20 Facts About Mountain Jews


Mountain Jews took shape as a community after Qajar Iran ceded the areas in which they lived to the Russian Empire as part of the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813.

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Forerunners of the Mountain Jews Jewish community were in Ancient Persia from the 5th century BCE; their language, called Judeo-Tat, is an ancient Southwest Iranian language which integrates many elements of Ancient Hebrew.

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Mountain Jews survived numerous historical vicissitudes by settling in extremely remote and mountainous areas.

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Mountain Jews are distinct from Georgian Jews of the Caucasus Mountains.

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However, Mountain Jews only took shape as a community after Qajar Iran ceded the areas in which they lived to the Russian Empire per the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813.

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Mountain Jews have an oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation, that they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes, which were exiled by the king of Assyria, who ruled over northern Iraq from Mosul .

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Many Mountain Jews were slaughtered, with survivors escaping to Derbent where they received the protection of Fatali Khan, the ruler of Quba Khanate.

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In Chechnya, Mountain Jews partially assimilated into Chechen society by forming a Jewish teip, the Zhugtii.

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Mountain Jews have settled in the territory of modern Azerbaijan.

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Mountain Jews were mainly concentrated in the cities of Makhachkala, Buynaksk, Derbent, Nalchik and Grozny in North Caucasus; and Quba and Baku in Azerbaijan.

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Many Mountain Jews survived because German troops did not reach all their areas; in addition, attempts succeeded to convince local German authorities that this group were "religious" but not "racial" Jews.

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Unlike their neighbors, the Mountain Jews raised few domestic animals, although tanning was their third most important economic activity after farming and gardening.

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Mountain Jews worked in more professional positions than did Georgian Jews, though less than the Soviet Ashkenazi community, who were based in larger cities of Russia.

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Mountain Jews are not Sephardim nor Ashkenazim but rather of Persian Jewish origin, and they follow some Mizrachi customs.

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Mountain Jews tenaciously held to their religion throughout the centuries, developing their own unique traditions and religious practices.

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Soviet authorities propagated the myth that Mountain Jews were not part of the world Jewish people at all, but rather members of the Tat community that settled in the region.

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Mountain Jews developed and retained customs different from other Jews, such as govgil, an end-of-Passover picnic celebration involving the whole community.

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Mountain Jews speak Judeo-Tat, called Juhuri, a form of Persian; it belongs to the southwestern group of the Iranian division of the Indo-European languages.

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Mountain Jews have a military tradition and have been historically viewed as fierce warriors.

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Music of Mountain Jews is mostly based in the standard liturgy, for prayer and the celebration of holidays.

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