By Handan Kazanci
ISTANBUL (AA) - Bensiyon Pinto, honorary president of the Turkish Jewish Community, has died at the age of 85, the community announced Thursday.
“We are very sorry to announce that we lost Bensiyon Pinto, our beloved former president & honorary president, an exceptional example of faithfulness, who - for years - served our Turkey, our community with self-devotion, passion, faith, and dedication,” the Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation said on Twitter.
Turkiye's presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin expressed sadness at the death.
“My condolences to his family, loved ones, and the Jewish community,” Kalin wrote on Twitter.
Pinto was born in Istanbul’s historic Jewish-populated neighborhood of Kuledibi in 1936.
“His involvement in the Turkish Jewish Community started in 1954 as a founding member of Yildirim Spor Kulubu (Yildirim Sports Club). In 1976, he became the head of the Finance Committee of the Turkish Jewish Community and then the Vice President of the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey from 1979 until 1984,” according to a statement on a website in Pinto's memory.
Following a break in participation in the community's administrative body, in 1989 Pinto assumed the role of its president.
“He served in this role for a total of 10 years in various periods from 1989 to 2003,” said the statement. “During this time, he led the restructuring of the official administrative body, and ensured unity and harmony within the community. He kept close and sincere relations with the Turkish government and individuals who shaped and led Turkish politics.”
He was the first and only person awarded the title of “Honorary President of the Turkish Jewish Community.”
Pinto also wrote his memoirs in a 2008 book, My Life as a Turkish Jew, which was later translated into both German and English.