Community in Georgia - World Jewish Congress

Georgia is home to around 1,500 Jews, based on data from 2023. Georgian Jews are a separate ethnic group with distinctive customs, as they are one of the oldest Jewish groups in the Diaspora. Despite recent improvements to Jewish life in Georgia, many Georgian Jews have relocated to Israel.

The Jewish community in Georgia is represented by the Jewish Community of Georgia (JCC), the Georgian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
The Jewish Community of Georgia (JCC)
+995 32 2770653

JCC Director: Elen Berkovich

The history of the Jews in Georgia can be traced back to around the sixth century BCE when Jews fleeing the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and Armenia and Iran arrived in western Georgia, which was then under Byzantine rule.

Severe persecution by the Byzantines saw many Jews flee to the Persian-controlled eastern and southern parts of Georgia. Under Persian rule, Jews were generally accepted by society and practiced their religion without discrimination. In the following century, the Muslim Empire conquered a vast portion of Georgian territory, while the Jews continued to live there. Georgian archaeological finds about the presence of Jews in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of the eastern Georgian state of Kartli, in the initial centuries of the new era.

When the Mongols arrived in the region in 1236, many Jews in eastern and southern Georgia moved to the western, independent region of the territory. There, they formed several small, generally poverty-stricken Jewish communities along the Black Sea. Their destitution saw them absorbed in the widespread feudal system that enveloped Georgia throughout the Middle Ages. Jews were then classified as a part of the “Kamani” serf class, diminishing Jewish communal life.

Conditions for Georgian Jews worsened throughout the successive centuries as various wars and invasions devastated the territory. Georgia was fragmented into three separate kingdoms and five feudal territories, and Jews living in these precarious circumstances were subjected to further disarray in their roles as serfs. As a result, it was nearly impossible to maintain any semblance of Jewish life in the region. Jewish communities were largely non-existent, and there was a decline in religious knowledge and self-identification among Georgian Jews. Numerous historical accounts prove that the serf status of Georgian Jews has been preserved for almost 500 years.

Further turmoil in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries saw the region decimated. After countless wars and rebellions, authorities and victorious armies confiscated Jewish properties, and many Jews were forced to indebt themselves further to local feudal lords.

The annexation of the eastern portion of Georgia by the Russian Empire in 1801 saw a dramatic change in the societal structure of Georgian society. Serfs in the Georgian system were absorbed into the Russian feudal system and were required to pay taxes to the Tsar rather than local rulers. Eventually, Russian authorities abolished serfdom in Georgia, which lasted from 1864 to 1871, and former enslaved Jews moved to towns and villages where free Jews already lived and were mainly engaged in trade. The transition from serfdom to a free condition and the urbanization of Georgian Jews contributed to the final formation of Jewish communities with religious and educational institutions. The arrival of Ashkenazim from Russia, forced by Russian authorities, was met with some resistance by Georgian Jews, who viewed them unfavorably. Though connections were made between the different groups, relations were tense. 

Zionism, however, became a common ground for Russian and Georgian Jews, and Georgia proved to be an early center of Zionism, with a Zionist organization formed there as early as 1897. The first Congress of Caucasus Jews took place in Tbilisi in 1901. Georgian Jews began settling in the land of Israel in 1863; by 1916, 439 Georgian Jews lived in what was then Palestine.

Some of this emigration can be attributed to the rise of antisemitism in Georgia, which, under Russian rule, became a serious problem for the Georgian Jewish community. Russian authorities and the Russian Orthodox Church openly espoused antisemitic sentiments and materials toward the Georgian population, often inciting violence against Georgian Jews. The end of feudalism and the movement of many Georgian Jews to cities caused resentment on the part of the local population, which viewed the Jews as competition in the job market. Anger and resentment at the Russian occupation and lack of jobs saw many Georgians turn their fury to the Jewish “outsiders” in their country. A series of blood libels took place in the second half of the 19th century, and the situation remained tense for Georgian Jews through the end of the century.

After the Revolution of 1905, many Georgian Jews attempted to separate themselves from Russian Jews and reiterate their loyalty to the Tsar. After Georgia declared its independence in 1918, following the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Bolshevik regime, the living and economic situation of Georgian Jews improved. However, the Soviet Union invaded Georgia in 1921, and a large number of Jews fled the region for Palestine. After reconquering the region, Soviet authorities allowed Georgian Jews to continue practicing Jewish religious and cultural life before all Zionist activities were prohibited and heavily impeded; following a Georgian rebellion in 1924, the discrimination against Georgian Jewry began. 

Georgian Jews faced heavy economic restrictions under Soviet rule, and many Jewish businesses were shut down during this period. Many Jews wanted to leave the region, but Soviet authorities blocked most Jewish emigration. Blood libels continued at an increasing rate, and Jewish life was devastated under Soviet actions. The 1930s saw suppression efforts rise as the economic and political situation of Georgian Jewry became more precarious. The Soviet authorities arrested and murdered a large number of Jewish activists and Zionist leaders and completely shut down Jewish religious life in the country.

During World War II, thousands of Georgian Jews served in the Red Army, but the post-war years saw no easing of persecution. Jews were arrested, synagogues were either closed or destroyed, and there were violent antisemitic incidents throughout Georgia. There were also blood libels circulating in Tskhaltubo in 1963, in Zestafoni in 1964, and in Kutaisi in 1965.

Georgian Jews remained closely connected with the State of Israel, and after the June 1967 Six-Day War, many members of the community requested to immigrate to Israel. When these requests were denied, several Jewish families wrote to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, demanding that they be allowed to emigrate. As a result, a flurry of activity by the Israeli government and the Jewish world saw Soviet authorities revise their policies towards Jews and lessen their severity. Almost 30,000 Georgian Jews made Aliyah in the 1970s, as part of an overall exodus of Jews. Still, in 1979, nearly half of the 90 synagogues in the Soviet Union were situated in Georgia.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the declaration of Georgian independence in 1991, several thousand Georgian Jews left for Israel. Overall, conditions for Georgian Jewry improved dramatically with the dissolution of Soviet rule, and in 1994, President Eduard Shevardnaze issued a decree protecting Jewish religious, cultural, and historical monuments.

On January 31, 2001, an agreement was signed between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Jewish Community of Georgia. The agreement aimed for mutual respect and support and included a vow to work together on advancing democratization, peace, and stability in the region.


Georgia is home to around 1,500 Jews, based on data from 2023. Most Georgian Jews live in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, with smaller Jewish communities in Kutaisi, Batumi, Oni, Achaltische, Ahalkalaki, Surami, Kareli, and Gori.

Community Life

There is no single Jewish umbrella organization in Georgia.  Despite the small size of the Georgian Jewish community, there are numerous separate Jewish organizations across the country.

In 1990, the Rachamim Society was established, supplying financial and medical support to Jews in Tbilisi and helping maintain and preserve Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. Presently running permanent operations in Georgia are the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). With the support of JDC in Georgia, another organization, Hesed Eliyahu, distributes food and provides medical aid to elderly Jews in Georgia, and there is a Jewish community center.

Religious and Cultural life

Georgian Jews maintained Jewish tradition better than most former Soviet Jewish communities, and Jewish religious knowledge is considerably higher than in other former Soviet republics. There are synagogues in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Gori, Oni, Surai, Akhaltsikhe, and several other communities, including those in which only a minority of Jews remain. Currently, the Rabbi of the Ashkenazi synagogue, Avi Melekh Rosenblatt, serves as the Chief Rabbi of Georgia. In Tbilisi there is a mikveh and a shochet.

Jewish Education

In Tbilisi, there are religious institutions for every age group. The Jewish Community Center (JCC) runs a supplementary Jewish preschool program. The Chabad Lubavitch runs a kindergarten, Tifferet Zvi, and a Jewish high school. The JCC offers various courses for university students and adults, covering general Judaic studies and traditions, and manages a beit midrash (a Jewish study hall). Also in Georgia is the Olami Georgia Educational Center.

Kosher Food

Kosher food is available in Georgia – there are two kosher restaurants in Tbilisi.


The functioning Jewish youth organizations are Olami Georgia, the Youth Jewish Club (YJC), and the vocal group, Shir, at the Jewish Community Center (JCC). There is also a Hillel youth center.

Jewish Media

Currently in Tbilisi a monthly Jewish newspaper called Menorah and a magazine, published quarterly, called The Jewish World.

Relations with Israel

Diplomatic relations between Georgia and Israel were established on June 1, 1992.

In addition to diplomatic relations, Georgia and Israel are closely cooperating in the fields of business, tourism, health, agriculture, defense, and security.

Israel and Georgia maintain full diplomatic relations and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili visited Israel in October 2015.

Embassy of the State of Israel in Georgia
154 Agmashenebeli Ave.
Georgia, Tbilisi 0102

Telephone: (+995 32) 556500
Fax: (+995 32) 556533

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