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From the Caspian to the Caucuses: The Jews of Azerbaijan
Tuesday, December 20, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pmFree
Located on the southern edge of the Caucusus and bordered by Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, and the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan has a centuries-old Jewish history. Jewish communities have existed in Azerbaijan since Jews first settled in Persia. The first documentary evidence is found in Benjamin of Tudela’s Travels where he refers to more than a hundred congregations in the Haftan mountains up to the frontiers of Media, which included Persian Azerbaijan. The Jewish community of Azerbaijan includes various subgroups, mainly Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews, and Ashkenazi Jews, as well as Kurdish Jews, Bukharian Jews, among others. The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan are neither Sephardim (from the Iberian Peninsula) nor Ashkenazim (from Germany and Eastern Europe) but rather trace their lineage to the Jews of the Persian Empire. Mountain Jews tenaciously held to their religion throughout the centuries, developing their own unique traditions and religious practices, which are infused with teachings of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.
Evgenia Kempinski is a Russian Jew born and raised in St. Petersburg. Her family was originally from the Pale of Settlement – Poland, Ukraine and Belorussia – and endured the suppression of Judaism in the Soviet Union then the rebirth of Jewish culture and religious life in today’s St. Petersburg. She has been an official St. Petersburg tour guide for over 15 years and is the founder and owner of St.Petersburg Jewish Tours – a company offering Jewish travelers a unique experience of showcasing the best of Russia from a Jewish point of view. She currently lives in Haifa, Israel, still keeping close connections with St. Petersburg and its Jewish community.
CSP Partners: Beth Israel (San Diego, CA), Brotherhood Synagogue (Gramercy Park, NYC), Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Elkins Park, PA), Congregation Beth Shalom (Seattle, WA), Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Fountain Valley, CA), Congregation B’nai Israel (Tustin, CA), Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, Shomrei Torah Synagogue (San Fernando Valley, CA), Temple Bat Yahm (Newport Beach, CA), Temple Beth David (Westminster, CA),Temple Beth El of South Orange County (Aliso Viejo, CA), Temple Beth Emet (Anaheim, CA), Temple Beth Ohr (La Mirada, CA), Temple Beth Tikvah (Fullerton, CA), Temple Beth Shalom (Needham, MA), Temple Beth Sholom (Santa Ana, CA), Temple Emanuel (Newton, MA), Temple Judea of Laguna Woods, CA, The Boston Synagogue (Boston, MA), Town & Village Synagogue (NYC, NY), University Synagogue (Irvine, CA), Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, CA) & Walnut Street Synagogue (Chelsea, MA)