The Mountain Jews of Dagestan

This Google Map showing the Mountain Jews of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia is a companion to an earlier map showing the Mountain Jewish settlements in Azerbaijan. For the long 19th century and beyond, both Dagestan and Azerbaijan were part of Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union (and of course, Dagestan still is a part of Russia), meaning that the border between them was of little significance.

Karchag is often described as a Mountain Jewish village in the vicinity of Quba in Azerbaijan but lies over the (modern) border in Dagestan.

Many of the Mountain Jewish (Juhurim) mountain villages or auls have now been abandoned, but most which were extant during the latter years of the C19th have been positively identified and marked on the map. A pin on the map does not imply an extant Jewish community.

The list below shows the Mountain Jewish villages of Dagestan recorded in the compendious Сборник сведений о кавказских горцах (or: Collection of Information on the Caucasus Highlanders) volume 3, published in Tbilisi (then Tiflis) in 1870. Chapter 3 within this volume is on the subject of the Mountain Jews and section V of this chapter is in the form of a statistical table giving the names of Mountain Jewish communities and their size (expressed as “smokes”, i.e. hearths – that is to say, households) plus the number of rabbis, synagogues and schools. To calculate the approximate population of a village, one might multiply the hearths by, say, 5, so therefore, for example, Tarki may have had a population of 250, Derbent of 1,000, and Magalis of 500 souls.

 

Russian name in 1870 Name on map hearths rabbis synagogues schools
Tarki Tarki 50 1 1 1
Buinaki   15 1 1 1
Karabudakhkent Karabudakhkent 18 1 1 1
Durgeli Dorgeli 25 1 1 1
Dzhengutay Dzhengutay 6 0 0 0
Temir-Khan-Shura Buynaksk 35 2 1 1
Chir-Yurt Kizilyurt 10 0 0 0
Derbent Derbent 200 1 2 7
Khoshmanzil Khoshmenzil 21 1 1 1
Aglabi Aglobi 6 0 0 0
Nyugdi-Myushkur Nyugdi 68 1 1 2
Rukel Rukel 30 0 1 0
Mugatir Mugarty 29 1 1 1
Maraga Maraga 16 1 1 1
Kheli-Penzhdi Kheli + Penzhdi 18 1 1 1
Gemeidi Gimeydi 22 1 1 1
Madzhalis Madzhalis (Majalis) 100 1 1 2
Yangikent Yangikent 116 2 2 2
Mamrach Sovetskoye 82 1 1 1
Khandzhal-Kala Novyy Usur 30 1 1 1
Arag Ashaga Yarak 87 1 1 2
Karchag Karchag 25 1 1 1
Imam-Kuli-Kent Imam-Kuli-Kent 11 0 0 0
Dzherakh Dzhara 20 1 1 1
Khasav-Yurt Khasavyurt 40 2 2 2
Andreevok Endirey 23 1 1 1
Kostek Kostek 37 1 1 1
Kazi-Yurt Kaziyurt 1 0 0 0
Aksay, or Tashkichu Aksay 81 2 1 2

 

The location of some known Mountain Jewish communities – such as Buinaki (which is not Buynaksk and was possibly a neighbourhood or outlying village of Makhachkala now swallowed up by the city) – has not yet been established.

The Mountain Jewish population of Dagestan, like that of Azerbaijan, is now much reduced, by emigration within Russia and beyond to Israel and North America.

 

The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan

This Google Map is entitled The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan but shows the distribution of both the true Caucasian Mountain Jewish settlements and, additionally, those of other Jewish communities in the country – Ashkenazi in Baku and the Russian Orthodox to Jewish convert sects known as the Gerim and Subbotniki.

Formerly there were many Mountain Jewish (Juhurim) mountain villages or auls but most of these have now been abandoned. A few of these have been identified and are plotted on the map. Note that a pin does not necessarily imply an extant surviving Jewish community. Indeed, the approximate location of the long-abandoned historic settlement of Kulgat is shown (to the WSW of Quba, between the villages of Küpçal and Qaladüz). Kulgat has been included because some accounts on the internet either imply it still exists or assert that it is merely an earlier name for the apparently still entirely Jewish town of Qirmizi Qasaba (Krasnaya Sloboda) across the river from Quba. In fact, Kulgat was the precursor of the town, and Sloboda was founded and populated by Jews who had abandoned Kulgat in the mid-C18th; there is, or was, a neighbourhood named after it.

There are various references to Karchag as a Mountain Jewish village in the vicinity of Quba in Azerbaijan. In fact, Karchag is over the (modern) border in Dagestan, Russia.

The location of some known Mountain Jewish communities – such as Chipkent and Devit – has not yet been established.

The Mountain Jewish population of Azerbaijan is much reduced, mostly by emigration. As well as movement from the traditional mountain auls and towns to the cities of Baku and Quba, there has been an international migration to Israel, of course, but also to Canada and USA.

 

The Jews of Yemen

From mid-June to mid-July 1918, the British Army was actively recruiting in Jerusalem for “short service” (duration of war). Men were invited to enlist in the 40th Bn of the Royal Fusiliers. The new recruits were given army service numbers between J/4883 and J/5274 (and possibly a little either side of this regimental number range), suggesting that about 400 men enlisted in total. The great majority of these, and those recruited elsewhere by the 38th-40th Battalions of the RF, were of course Jewish, giving rise to the jocular Army nickname of the Royal Jusiliers.

Among the newly enlisted men were numbers who stated that they had been born in “Teman” – in other words Yemenite Jews. British rule in Palestine had encouraged a first wave of Yemeni Jews to emigrate from Yemen in the 1890s and 1900s; mostly they settled in Jerusalem and Jaffa. The RF recruits of 1918 had an average age of 27 years and were working men – a labourer, builders, a mason, a butcher, two janitors at the Tachkemoni School, a cigarette maker, a couple of manuscript writers, and many silversmiths and filigree workers. The silversmiths were from the Bukharim quarter, from Sukkat Shalom, from Mishkanoth, from Nahalat Tzedek and especially from Nahalat Zvi. For example, on 24 June 1918, the silversmiths Abraham Levy, Abraham Gershi and Elijah Rachabi enlisted; on 27 June, silversmiths Joseph Arussi and Chaiyim Levy attested. All five came from the Nachlath Zwi neighbourhood (as it is usually spelt in army service records).

We have started a rudimentary Google Map of Jewish communities in Yemen. The German ethnographer Carl Rathjens, who visited Yemen between 1927 and 1938, had it on good authority – viz: the hakham bashi, or chief rabbi, in Yemen, who was responsible for community tax returns in the Kingdom of Yemen – that in the early 1930s there were no fewer than 371 Jewish communities. In the 1950s, Shelomo Dov Goitein compiled a list of 1,050 Yemenite communities (which makes the number identified and marked on our map seem paltry).  There are very few Jews left in Yemen – some in the capital Sanaa, and some in the northern town of Raydah and its satellite village of Bayt Harash (shown on the map). The rest have left, and their descendants populate and enrich the diversity of Israel and a few places in the diaspora.

The map is updated periodically as and when new information is gathered. 84 Jewish communities in Yemen are currently shown. Most recent update: 24 Jan 2018.

 

 

Les Juifs du Yémen | יהודי תימן | יהדות תימן

 

The Jews of Kurdistan

There are very few Jews remaining today in Kurdistan, although, post-Saddam, conditions would be more favourable for Jewish life at least in Iraqi or southern Kurdistan. While a few elderly Jews survive in the larger cities, and there are doubtless not a few part-Jewish Kurds descended from urban mixed marriages, most Kurdistani Jews left Iraq and Iran during the 1950/51 airlift to Israel.

The community was quite insular, unlike many other Jewish communities in the Middle East, including of course Baghdad, where the Mizrahi Jews were cosmopolitan and often had extended family connections across the region. Furthermore, the native language of Kurdish Jews was Aramaic (although Jews in Mosul spoke Arabic) and secondarily the local Kurdish language (generally Kurmanji but Sorani towards the south of the area inhabited).

The Google Map shows the majority of towns and villages of former Jewish settlement in Kurdistan – an invisible country divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey (sometimes called respectively eastern, southern, western and northern Kurdistan).

Blue pins are former Jewish settlements in Iran; red pins in Iraq; green pins in Syria; and yellow pins in Turkey. Question marks show the approximate position of unlocated villages.

The map also gives 1881 population estimates for various larger places; these are taken from Andree’s “Zur Volkskunde der Juden” (pub Leipzig, 1881). There were 25,000 or so Jews across Kurdistan in the 1940s. Following the “Operation Ezra & Nehemiah” exodus to Israel in 1950/51, there are very few Jews resident today anywhere in Kurdistan.

 

Sources

The map is drawn from a number of print and online sources including Ora Shwartz-Be’eri’s fine illustrated volume The Jews of Kurdistan (Jerusalem, 2000) – to which particular acknowledgement is paid and which is highly recommended for family historians with Jewish roots in Kurdistan – and Evyatar Friesel’s Atlas of Modern Jewish History, and the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia.

This article and map were originally published by bluebirdresearch in 2012.

 

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