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Azeri Jews are divided into two distinct groups: the Ashkenazim who arrived in the country during the last century and the au-tochthonous Caucasian Mountain Jews, or Tats, who trace their roots back many centuries and who speak a distinct Jewish dialect called Judeo-Tat (a north Iranian language that uses some Hebrew words and is sometimes referred to as Tat). However, the imposition of Soviet authority gradually changed the Tat way of life. In 1928 they were forced to adapt the Tat language to the Latin alphabet, in place of the Hebrew letters that they had normally used. In 1938 the Tats were forced to adopt the Cyrillic alphabet in place of the Latin. Attempts were made to expunge the language of its Hebrew elements. Tat cultural institutions were closed down, as were some of their synagogues. Yet the Tats displayed resilience and clung to their traditions.
The main centers are Baku (15,000) and Quba (3,000). There are communities in several other smaller towns, but none of these numbers more than 500 people.
Azerbaijan Jewry has no umbrella organization. There are 10 to 15 Jewish bodies in Baku, including Zionist groups, youth associations, and an Azerbaijan-Israel Friendship Organization.
The first officially sanctioned Hebrew courses in the Soviet Union were offered in Baku in 1987. There is a total of five Jewish schools in Baku and Quba (including a day school) with a total enrollment of 1,450 students.
Baku has three synagogues: a Mountain Jewish congregation, which is the oldest and largest of the Jewish houses of worship; an Ashkenazi synagogue; and a Georgian one. There are synagogues in some of the smaller communities as well.
Aliya: Since 1989, 27,650 Azeri Jews have emigrated to Israel.
Stroiteley Prospect 1, Baku
Tel. 99 412 385 282, Fax 99 412 989 283
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