A Holocaust education seminar is to take place at a university in Istanbul on Thursday with the participation of Turkish academics from the field of education. The seminar is part of a move to improve understanding of the Holocaust in the Muslim world.

“This is an initial, although important, step given the significance of Turkish society in the Muslim world,” said Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev. “At Yad Vashem we are witnessing interest in the Holocaust that traverses countries, religion and language.”

The project comes amid reports that members of Turkey’s Jewish community are leaving the country due to growing anti-Semitism.

Turkey’s Jewish community, numbering nearly 15,000 and concentrated mostly in Istanbul, was bearing the brunt of the “negative atmosphere” caused by the government’s harsh rhetoric against Israel, the Hürriyet newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Tensions between Israel and Turkey have been strained to breaking point since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed during an IDF commando raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla. Despite an official apology from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year, diplomatic ties have remained frosty.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum, together with the Aladdin Project and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, organized the event at the Galatasaray University in Istanbul. Some 20 local academics were due to attend the program, which was set to include lectures on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, Yad Vashem said in a press release.

Among the sessions planned for the seminar were subjects such as “Turkey and the Universality of Holocaust Education: the Aladdin Project’s Perspectives,” “Project Overview and a Workshop on Holocaust Memory Represented in the Graphic Arts,” and “Issues in the Study of the Holocaust.”

The event is the first part of a five-stage project spread out over two years.

During the second stage of the program, which begins in January 2014, participants are set to take part in an online study course. In June 2014, the group is scheduled to visit Jerusalem for a week-long seminar at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies.

The fourth stage will see the academics implement educational programs in their respective universities, and in February 2015 the program will culminate in a video conference summarizing the program and bringing together the entire group of educators to assess the outcome of the long-term project.