to the air. It was then hung with newly washed clothes in the process of drying. All was clean and very neat. The woodwork was prettily ornamented with carving. From the front there was a distant peep of the sea through a vista of houses, which gave an idea of freshness to the house to which most of the dwellings in Salonika are strangers. An air of com.

« ElőzőTovább »