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Donmeh - Frequently Asked Questions

What does "Donmeh" mean?
Does the Donmeh still exist? And, if so, where?
What characterizes the Donmeh?
What are the branches of the Donmeh?
How can I subscribe to the Donmeh of the Internat?


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Donmeh FAQs

What does "Donmeh" mean?

"Donmeh" is the Turkish word for "apostate" and refers to the Jews of  the Near East who followed Sabbatai Zevi into Islam in 1666, but secretly remained Jews who continued practicing Jewish rituals but worshipped Sabbatai Zevi as the Messiah and an incarnation of God. 


Does the Donmeh still exist? And, if so, where?

As of 1970 there were an estimated 15,000 members of the Donmeh in the Near East -- mostly the cities of Adrianople, Constantinople, Salonika and Smyrna -- but none were known to exist in the Western Hemisphere. 


What characterizes the Donmeh?

Although outwardly Muslims and, to a lesser extent, Christians, the Donmeh secretly continues to observe Jewish rituals (such as circumcision, but at the age of three rather than eight days), pray in Hebrew as well as Aramaic and Ladino (a Sephardic dialect of Yiddish, Hebrew and Spanish), and have clandestine festivals and fast days that are Jewish survivals. They also practice unique Sabbatian rites, probably instituted by Reb. Berechia after Sabbatai's death, such as "The Darkening of the Light." 


What are the branches of the Donmeh?

There were, and still may be, five main branches of the Donmeh: 
1) The Ismirli, or original sect formed in Izmir, Turkey in 1666; 
2) The Jakubi, formed by an early successor to Sabbatai Zevi who also claimed to be the Messiah; 
3) The sect, by far the most radical, formed by the charismatic Reb. Berechia or "Othman Baba", who was the teacher of my namesake, Yakov Leib Frank; 
4) The Frankists of 18th century Eastern Europe; 
5) The Lechli, who are Donmehs of Polish extraction, according to sources from Salonika and 
To this you can add a sixth Donmeh, our own electronic DONMEH-L. 

How can I subscribe to the Donmeh of the Internat?

Please see external link this website for more details - MAK

by Yakov Leib HaKohain 

Sabbatai Zevi
Jacob Frank

Jewish Kabbalah Lurianic Cosmology The Lurianic Concept of the Soul Kavanot and Yichudim Tikkun

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page history

page uploaded 19 October 1998
last revised 15 December 2009