Community in Georgia - World Jewish Congress

According to 2023 statistics, there are about 1,500 Jews residing in Georgia. One of the oldest Jewish communities in the Diaspora, Georgian Jewry constitutes a distinct ethnic group with unique traditions. Although Jewish life in Georgia has improved in recent years, many Georgian Jews have emigrated to in 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)
Telephone: +995 32 2770653

JCC Director: Elen Berkovich

The history of Jews in Georgia can be traced back to around the sixth century BCE, when Jews fleeing the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar arrived in western Georgia, which in the 6-th century was under Byzantine rule. In Georgian historical sources, there are also data on Jewish migrations to Georgia during this period from Armenia and Iran.

Severe persecution by the Byzantines saw many Jews flee to the Persian-controlled eastern and south   parts of Georgia. Under Persian rule, Jews were tolerated and able to practice their religion without discrimination. In the following century, the Muslim Empire conquered a vast portion of Georgian territory and Jews continued to live there.

The information of Georgian historical sources about the stay of Jews in Mtskheta (the ancient capital of the eastern Georgian state of Kartli) in the first centuries of the new era is confirmed by archaeological finds.

When the Mongols arrived in the region in 1236, a large number of Jews in eastern and southern Georgia moved to the western, independent region of the territory. Here 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 considered a part of the “kamani” serf class, and there was little if any 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 a  five of 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, either heavily fragmented or constantly torn apart, and there was a decline in Jewish knowledge   and self-identification among Georgian Jews. Numerous historical evidences approve that serf status of Georgian Jews have been preserved for almost 500 years.

Further turmoil in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries saw the region decimated. Countless wars and rebellions often saw Jewish property confiscated by authorities or victorious armies, and many Jews were forced to further indebt themselves 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 they were required to pay taxes to the Tsar now, rather than local rulers.
Eventually, Russian authorities abolished serfdom in Georgia (1864–71)  , and former Jewish serfs 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 process of urbanization of Georgian Jews contributed to the final formation of the structure of Jewish communities with synagogues and other religious and educational institutions.

The arrival of Ashkenazi Jews 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, and by 1916, 439 Georgian Jews lived in what was then Palestine.

Some of this emigration can be attributed to the rise of anti-Semitism 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 to 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 who 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. It was only after Georgia declared its independence in 1918, following the Russian revolution and establishment of the Bolshevik regime, that 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, but soon prohibited all Zionist activities and heavily impeded, and discriminated against, Georgian Jews following a Georgian rebellion in 1924.

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. This continued in the 1930s, as the already desperate economic and political situation of Georgian Jews was exacerbated by further suppression. 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 closed or destroyed synagogues, there were violent antisemitic incidents throughout Georgia, and there were still blood libels 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 Israel 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 historic monuments. On January 31, 2001, an agreement was signed between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Jewish Community of Georgia. The agreement was aimed at mutual respect and support and included a vow to work together in advancing democratization, peace, and stability in the region.


Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola’s estimated the Georgian Jewish population to be between 1,600 and 6,000 Jews as of 2002. The majority of Jews in Georgia live in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, but there are some 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.  In present the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) run permanent operations in Georgia.  With support of  JDC in Georgia are functioning organization  Hesed Eliyahu , which  distributes food and provide medical aid to elderly Jews in Georgia, and Jewish Community Center.

Religious and Cultural life

Georgian Jews succeeded in maintaining Jewish tradition better than most other former Soviet Jewish communities, and the level of Jewish religious knowledge is considerably higher than in other former Soviet republics. There are synagogues in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Gori, Oni, Sura,i. Akhaltsikhe and several other communities, including those in which only a negligible number of Jews remains. In Tbilisi there is a mikveh and a shochet. Currently Rabbi of Ashkenazi Synagogue, Avi Melekh Rosenblatt serves as the Chief Rabbi of Georgia.

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

Jewish Education

In Tbilisi, there is a Jewish high school and a kindergarten under the patronage of Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish kindergarten (Tifferet Zvi) and a children's supplementary Jewish education program for pre-school children at the JCC, the Olami Georgia Educational Center, Tifferet Zvi, Yeshiva, the Jewish Community Center has a Jewish University JCC) and the Jewish Library (JCC). JCC also offers a program of Jewish education, Hebrew studies and traditions, Beit Midrash for adults.


There are functioning Jewish Youth organizations at “Olami Georgia”, YJC – Youth Jewish Club at JCC. Vocal group Shir (JCC), Youth center at Hillel.

Jewish Media

Currently in Tbilisi a Jewish newspaper called “Menorah” (monthly) and a magazine called the Jewish World (quarterly).

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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