Israeli Gay Envoy Serving in Istanbul Faces Homophobia from Jewish Community

Yossi Levi Sfari, a gay Israeli diplomat serving in Istanbul, recently complained that the Jewish community is ignoring him because of his sexual orientation.

Israeli Diplomat Yossi Levi Sfari and his life partner, Ronny Goldberg

Yossi Levi Sfari, Israel’s consul in Istanbul, moved there with his life partner, Ronny Goldberg, six weeks ago. Since then, Levi Sfari said the community failed to invite him to events and does not acknowledge his presence during synagogue services. Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, the president of the Jewish Community of Turkey, denied these complaints and responded in a statement Thursday.

“We treat the consulate and consul with the utmost respect and do not involve ourselves in anyone’s personal life,” Ibrahimzadeh was quoted as saying by the Finansgundem daily. “We respect all in the same way that we expect them to respect us as a community that is committed to halacha and the rules of the Torah. We have nothing against the man or Israel and its envoys, whom we will continue to respect as we maintain good relations with Israel. I do not need to be a close personal friend of the man.”

According to Yedioth Aharonoth, the community urged the foreign ministry to not post a gay man to Turkey when Levi Sfari’s nomination was announced but not yet confirmed. The daily also reported, quoting unnamed sources, that the foreign ministry instructed its employees to sever communications with Ibrahimzadeh over his alleged treatment of Levi Sfari.

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