They were depicted as ugly or extremley cultured and beautiful. They were never “average” as so the travel accounts of Jewish women in Ottoman Turkey have come down to us. It is hard to know the basis for this; in the stereotypes they seem to invoke a sort of castration complex among Christian writers like Hawthorne in the Marble Faun where jewish women ride the rails as deserved outcasts or in the case of one character, a mysterious cross between murderer who would cut the head off Holoferenes or middle-class girl pining for the white picket fence of Americana. It is very much the love hate relationship, say of the flavor of a D.H. Lawrence, as exotic fetish objects, or to project on them perverted characteristics that a Christian could not attribute to their spouses. Kind of like Edouard Manet’s Olympia…
( see link at end) …the diarist John Evelyn (1620–1706) wrote of being able to meet Jewish women at a wedding in Venice on 24 March 1646 and that “at this ceremony” he and his companion “saw divers very beautifull Portuguez-Jewesses” and “had some conversation” with them. The gentleman traveller Thomas Coryate (1577–1617), who was famous for his alleged walk across Europe in 1608, saw Jewish women in Venice and claimed that they:
[…] were as beautiful as euer I saw, and so gorgeous in their apparell, iewels, Chaines of gold, and rings adorned with precious stones, that some of our English Countesses do scarce exceed them, hauing maruailous long traines like princesses that are borne up by waiting women seruing for the same purpose. An argument to proue that many of the Iewes are very rich….
…Coryate linked the beauty of Jewish women to the overall material well-being of Venetian Jews. In this city they seemed to have it all – freedom, tolerance and riches – despite the ghetto gates that separated them from the other citizens of Venice. The beautiful appearance of Jewesses was not always reflected in travel narratives. George Sandys for one gives an opposing viewpoint in the narrative of his travels in Italy and the Middle East, first published in 1615, and in shorter form in Samuel Purchas’s monumental travel writing collection, Purchas His Pilgrimes (1625).
Sandys, who only wanted “to speake a word or two of their women”, wrote that Jewesses in Turkey “mabbled their heads in linen”, wore loose gowns, were goggle-eyed and fat, and stank of immorality:
[…] They are generally fat, and ranke of the sauours which attend vpon sluttish corpulency. For the most part, they are goggle eyed. They neither shun conuersation, nor are too watchfully guarded by their husbands. They are good work-women, and can and will doe any thing for profit, that is to be done by the Art of a woman, and which sutes with the fashion of these Countries. Vpon iniuries receiued, or violence done to any of their Nation, they will crie out mainly at their windowes, beating their cheekes, and tearing of their garments. Of late they haue beene blest with another Hester, who by her fauour with the Sultan, preuented their intended massacre, and turned his furie vpon their accusers. They are so skilled in lamentations, that the Greeke doe hire them to crie at their funerals.Read More:http://www.helsinki.fi/collegium/e-series/volumes/volume_2/002_04_holmberg.pdf
( see link at end) …Sultan Bayazid II’s offer of refuge gave new hope to the persecuted Sephardim. In 1492, the Sultan ordered the governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire “not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially”;. According to Bernard Lewis,
220;the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled”.
Immanual Aboab attributes to Bayazid II the famous remark that “the Catholic monarch Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished Spain by the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched Turkey”.
The arrival of the Sephardic altered the structure of the community and the original group of Romaniote Jews was totally absorbed.
Over the centuries an increasing number of European Jews, escaping persecution in their native countries, settled in the Ottoman Empire. In 1537 the Jews expelled from Apulia (Italy) after the city fell under Papal control, in 1542 those expelled from Bohemia by King Ferdinand found a safe haven in the Ottoman Empire. In March of 1556, Sultan Suleyman “the Magnificent” wrote a letter to Pope Paul IV asking for the immediate release of the Ancona Marranos, which he declared to be Ottoman citizens. The Pope had no other alternative than to release them, the Ottoman Empire being the “Super Power” of those days….
By 1477, Jewish households in Istanbul numbered 1647 or 11% of the total. Half a century later, 8070 Jewish houses were listed in the city.Read More:http://www.naqshbandi.org/ottomans/protectors/protectors.htm