Rabbi Yitzhak Ibrahim Zada, the leader of Turkey’s Jewish community and highly respected by the Turkish government, opposes the appointment of Israeli Consul General Yossi Levi-Sfari.
Levi-Sfari, 45, is openly gay and lives with his male partner. He arrived in Istanbul with his partner, Roni Goldberg, one month ago. Levi-Sfari studied law, and his mother is a Turkish native. He himself is respected as a diplomat and was previously in charge of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara.
Goldberg is recognized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as Levi-Sfari’s spouse, and he, too, works in the Consulate.
According to Istanbul’s Jewish community, Rabbi Zada is hurt by the fact that Israel sent an openly gay consul to represent them, disregarding Turkish Jews’ honour and the fact that most of them keep Jewish traditions.
According to Yediot Ahronot, Levi-Sfari reported the issue to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which ordered Consulate workers to ignore Rabbi Zada’s emails.
Ten thousand Jews live in Turkey, most of them in Istanbul.
“Before Levi-Sfari was appointed, we sent messages to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, asking them to think twice before appointing a gay Consul in Istanbul,” the newspaper reported a community representative as saying. “However, they chose to ignore our warnings. If Israel’s official representative walks into our synagogue with his partner, he is being inconsiderate of our community.”
Rabbi Zada said, “Turkey’s Jewish community greatly respects the Consul and the Consulate, and we do not discuss anyone’s personality or personal life. We respect everyone and expect others to respect us. We are a traditional community which follows Jewish law and is committed to the Torah the laws it sets out. We have nothing against this man, against Israel, or against Israel’s representatives.”
“We will continue respecting Israel’s representatives. The Jewish community in Turkey will continue to have a normal relationship with Israel, and I do not have to be this man’s personal friend.”
He also said that he does not know anything about the Foreign Ministry’s decision to ignore his emails, and “hopes that it is not true.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, “Yossi Levi-Sfari is an excellent diplomat and he is well-respected. he has served us in the past as the head of Ankara’s Israeli Embassy, and we reject any attempts to harm him via his personal life.”
Related news: Turkey Bans all LGBT Events