Armenia Jews
April 25th, 2009 by Elijah





The History of the Jews in Armenia dates back more than 2,000 years. A large Jewish population was settled in Armenia from the 1st century BC. One of the cities, Vartkesavan became an important commercial center.Tigranes the Great retreated from Palestine and encouraged 10,000 Jews to join him on his return to his kingdom. Thus, Armenia’s Jewish community was established. Like the rest of Armenia’s population, they suffered the consequences of regional powers trying to divide and conquer the country.

The Jews in Pagan Armenia were Jews in Armenia before St. Gregor Lusavoric’s coming. Armenian historians, as Moses Khorenatsi, hold that Tigranes II deported Jews from Palestine to Armenia. Tigranes invaded Syria, and probably northern Palestine as well.The Persians also deported thousands of Jewish families from Armenia, and resettled them at Isfahan. Deported Jewish families and Jews deported from Palestine to Armenia: Artashat – 9000; Vaghasabat -?; Yervandashat – 30,000; Sarehavan – 8000; Sarisat -14,000; Van in Dosp – 18,000; Nachdsavan – 16,000;

After Eastern Armenia came under Russian rule in the early 19th century, Jews began arriving from Poland and Iran, creating Ashkenazic and Mizrahi communities in Yerevan. More Jews moved to Armenia during its period as a Soviet republic finding more tolerance in the area than in Russia or Ukraine. After World War II, the Jewish population rose to approximately 5,000. However, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union many have left due to inadequate services and today the country’s Jewish population has shrunk to 750. Despite small numbers, a high intermarriage rate, and relative isolation, a great deal of enthusiasm exists to help the community meet its needs.

Recent vandalism by unknown individuals on Jewish Holocaust Memorial in central Yerevan was witnessed in one of the central parks of Armenian capital on 23 December 2007. A Nazi swastika symbol was scratched and black paint was splattered on the simple stone. After notifying the local police, Rabbi Gershon Burshtein, a Chabad emissary who serves as Chief Rabbi of the country’s tiny Jewish community said “I just visited the memorial the other day and everything was fine. This is terrible, as there are excellent relations between Jews and Armenians.” The monument has been defaced and toppled several times in the past few years. It is located in the city’s Aragast Park, a few blocks north of the centrally-located Republic Square, which is home to a number of government buildings.

NOTABLE JEWISH ARMENIANS

Garry Kasparov, World Chess Champion from 1985 to 1991,
Sergei Dovlatov, short-story writer
Yelena Bonner, a human rights activist in the former Soviet Union.
Lyudmila Ter-Petrossian, the wife of the first Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian, is Jewish.



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