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Elderly Jewish couple missing after earthquakes rock Turkey

Saul and Fortuna Cenudioglu were last seen in the southern city of Antakya.

Earthquake damage in Antakya, aka Antioch, February 2023. Source: Twitter.
Earthquake damage in Antakya, aka Antioch, February 2023. Source: Twitter.

The leader of a tiny Jewish community and his wife are missing after their apartment building collapsed during the massive earthquakes on Monday that killed more than 5,000 people in Turkey and Syria.

Saul and Fortuna Cenudioglu remain unaccounted for in the southern Turkish city of Antakya, aka Antioch.

“The president of the Jewish community in Antakya and his wife were apparently killed in the disaster,” Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Irit Lillian said in an interview with Channel 12.

Rabbi Mendel Chitrik, chairman of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States, said the 250-year-old synagogue in Antakya “was not in good condition, but that it was still standing. There is dramatic damage.”

Chitrik posted a video of him salvaging Torah scrolls from the wreckage.

Jews have lived in Antakya for more than 2,500 years, although only an estimated dozen elderly members remain.

The Jewish Federations of North America and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee have launched fundraising campaigns to provide humanitarian aid to people in Turkey.

Lillian confirmed that no Israelis have been reported hurt due to the tremors.

The Israel Defense Forces dispatched a sizable search-and-rescue group to southeastern Turkey on Monday.

The IDF is leading Israel’s Operation Olive Branches with the Foreign and Defense ministries. The delegation is being led by Col. (res.) Golan Vach, the head of the National Rescue Unit in the Home Front Command, and includes 150 active-duty and reservist personnel. Israel Fire and Rescue Authority personnel are also a part of the delegation.

A third of the delegation consists of staff and intelligence personnel who will analyze the challenges ahead, and two-thirds is made up of the search and rescue unit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel received a request to provide humanitarian equipment to assist Syrians injured in the earthquake in Syria, adding, “I have instructed that this be done as well.”

Hebrew media reports said the request was passed on by Russia, adding that Israel would send medicines, tents, blankets and other equipment to the Assad regime. Ynet cited a senior political source as saying that Jerusalem would also agree to treat injured Syrians if asked to do so.

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