This robe, which belonged to Rabbi Hayyim Moshe Bejerano Efendi (1850–1931), chief rabbi of Turkey from 1920 to 1931, was donated to the museum along with his hat and insignia.
Starting in 1835, the Ottoman government provided this official uniform to non-Muslim religious functionaries (Christians and Jews) who were appointed as religious chiefs of their communities. As part of the Ottoman reforms of the nineteenth century, the non-Muslim minorities were re-organized and granted more freedom and official recognition, theoretically abolishing the legal discrimination against non-Muslims while still maintaining systems of religious division. It was requested that “henceforth, the dismissal and appointment of their haham başis [chief rabbis] and their clothing with a robe of honor (hil’at) are to take place at the Sublime Port [the sultan’s court].” The official nomination document (berat), the robe of honor, and the insignia were the external symbols of the chief rabbis of Istanbul, later bestowed as well on the chief rabbis of other major cities.
The official uniform consists of a ceremonial mantle, insignia (nişan), and a hat. Sewn from black broadcloth with wide sleeves and a narrow collar, the robe’s characteristic feature is the dense, stiff couched metal thread embroidery that adorns its collar and front opening. While the embroidery follows the typical Ottoman style, it also shows the influence of European officers’ coats from the late eighteenth century. The headdress consists of a fez or cap adorned with a padded velvet or silk cloth ring, affixed in imitation of a turban. See photo from the archive.
From the Israel Museum publications:
Juhasz, Esther (ed.), The Jewish Wardrobe from the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 5 Continents Editions, Milan and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2012
Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Bella and Harry Wexner Gallery, 11/03/2014 - 07/03/2015