Unity Across Borders: Unearthing the Heartwarming Ties Between Azerbaijan and the Jewish Community

In Azerbaijan, nestled between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, a rich history of Jewish heritage spans over 2,000 years, according to Rabbi Shneur Segal, the Chabad emissary to the country. This community, thriving with 20,000-25,000 individuals, is an exemplar of religious harmony and cordial relations in a predominantly Muslim nation.

As per Rabbi Segal’s observations in a recent interview, the Azerbaijan-Jewish relationship is deeply rooted in mutual respect. “There have always been good relations between the Jewish community and the Azeri people,” he said. This connection is palpable on the streets of Azerbaijan, where Rabbi Segal walks in traditional Jewish attire and receives warm ‘shalom’ greetings from locals, reflecting an environment free from the specter of antisemitism.

This open-hearted acceptance extends beyond interpersonal connections. The Azerbaijani government, the Jewish community, and Israel share a supportive and collaborative relationship that has been nurturing for many years.

The Jewish community in Azerbaijan is vibrant and continually growing. As estimated by Rabbi Segal, about 10-15% of Jews are actively involved in community activities, and the number is steadily increasing. Scattered across the country are synagogues and Jewish schools providing Jewish education to hundreds of students, promoting a sense of unity among the Jewish population.

Azerbaijan’s Jewish community also presents an intriguing dynamic where many individuals with Jewish ancestry might not even recognize their own roots. Rabbi Segal recounts a touching incident where a young man discovered his Jewish heritage after seeking assistance for his grandmother’s burial. He was taken aback by the flourishing Jewish life in Azerbaijan, leading to his newfound connection with his heritage.

Another testament to Jewish history in Azerbaijan is Kırmızı Kasaba, also known as the Red Village, located a short distance from the country’s capital, Baku. This place is unique, boasting a claim that every single resident is of Jewish origin. In this village, not only are mikveh and synagogues functional, but also a newly-built museum honoring the town’s Jewish history. Here, locals converse in Juhuri, the traditional language of the region’s Mountain Jews, further enriching the cultural mosaic of the region.

Just this week, the ties between Israel and Azerbaijan received another boost as Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Azerbaijan to strengthen bilateral relations. Post his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, President Herzog noted the shared concerns over regional security and expressed hope for enhanced cooperation in academia, agriculture, and other diverse fields.

In conclusion, the story of Jewish life in Azerbaijan exemplifies the spirit of religious harmony and mutual respect that lies at the core of the Jewish people and Israel. Israel’s commitment to fostering ties with diverse nations around the globe serves as a testament to its foundational values of unity and acceptance. This tale of camaraderie from Azerbaijan is just one among many that inspire the State of Israel and its people to persist in their pursuit of peace, cooperation, and cultural understanding.