The Head of the Department of Interethnic Relations, Multiculturalism and Religious Issues of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan Etibar Najafov visited the European and Georgian Jews’ synagogue in Baku and got acquainted with the activities of the religious communities, the administrative building, prayer halls as well as meeting rooms of the synagogue.
There were separate meetings with the Chair of the European Jews’ Baku Religious Community Alexander Sharovski and the Chair of the Georgian Jews’ Baku Religious Community Abik Charukhchev. Giving extensive information on the history of the mentioned Jewish communities, the chairs of the communities expressed their satisfaction from the state care and wide opportunities created for them. Etibar Najafov spoke of the National Leader’s high attention to and care for the Jewish religious communities and the present successful continuation of this policy by President Mr. Ilham Aliyev, and the merits of the Jewish communities in the maintenance of tolerance and multicultural traditions in the country, and emphasized the co-existence of all the nations in Azerbaijan in mutual understanding and the absence of anti-Semitism.
The Senior Consultant of the Department of Interethnic Relations, Multiculturalism and Religious Issues of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Mammadov was also present at the meeting.
The European (Ashkenazi) Jews’ arrival in Baku mainly came together with the oil boom in Baku in the second half of the XIX century. Among the intellectual European Jews moving to Baku were architects, teachers, doctors, lawyers and other specialists. In 1910 a synagogue was built for the European Jews in Baku, and this temple functioned not only as the place of prayers but also as the centre of education and training. In the city there were special schools called “Yeshiva” which taught the holy Books such as the Torah, the Talmud, the Vishnah. Special gymnasium and schools were opened for the Jewish girls too. All through the history the Azerbaijani people has positively treated the Jews residing here and did not show any discriminating attitude in the periods when Anti-Semitism raged all around the world.
As for the Georgian Jews residing in Azerbaijan, they are the representatives of the Jewish diaspora who had settled in the territory of Georgia in the past. In the subsequent periods part of them moved to Azerbaijan and mainly resided in Baku. Hundreds of the Georgian Jews, who resided in Azerbaijan in the 1960-1980, have moved to Israel, European countries, the USA and other countries. After the Republic of Azerbaijan restored its independence, there has been considerable decrease in the number of the members of the Georgian Jews’ community wishing to move to other countries forever.
The synagogue of the European and Georgian Jews has been erected in the place of the old temple in Baku, and its opening took place on 9 March 2003. For its splendor, it is one of the greatest synagogues in Europe. The temple has been constructed in the style of “Jerusalem architecture” based on the design of the architect Alexander Garber of Baku.
In December 2009 the European Jews’ Baku Religious Community and the Georgian Jews’ Baku Religious Community got officially registered again at the State Committee for the Work with Religious Organizations.
Today the Jewish children get a high quality education as equal citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan. As, on the basis of school # 46 in the district of Nasimi, Baku there are Jewish classes for the pupils of Jewish origin. The maintenance expenses of the school as well as the teachers’ salaries are paid by the state, and the other expenses are provided by the international humanitarian organization “Vaad-L-Khatzola”. Along with secular classes here, the pupils are also taught the customs and traditions of the Jewish nation. The classes are held in five languages – Azerbaijani, Russian, Hebrew, English and French. The pupils are provided with the free transport, three meals (kosher) a day, and the circles of drawing, music, and chess are also organized here.
Besides, in the frames of the project “The Address of Tolerance – Azerbaijan” Heydar Aliyev Foundation and “Or-Avner” International Foundation constructed the Education Centre “Khabad-Or-Avner” for the Jewish children residing in Baku. On 31 May 2007 a foundation ceremony of the Centre took place in the territory of Khatai district with the participation of the President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mrs.Mehriban Aliyeva. The construction of the Education Centre was accomplished in 2010. On 4 October 2010 the opening ceremony of the Education Centre was attended by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and the President of the CIS Jewish Communities Federation and the International Foundation “Or-Avner” Lev Levayev. This three-storied complex has been constructed by the most modern standards. There are 30 classrooms equipped with modern facilities and necessary teaching aids, and an open stadium with an artificial cover on a 700 square metre area. The distinction between the Centre for 450 people and other educational establishments lies in the fact that it teaches the basics of Jewish culture. At present there are 200 pupils here including the children who attend the kindergarten in the Centre where 40 teachers are employed.
There is also the Azerbaijani-Israeli Friendship Centre in the Republic, “Sokhnut” Jewish agency, organizations like “Joint” and “Vaad-L-Khatzola” involved in the maintenance and protection of Jewish traditions, the cultural centres of the Jewish communities, “Yeva” Women’s Association and other NGOs.
Along with the Jewish people’s religious holidays, the commemoration events associated with the significant days are also marked at high level in our country. Our country also marks the Holocaust – the day when the Jews were exposed to the genocide by the fascist regime during World War II. The Head of our country Ilham Aliyev addresses the Jewish communities of the Republic of Azerbaijan on this day.