Community in Armenia - World Jewish Congress

The Jewish community in Armenia is represented by the Jewish Community of Armenia, the Armenian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
The Jewish Community of Armenia

+374 10 534 854
+374 10 534 924

Chairwoman: Rimma Varzhepetyan

Historical records attest to a Jewish presence in Armenia dating back to before the spread of Christianity in the region. The Armenian historian Arakel Babakhanian, commonly known by his pen name "Leo," wrote in his book History of Armenia that King Tigran the Great relocated over 40,000 Jewish families to the ancient Kingdom of Armenia “highly considering their knowledge in trade, handcrafting, and sciences" following a retreat from Judea after a Roman attack on Armenia.

A large Jewish population was settled in Armenia in the first century BCE, thus establishing a permanent Jewish community there. During this period, numerous regional powers attempted to divide and conquer the country, and as a result, the Jewish population (and the general Armenian population as well) suffered the consequences of invasions, occupations, and reconquests. By the third century CE, there was a huge increase in Jewish immigration from the Hellenistic region. As a result, some Armenian towns became largely Jewish. 

The conquest of Armenia by the Sassanids under King Shapur II in the following century saw the deportation of Jews. Thousands of Jewish families were deported to areas throughout the region, including Esfahan (modern Iran), Artashat, Vaghasabat, Yervandashat, Sarehavan, Sarisat, Van, and Nakhichevan.

The return of substantial Jewish communities in Armenia coincided with the Russian annexation of eastern Armenia following the Russo-Persian War in 1828, when Russian Jews began arriving in Armenia. They established communities throughout the latter half of the 19th century.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s saw widespread violence engulf the region, and as a result, many Armenian Jews left the region. Today’s Armenian Jewish population is almost entirely comprised of Ashkenazi Jews who came to Armenia during the Soviet period. 

The Years of the Holocaust

Under Soviet rule, Armenia participated on the side of the Allies during World War II. The country was spared the devastation and destruction that wrought most of the western Soviet Union during the war, and many displaced Jews found refuge in Soviet Armenia during the Holocaust. Many scientists were relocated to Armenia during WWII. Many of them stayed in Armenia even after the war; later, their ancestors became part of our community.

Following World War II, the population rose to approximately 5,000 Jews. This continued throughout most of the Soviet era, with many Russian and Ukrainian Jews settling in Armenia as a result of its more accepting society (in comparison to Soviet Russia and Ukraine).

In 2006, a joint Holocaust and Armenian Genocide memorial was erected in Yerevan with the generous assistance of the government of Armenia and the mayor.


The Jewish Community of Armenia estimates that there are approximately 500 Jews, with nearly all residing in the capital, Yerevan, and a small group living in Vanadzor. According to recent listings, there are over 400 Jewish families in the country. Despite some manifestations of antisemitism, the Armenian Jewish community can practice their religion freely and live in relative stability. The majority of Armenian Jews are Ashkenazi, with some Mizrahi and Georgian Jews. Armenia, with its diverse ethnic population and long history of Jewish influence, allows the small Jewish community to practice Judaism freely.

One notable Armenian Jew is Levon Aronyan, the chess grandmaster who received the Order of St. Mesrop Mashtots in 2012 and who openly espouses his Jewish background. Besides him, there have been many prominent Jews living in Soviet and then independent Armenia, including scientists, archeologists, and engineers.

Community Life

Despite the small size of Armenian Jewry, the Jewish community in Armenia remains organized and active. The Jewish Community of Armenia (JCA) acts as the main representative organization, ensuring the community's religious needs are met and representing Armenian Jewry on both national and international levels. The JCA provides a myriad of services that extend beyond religious and representational matters, engaging in charitable and cultural activities as well.

Community activities cater to children, youth, and adults, including Sunday school for Jewish traditions, Hebrew, and history, as well as weekly Shabbat dinners. The community remains one of the most active national minority communities in Armenia.

Religious and Cultural Life

Jewish religious life in Armenia is almost entirely concentrated in Yerevan, where the country’s only synagogue, Mordechai Navi, operates. Rabbi Gersh Meir Burshtein, who acts as the Chief Rabbi of Armenia, leads all Jewish religious holidays and gathers both locals and visitors for prayers and other religious services.

The Jewish community is active not only in Jewish life but also in local and international festivals, exhibitions, discussions, and round tables.

Community Facts

1. In Armenia, one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the region dates back to the 12th century. Archeological excavations and the following studies were held together with scientists from Jerusalem Hebrew University and led by Prof. Michael Stone.

2. Many Iranian (Persian) Jews hold Armenian last names.

3. The city of Sevan was established by an ethnic Russian (“Subbotnik”) community deported from Russian central regions following the orders of Catherine (Ekaterina) II (1762–1796), who were secretly practicing Judaism and keeping Shabbat. There are still a few hundred Subbotniks living in Sevan today.

4. There are Armenians among those nominated as “Righteous Among the Nations," or non-Jewish individuals who have been honored by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, for risking their lives to aid Jews during the Holocaust.

5. In 2013, a team of Jewish Armenian athletes took part in the Maccabiah Games for the first time.

Kosher Food

Kosher food is served mainly at the Mordechai Navi Synagogue in Yerevan.

Jewish Education

Despite the small size of the Jewish community, there are opportunities for Jewish education in Armenia. This is largely done through the auspices of the JCA, which offers a Sunday school and a children’s vocal ensemble called “Keshet.”

There is an Israeli cultural center. The community also has an Ulpan, which offers free Hebrew lessons for all members of the community.


There are various Armenian Jewish youth organizations conducted by the Jewish Community of Armenia. Opportunities through various agencies in Israel, including programs with the Jewish Agency for Israel or Maccabi, are also available to young Jews in Armenia.

Jewish Media

The Jewish community in Armenia has consistently published the monthly Jewish magazine "Magen David" since 2002, with support from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), and the Armenian government. Additionally, the community published the book "Jews of Noah’s Land," which explores the history of Jews in Armenia. The first edition of this book was also sponsored by the WJC, EAJC, and the Armenian government.

Information for Visitors

Despite the small size and historically scattered nature of the Jewish community in Armenia, there are a number of Jewish sites of interest. This includes a recently restored (with financing from the Government of the Republic of Armenia) Jewish medieval cemetery in the village of Yeghegis. 

A memorial dedicated to the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide sits in the center of Yerevan, with a ceremony held there every year to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide.

Relations with Israel

Israel and Armenia have maintained diplomatic ties since Armenia's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but relations have been complicated by the Israeli government's refusal to recognize the Armenian massacres of 1915 as genocide. In September 2019, Armenia announced plans to open an embassy in Israel. However, relations soured when Armenia withdrew its ambassador due to Israel's supply of weapons to Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. In December 2021, Arman Hakobyan, then Ambassador to Brazil, was appointed as Armenia's Ambassador to Israel.

Armenia was among the first countries to condemn the October 7th terrorist attack and aggression against Israel. Nevertheless, relations between the two countries remain complicated due to global and regional tensions.

Israeli Consulate in Armenia:
47 Komitas Ave., 0051

Telephone: (+374) 249916

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