Becoming a Model Millet
Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, Ottoman Jewish communal leaders began to employ a narrative of continuous Jewish “special relations” with their empire in order to catapult their community out of obscurity and into the imperial spotlight. This narrative, which focused on the empire’s role in welcoming expelled Iberian Jews in 1492, helped give onlookers in the late nineteenth century the impression that the Jews’ newly secured role as a model Ottoman community was a constant in imperial politics. Yet, as this chapter demonstrates, the centuries-long history of Ottoman-Jewish relations was also marked by periods of benign neglect as well as violent confrontation. Even in the midst of the Tanzimat reforms of the nineteenth century, which emancipated the non-Muslims of the empire, Ottoman Jews’ relationship to the government remained ambivalent.
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