Doctrines The Shabbateans were followers of Shabbetai Tzevi (1626-1676), an Ashkenazi Jew born in Izmir, Turkey, who was believed by many Jews in Europe and Asia Minor at the time to be the Messiah. Now known by their Turkish name as Dönme "apostates" and outwardly Muslim (following Shabbetai's example), they practise a form of Judaism, though distancing themselves from Jewish orthodoxy. Believing that the messianic age has dawned and the final coming of the Messiah is imminent, they renounced many of the commandments, including those connected with the sabbath day, and placed more emphasis on the mystical traditions contained in the Zohar, than on the Talmud. Their most important feast on which they celebrate the birthday of Shabbetai, occurs on the 9th of Ab, which for other Jews is a solemn fast commemorating the destruction of the Temple. But, as in orthodox Judaism, their leaders are rabbis, well-versed in the Hebrew scriptures, they use Hebrew in worship and they practise circumcision.

History The wave of messianic fervour that swept Europe and the Middle East in the seventeenth century, fuelled on the one hand, by the kabbalistic teachings of Shabbetai's chief prophet, Nathan of Gaza, and by anti-Jewish legislation and persecution in Europe, on the other, ended tragically for most Jews with the imprisonment of Shabbetai Tzevi by the Ottoman authorities in Istanbul, and his conversion to Islam, under duress, in 1666. But a small number continued to follow him, believing their Messiah had only appeared to convert so as to triumph all the more completely in the end. They established a community in Salonica, which he had proclaimed a holy city. After his exile to Albania and death in 1676, the Salonica community, led by Shabbetai's wife's family, came to be known as the "apostates" or Dönme in Turkish.
Small groups of Shabbateans continued to exist in various parts of Europe. They had to meet in secret out of fear of orthodox rabbis, anxious to prevent another tragic outburst of misguided messianic enthusiasm. Leader of one such group was the Polish Jew Jacob Frank (1726-1791) who spent some time in Turkey in contact with the Dönme and came to believe he was a reincarnation of Shabbetai Tzevi. His followers known as Frankists presented themselves to the Catholic authorities as Jews who rejected the Talmud and shared many Christian beliefs. Many of them were baptized and were successful members in Polish society. Jacob himself was imprisoned for some years for his heretical beliefs, and was succeeded by his daughter Eve who died in 1817.
The Dönme of Salonica have survived despite various schisms into the present century, and in 1913 accounted for as much as one quarter of the large Jewish community there. In 1924 they were rejected by the orthodox and moved to Turkey where they have a synagogue in Istanbul.

Adherents 3000 Dönme in Istanbul

Symbols The Shabbateans employ the same symbol system as other Jewish traditions.

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