Introduction / History There are two distinct Jewish populations in Georgia. The first group is made up of the native Georgian Jews. These are the descendants of Jews who were banished to the region after Assyria conquered the ten northern tribes of Israel more than 2,500 years ago. The second group is composed of Russian-speaking Askhenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. They immigrated to Georgia at the beginning of the 1800s and also during World War II. The majority of the Georgian Jews live in Tbilisi, the capital and largest city of Georgia.
Since ancient times, these Jews have been known as Georgian Jews. They preserve their identity and see themselves as descendants of the ten tribes of Israelites who were exiled to Media by the Assyrians. Their culture is integrated into the Georgian culture, but it still retains its distinct character. They are very Zionistic in their hearts and love Israel very much, but they see Georgia as their homeland.
What are their lives like? The family structure of the Georgian Jew is monogamous (one wife, one husband), and the line of descent is matrilineal (lineage traced through the female). Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the extended families of the past have largely given way to nuclear families. Family members are very close-knit and loyal to each other. High moral standards are typical of Georgian Jewish families.
In the past, the marriage ceremony of the Georgian Jew was intricately tied to the agricultural calendar. In the fall and the beginning of winter, ceremonies were associated with the harvesting of crops, particularly grapes. Spring ceremonies were associated with the rebirth of nature. These ceremonies were performed as "mystery plays" representing the union of heaven and earth, the fertilization of the earth, and the growth of plants. The practice of traditional Jewish wedding customs has declined in this century and may no longer be practiced at all.
Georgian Jews today work as scholars, writers, artists, financiers, doctors, and sportsmen. Many are active in government and public life. Their homes are typically built with stone and wood, are colorfully painted, and have large decorated balconies. Although most of their homes are located on the hills around Tbilisi, others are found along the alleys of the streets of the city.
Bread is the staple food of the Georgian Jew. "Kosher food" (food that is acceptable according to Jewish custom) is occasionally available to them; but as a result of the poor condition of the economy, it is difficult for them to buy food with the salaries they are paid.
Before the disintegration of the USSR, soccer was very popular, but as a result of the present unrest in Georgia, less participation in sports and recreation is occurring.
What are their beliefs? Judaism is the primary religion of the Georgian Jew. They have maintained their Jewish traditions much more so than most of the other Jews of the former Soviet Union. Their knowledge of Jewish religion is also considerably higher than that of the Jews in the other former Soviet republics.
What are their needs? Today, the Georgian Jew is facing a rising tide of anti-Semitism. In the past, Jews and native Georgians lived together in harmony, and the Jews never faced the persecutions and massacres that decimated Jews in other lands. In addition, Georgia has become embroiled in civil war as the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia try to win independence from Georgia.
The Georgian economy is in a very poor state. As a result, water, food, and fuel supplies; shelter; sanitation; health services; and electricity have all become unstable.
Prayer Points * Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Georgian Jews so they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to call loving Messianic Jews who will take the Gospel to Georgian Jews.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among Georgian Jews who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray for the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Georgian Jews. * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.