The community is divided equally between "native" Georgian Jews and Russian-speaking Ashkenazim who began migrating there at the beginning of the 19th century, and especially during World War II. The largest center is in the capital Tbilisi (11,000). There are also communities in Kutaisi (1,000), Gory (800), Batumi (300), Oni (250), Akhaltsikhe, and several other places.
Georgian-speaking Jewry is one of the oldest of the Diaspora communities. Archeological sites prove the presence of Jews in Georgia since the 2nd century b.c.e. Over the years, Georgian Jewry acquired many local habits, especially in its day-to-day culture and language. Georgia was known as a country where there was little anti-Semitism. Still its Jews underwent many difficult periods, and some were even reduced to slavery. Despite this Georgian Jewry remained true to Jewish religious tradition and was exempted from much of the Soviet repression of religion. In 1979 nearly half of the 90 synagogues in the Soviet Union were situated in Georgia.
There is no roof organization in Georgia, but some 30 separate Jewish organizations function.
There is a day school in Tbilisi and six supplementary schools in three other cities. The office of the JDC in Tbilisi organizes Hebrew-language and other Jewish classes, as well as special activities for youth and for the elderly. Several Jewish publications appear, including Alia Sakhartvelodan, Shalom, and Menorah.
The traditions of Georgian Jewry can be observed in the richly decorated old Georgian Synagogue in Tbilisi and in those of the smaller towns.
Achmashenabeli Ave. 61 , Tbilisi 380002
Tel. 995 8832 964 457/951 709
Fax: 995 8832 754 469
Georgian Jewry succeeded in maintaining Jewish tradition to a greater extent than most other Soviet Jews. Intermarriage was and remains low, and the level of Jewish religious knowledge is considerably higher than that of other republics. There are synagogues in Tbilisi, Kutasisi, Batumi, Gori, Oni, and several other communities, including those in which only a negligible number of Jews remains. Kosher food is available.
Aliya: Georgian Jews began to settle in Eretz Israel in the 1860s, and by 1914 there were 500 in Jerusalem. Since 1989, 17,000 Georgian Jews have emigrated to Israel.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database