The first phase of her career (1977-1980) was spent studying the Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire using Jewish rabbinical sources. One of her main interests at that time were the Jewish communities of Jerusalem and Safed in the 16th and 17th centuries. During this phase, were written five books in Hebrew and English (published 1981-1992) and a dozen articles published in Hebrew and English in refereed journals and books (1979-1993).

A Torah crown dedicated by Shemuel Azovi to the synagogue "Ba'alei Teshuvah" (Repentants) in Safed. The date - 1434! The crown, consecrated probably by Iberian coerced converts who returned to Judaism, might be the earliest Torah crown in existence.
Picture taken by Yoram Weinberg at “Ba'alei Teshuva” (Alsheikh) synagogue in Safed, 1978




In 1981-1983, Minna expanded her research to the PRO, the National Archives of France, the Marseilles Chamber of Commerce Archives, and the Venetian Archives, shifting from social history to economic history. The combined use of these archives and rabbinical sources was the first of its kind, and led other scholars to follow suit. Her research of these archives resulted in six articles, including: ‘Les marchands juifs livournais à Tunis et le commerce avec Marseille à la fin du XVIIe siècle’, Michael, 9 (1985): 87-129; ‘Contest and Rivalry in Mediterranean Maritime Commerce in the first half of the Eighteenth Century: The Jews of Salonika and the European Presence’, Revue des Études Juives, CXLVII (1988): 309-352; ‘France and the Jews of Egypt: An Anatomy of Relations, 1683–1801’, The Jews in Ottoman Egypt (1517­–1914) (ed. J. M. Landau), Misgav Yerushalaim, Jerusalem 1988, 421-470 (Hebrew); ‘Strangers in a Strange Land – The Extraterritorial Status of Jews in Italy and the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries’, Ottoman and Turkish Jewry: Community and Leadership (ed. A. Rodrigue), Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN, 1992, 123-166; ‘La vie économique des juifs du bassin méditerranéen de l’expulsion d’Espagne (1492) à la fin du XVIIIe siècle’, La société juive à travers les âges (ed. S. Trigano), Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris 1993, Vol. 3, 296-352.
A major change of direction in her research took place in 1987, when she began preserving and documenting Jewish historical remains from the Ottoman and post-Ottoman period. The initial idea was to salvage historical remains in countries with dwindling Jewish Diasporas. From 1987 on these efforts resulted in the documentation and digitization of 70,000 tombstones, scores of synagogues and thousands of religious artefacts from Turkey and Bulgaria; the deciphering and codification of the Jewish community records of Istanbul, Bulgaria, Salonika and Athens (16th-20th centuries), most of which (over a hundred thousand documents) were processed into state-of-the-art programs.


A birdseye view of the Jewish cemetery of Haskoy (Istanbul), 1583 onwards.
Picture taken by Minna Rozen, August 1995.




These major projects enabled opened the way for a number of innovative studies. In her book Hasköy Cemetery: Typology of Stones  (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University and University of Pennsylvania, 1994), she devised a ground-breaking, interdisciplinary methodology that uses the extensive documentation of cemeteries as a source for social, cultural, and art history. The book and methodology won wide acclaim in the scholarly community, and are widely used (reviews and citations: N. Vatin, «Art juif ou art ottoman? Compte-rendu de l'ouvrage de Minna Rozen: Hasköy Cemetery. Typology of Stones, Tel Aviv, 1994», Turcica 28 [1996]: 361-368; P. Pierret, ‘Haskoy Cemetery. Typology of Stones, Review of M. Rozen’s book’, Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 75.2[1997]: 538-542; N. Kenaan-Kedar, ‘Method in this Sadness’, Jerusalem Post, March 24, 1995; A. Ben-Ur, ‘Still Life: Sephardi, Ashkenazi, and West African Art and Form in Suriname's Jewish Cemeteries’, American Jewish History 92 [2004]).

Burial caves of the Jewish cemetery of Haskoy in Istanbul, mid 17th century.
Picture taken by Mehmet Ali Cida , August1988




While she was conducting these surveys, she was nominated Director of the Diaspora Research Centre at Tel Aviv University, a position that enabled her to initiate and supervise similar surveys that were carried out by other scholars in Poland, Russia, Romania, Hungary and the Ukraine. This resulted in a series of five volumes on the History of the Jews in Romania, and several books on Transcarpathian, Polish, and Russian Jewry written by colleagues whom she recruited for these projects. Her own projects gave rise to two books and forty papers and monographs covering 500 years of Jewish existence in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman space.

Her book, A History of the Jewish Community of Istanbul – The Formative Years (1453–1566) Brill: Leiden, 2002, 413 pp., is the first of a three-volume project designed to encompass the history of the Istanbul community during the entire Ottoman era. This volume describes the transformation of the Byzantine Jewish Community of Constantinople, a Greek- speaking, Romaniot Jewish community, into an Ottoman, ethnically diversified, immigrant community. An in-depth study of the newly-formed community is followed by a study of the ongoing process of internalizing the Ottoman cultural and social values. The study brings to light a society whose historical memory was haunted by the crisis of the expulsion from Spain, dislocation and bereavement, but that was, nevertheless, a materialistic, pleasure-seeking society, in which money and pedigree were of supreme importance. It was a society which, although largely bound up with the Iberian world, fought constantly to redefine its boundaries vis-à-vis this same world, as well as the Ottoman non-Jewish world surrounding it.

The unearthing and deciphering of the Istanbul community records gave rise to several papers that triggered scholarly and public debate, especially in Israel. One of them, on the meat trade in Jewish Istanbul 1700-1923, exposed a socially polarized society, remarkably reminiscent of present-day Israel. Despite the discomfort this paper caused, it was republished on the official internet site of the Israeli Education Ministry. Another paper, dedicated to the current state of the historical research of the so-called ‘Sephardi’ Jewish Diaspora triggered a similar debate.


A silver Torah plate,  dedicated  by Esther Daniel to Holy Congregation Talmud Torah in Izmir,  in memory of  her deceased daughter the girl Luna . Product of the Sponza jewelers 1940. Turkish Collection, Izmir Synagogues , film # 5 , 17.11.1989.




Unearthing and documenting the Salonika archives confiscated by the Nazis and considered lost, led to the organization in 1995 of the International Conference on the Jews of the Ottoman world during the Transition to the World of Nation-states. The conference, which was attended by the best scholars in the field from Turkey, Greece, France, the US, war-torn Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Israel, resulted in two volumes: Minna Rozen, The Last Ottoman Century and Beyond: The Jews of Turkey and the Balkans, 1808–1945, Vol.1, Tel Aviv: Goren-Goldstein Diaspora Research Centre, TAU, 2005, 500 pp; Vol. 2, Minna Rozen, ed. Tel Aviv: Goren-Goldstein Diaspora Research Centre, TAU, 2002, 400 pp.

The gate of the Jewish cemetery of Bitola (Monastir) in Macadonia.
Picture taken by Zevi Keren , March 1993.




Whereas the second volume (published in 2002) comprises articles written by various scholars on specific problems and issues, the first volume, written by her , seeks answers to questions of a more general nature. By the mid-twentieth century, most of the successor states of the Ottoman Empire were depleted of Jewish inhabitants. In two of them – Greece and the former Yugoslavia – this was a result of the Final Solution implemented by their Nazi conquerors. However, there is still the question of what might have happened had the Nazis not come to power? What led most Holocaust survivors to emigrate, and what influenced the Jews of Turkey and Bulgaria to do likewise? It would be too facile to conclude that the establishment of the State of Israel was the main factor that led the Jews to leave their communities. This hypothesis appears to be self-evident, and therefore has never been subjected to a critical evaluation. An in-depth analysis of the newly-discovered archives, as well as a critical reading of existing sources, proves that the motives of the Jews who left the successor states of the Empire to settle in the new State were not so simple or unequivocal. They were not motivated by an ancient, supernatural decree, and all had good reason to leave their homelands. The new State offered them a window of opportunities that no other country offered. Israel’s national ideology served as a balm for the turbulence that had prompted them to leave their homes. Viewed from the distance of time, the emergence of the modern nation-state from the ashes of the imperial world did not remedy the flaws of the old world, but merely created new, no less ugly or painful ones. This book has become essential reading and is widely cited.

An embroidered decorative napkin, dedicated to "Yeshurun" synagogue in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) by the parents of Mordekhai Hayim Tajer who was killed in the spring of 1921 in Jaffa "while defending the honor of our nation".
Picture taken by Zevi Keren at Plovdiv synagogue 4.7.1993.




The discovery of the Salonika Archives made her that Israel lacks a program of Modern Greek Studies, and she subsequently initiated such a program at the University of Haifa. This new interest drove  her to study modern Greek, and to immerse herself into the world of Greek studies in general. Her personal efforts since 2000 generated two Ph.D. thesis’ in this field (‘The Jewish Family in Salonika 1900-1941’ by Gila Hadar and ‘The Port Workers and Fishermen of Salonika, 1908-1943’ by Shai Srugo).

“The Troubles of the Elected Parliament Member “
A satire ridiculing the conduct of Isaac Siacki , a Jewish Member of the Greek Parliament, published in the satirical journal in Ladino El Kulebro (The Snake) , 9 February 1921




Two international conferences were organized by her at the University of Haifa and opened up a new avenue of research. A conference she organized on the Holocaust in Greece (2002) prompted her to investigate the role of the Jewish leadership in Nazi-occupied Salonika, and resulted in a paper that questioned the way this leadership is engraved on the Greek and the Jewish historical memories (‘Jews and Greeks Remember their Past: The Political Career of Rabbi Tzevi Koretz, 1933-1943’, Jewish Social Studies,12/1(2005):111-165), which provoked a wide range of reactions. The conference Jewish Diaspora – Greek Diaspora (2000) resulted in the book: Homelands and Diasporas: Jews, Greeks, and their Migrations (London: Tauris, 2008), to which she contributed an a preface and an introductory essay ‘People of the Book, People of the Sea: Mirror Images of the Soul’.