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Donmeh

From Academic Kids

Donmeh (dönme) is a Turkish word for a religious convert. It refers to a group of Jews of the Near East who followed Sabbatai Zevi (also called Shabbatai Zvi) and converted to Islam in 1666. Zevi's conversion is generally understood to have been forced.

While outwardly Muslim, the Donmeh secretly remained Jews, and continued to practice Jewish rituals covertly. They worshipped Sabbatai Zevi as the Messiah and an incarnation of God, observe certain Jewish rituals and pray in Hebrew and Aramaic and secretly celebrate Jewish festivals and fasts. They also observe rituals celebrating Zevi. They interpreted Zevi's conversion in a Kabbalistic way. Zevi had to rescue the bits of God spread among religions by converting to different confessions.

Some of the original Donmeh were Muslims who were converted to Sabbatianism.

There were several branches of the Donmeh. The first was the Ismirli formed in Izmir in what is now Turkey. The second were the Jakubi founded by a successor to Zevi who also made messianic claims. Also were the Othman Baba led by Berechia. This group taught Jacob Frank who led the Frankists in 18th century eastern Europe and the fifth were the Lechli who are of Polish descent who lived in exile in Salonika and Constantinople.

While being accepted by the Muslim society, they only married among themselves which ended in several recessive genetical traits being typical of Donmeh.

Several Donmeh were among the Young Turks, the Turkish intellectuals that claimed for a reform of the Ottoman Empire. At the time of the interchange of Greek and Turkish populations between Turkey and Greece, the Salonika Donmeh tried to be recognized as not Muslims to avoid forced transport to Anatolia. In the Republican era, they strongly supported pro-Western and laïque reforms of Kemal Atatürk, an attitude that bolstered the suspicions of Muslims towards them.


See also: converso.

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