Ancient synagogue ruins have been found in Sardis, near Izmir, dating from 220 B.C. andtraces of other Jewish settlements have been discovered near Bursa, in the southeast andalong the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. A bronze column found inAnkara confirms the rights the Emperor Augustus accorded the Jews of Asia Minor.Jewish comunities in Anatolia flourished and continued to prosper through the Turkishconquest. When the Ottomans captured Bursa in 1324 and made it their capital, theyfound a Jewish community oppressed under Byzantine rule. The Jews welcomed theOttomans as saviors. Sultan Orhan gave them permission to build the
Etz ha-Hayyim(Tree of Life)
synagogue which remained in service until 50 years ago.Early in the 14th century, when the Ottomans had established their capital at Edirne, Jewsfrom Europe, including Karaites, migrated there. (1) Similarly, Jews expelled fromHungary in 1376, from France by Charles VI in September 1394, and from Sicily early inthe 15th century found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. In the 1420s, Jews from Salonikathen under Venetian control fled to Edirne. (2)Ottoman rule was much kinder than Byzantine rule had been. In fact, from the early 15thcentury on, the Ottomans actively encouraged Jewish immigration.
(from Edirne) to Jewish communities in Europe in the first part of thecentury
"invited his coreligionists to lease the torments they were enduring inChristiandom and to seek safety and prosperity in Turkey".
(3)When Mehmet II "the Conqueror" took Constantinople in 1453, he encountered anoppressed Romaniot (Byzantine) Jewish community which welcomed him withenthousiasm. Sultan Mehmet II issued a proclamation to all Jews
"... to ascend the site of the Imperial Throne, to dwell in the best of the land, each beneath his Dine and his figtree, with silver and with gold, with wealth and with cattle...".
(4)In 1470, Jews expelled from Bavaria by Ludvig X found refuge in the Ottoman Empire.(5)(1)
Mark Alan Epstein, "The Ottoman Jewish Communuties and their role in the 15thand 16th centuries"(2) Joseph Nehama, "Histoire des Israelites de Salonique"(3) Bernard Lewis, "The Jews of Islam"(4) Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume 16 page 1532(5) Avram Galante, "Histoire des Juifs d'lstanbul", Volume 2