The Georgian Jews have traditionally lived separately, not only from the surrounding Georgian people, but also from the Ashkenazi Jews in Tbilisi, who had different practices and language.

The community, which numbered about 80,000 as recently as the 1970s, has largely emigrated to Israel, the United States (US), the Russian Federation and Belgium (in Antwerp). As of 2004, only about 13,000 Georgian Jews remain in Georgia. According to the 2002 First General National Census of Georgia, there are 3,541 Jewish believers in the country. For example, the Lezgishvili branch of Georgian Jews have families in Israel, Moscow, Baku, Düsseldorf, and Cleveland, Ohio (US). Several hundred Georgian Jewish families live in the New York tri-state area.


Georgian-speaking Jewry is one of the oldest surviving Jewish communities in the world. The Georgian Jews have an approximately 2,600-year history in the region. The origin of Georgian Jews, also known as Gurjim or kartveli ebraelebi, is debated. The most popular view is that the first Jews made their way to southern Georgia after Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC and exile in Babylon. This claim is supported by the medieval Georgian historical account by Leonti Mroveli, who writes:

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. The Jews who fled thence come to Kartli and requested from the mamasakhlisi [local ruler] of Mtskheta territory in return for tribute. He gave [a place] and settled them on the Aragvi, at spring which was called Zanavi, which was later renamed as Zanavi, the quarter of Jew.

Another version offered by Mroveli, was the settlement of the Jews in Georgia during the Roman period of Emperor Vespasian. He wrote that Jews lived in Georgia long before 1st century AD. According to Mroveli:

“During their [Bartom and Kartam's] reign, Vespasian, the emperor of the Romans, captured Jerusalem. From there refugee Jews come to Mtskheta and settled with the old Jews.

The ancient Georgian historic chronicle, The Conversion of Kartli, is the oldest and only Georgian source concerning the history of the Jewish community in Georgia. The chronicle describes a version similar to that offered centuries later by Leonti Mroveli, but the period of Jewish migration into Georgia is ascribed to Alexander the Great:. more info on