Wife of Turkish Jewish leader found dead following earthquake

Fortuna Cenudioğlu's husband, Saul, remains missing amid Antakya ruins


HATAY, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 07: People try to rescue their loved ones, believed to be trapped under collapsed building on February 07, 2023 in Iskenderun, Turkey. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of Monday, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and were felt in nearby countries. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

The wife of the leader of a small Jewish community in Turkey has been found dead four days after a massive earthquake hit the country.

Saul and Fortuna Cenudioğlu went missing in the southern city of Antakya after several quakes and aftershocks reduced the city to ruins.

Fortuna’s body has now been discovered within the collapsed rubble of her home, Istanbul Rabbi Mendy Chitrik confirmed to the JC.

Efforts to locate and rescue Mr Cenudioğlu remain ongoing.

Speaking from Istanbul on Tuesday, the couple’s niece, Ela Cenudioğlu, expressed her fear that she would never see her aunt and uncle again.

“Their building is ruined, especially their floor is ruined,” she said. 

“We don’t know whether they survived.”

“I’m traumatised,” she added.

“It looks terrible, all the places I was, all the places I had loved through my childhood, where I spent my summers, my parents house, is all gone now.”

The remainder of the city’s Jewish community have now been evacuated to Istanbul.

Speaking to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ela Cenudioğlu paid tribute to her missing uncle as “a visionary leader committed to the Jewish community and the values it represents.”

Mr Cenudioğlu has lived in Antakya since his birth in 1941 and operates a family textiles business. 

He “did everything in his capacity to have the small Jewish community of Antakya thrive and connect with the rest of the communities in Turkey and the world,” Ms Cenudioğlu added.

Mr Cenudioğlu’s brother, Azur, remains in Antakya assisting with search and rescue efforts.

The evacuation of around a dozen remaining community members to Istanbul marks a tragic coda to 2,500 years of continuous Jewish presence in the city.

Rabbi Chitrik, who travelled to Antakya on Tuesday to assist its Jewish community wrote on Twitter: “I can’t even start describing the scenes in Antakya. Help is needed and is urgent.” 

Photos posted by the Chabad emissary reveal complete destruction, with buildings reduced to little more than haphazard piles of debris.

The news comes as the combined earthquake death toll across Turkey and Syria passed 17,000.

Visiting the badly affected southern province of Gaziantep, President Recep Tayip Erdoğan said more than 6,400 buildings had been destroyed.

Rescuers are now working “around the clock” to save lives, said Felix Lotan, a Magen David Adom medic scrambled to Turkey earlier this week.

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