Turkish talis – May contain shatnez???
At HaSOFER every talis is certified kosher and guaranteed to be free of shatnez.
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UPDATE: HaSOFER no longer sells the Turkish talis as our Israeli supplier is no longer producing it. Go to our Talis section to see our full line of tallitot, tallit bags, atarot and tzitzit. If you have a Turkish talis that you purchased in the past from HaSOFER you can rest assured. Although HaSOFER no longer sells Turkish taleisim, every Turkish talis that we sold was made in Israel by all Jewish labor, and was certified kosher and guaranteed to be free of shatnez by both Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a and Hagaon Rav Ovadia Yosef zt"zl.
In recent years there was a lot of publicity about Turkish taleisim that were found to contain shatnez, the forbidden mixture of wool and linen. The term Turkish talis doesn't actually indicate the source country of the talis. The original Turkish talis, or taleisim for plural, were made on hand operated looms in Tunisia. For over 300 years Tunisia was part of the Ottoman Empire based in Turkey. For this reason Tunisia, and the talis industry which developed there, are referred to in halachic, Jewish legal, literature as Turkey.
Ironically, the talis industry of Tunisia was originally established and flourished because of the very high quality wool available there and the absolute absence of any flax or linen being grown or produced in the country. During the past several hundred years the general wool industry and specifically talis manufacturing in Tunisia were investigated numerous times by rabbis who checked this specific issue and found it to be true. Thus the Turkish talis gained a reputation for being free of any question of shatnez.
In addition, until recently the talis industry in Tunisia employed and was overseen exclusively by Observant Jews. Every step in the process of making a Turkish talis was either done by Jews or closely supervised by Jews.
Sadly, the situation has changed drastically in recent decades. The Jewish population of Tunisia has dwindled to number only a few thousand individuals. The talis industry in Tunisia today employs virtually no Jews. All the workers are Tunisian Arabs. Only a few Jewish manufacturers and exporters of Turkish talis remain.
During this recent period oversight of talis manufacturing became very slack. The non-Jewish workers, who cannot be expected to understand and maintain the high standards of kashrut required for talis making, occasionally mixed other materials in the wool. Also the wool used in the Turkish talis is no longer produced exclusively in Tunisia. Thus the raw wool itself sometimes contains a small percentage of other fibers.
Thanks to the discovery of the problems with the Turkish talis made in Tunisia, standards are being enforced again and the problems are being corrected. But anyone who owns a Turkish talis made in Tunisia must have it checked for shatnez to be sure it is kosher.
The problems we detail here about the Turkish talis made in Tunisia do not effect the Turkish talis sold in the past by HaSOFER. Every Turkish talis that we sold was made in Israel by all Jewish labor. The raw wool used was checked carefully and certified to be free of shatnez. None of the additional fabrics used to finish the talis introduced any halachic problems. Every finished Turkish talis that we sold carried a certificate guaranteeing it to be free of shatnez by both Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a and Hagaon Rav Ovadia Yosef zt"zl.
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