Mountain Jews

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Mountain Jews
Mountain jewish men.jpg
Total population
2004: 150,000 to 270,000 (estimated)
1959: 25,000 (estimated)
1926: 26,000 (estimated)
Regions with significant populations
Azerbaijan, Dagestan, Israel,
United States, Russia
 Israel100,000 to 140,000
 United States10,000 to 40,000
 Russia20,000 to 40,000
 Azerbaijan12,000 to 30,000
(according to Mountain
Jews community in Baku)
 European Union3,000 to 10,000
Juhuri, Hebrew, Russian, Azeri
Related ethnic groups
Persian Jews, Mizrahi Jews , Other Jewish groups
Mountain Jews or Caucasus Jews also known as Juhuro are Jews of the eastern and northern slopes of Caucasus, mainly of Dagestan and Azerbaijan. They are the descendants of Persian Jews from Iran.
The Mountain Jews community originated from Ancient Persia, from 5th century AD onwards, and their language, Juhuri is an ancient Southwest Iranian language and a Persian dialect which integrates many elements of Ancient Hebrew.[1] It is believed that they had arrived in Persia from Ancient Israel as early as the 8th century BCE. The Mountain Jews survived numerous historical vicissitudes by settling in extremely remote and mountainous areas. They were known to be accomplished warriors and horseback riders.
Mountain Jews are distinct from Georgian Jews of the Caucasus Mountains. Both are culturally and ethnically different with independent languages and many differences in customs and culture.[2]


The Mountain Jews are believed to have inhabited Caucasia since the 5th century AD. They arrived from southwest Persia/Iran. The language of the Mountain Jews, Juhuri, is an Ancient Southwest Iranian language, which integrates many elements of Ancient Hebrew.[1] It is believed that they had arrived in Persia, from Ancient Israel, as early as the 8th century BCE.[3] The Mountain Jews maintained a strong military tradition. Some historians[who?] believe they may be descended from Jewish military colonists, settled by Parthian and Sassanid rulers in the Caucasus as frontier guards against nomadic incursions from the Pontic steppe.
In the 18th–19th century, the Jews resettled from the highland to the coastal lowlands but carried the name "Highland Jews" or "Mountain Jews" with them. In the villages (aouls) the Highland/Mountain Jews settled in a part of their own; in towns they did the same, although their dwellings did not differ from those of their neighbours. The Highland Jews adopted the dress of the highlanders. Judaic prohibitions ensured they retained specific dishes, and they enshrined their faith in the rules for family life.

Jews in Azerbaijan

Mountain Jewish woman, painted by Max Tilke in the early 20th century.
During the construction of a stadium in the town of Guba a mass grave was discovered. Two main wells and two canals with human bones were uncovered. The finds indicate that 24 skulls were of children, 28 were of women of various ages. Besides ethnic Azeris, there were also Jews and Lezgis killed and buried during March Days in 1918, when the Bolsheviks and the ARF massacred thousands of people.[4] The names of 81 massacred Jewish civilians were found and confirmed.[5] It's estimated by Amnesty International[citation needed] and Azerbaijani foreignsic scientists more than 3,000 Mountain Jews were killed by Armenian Dashnaks during March Days events.[6]


While elsewhere in the Jewish diaspora, Jews were prohibited from owning land (cf. the Jews of Central Asia), at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the Mountain Jews owned land and were farmers and gardeners, growing mainly grain. Their oldest occupation was rice-growing, but they also raised silkworms and cultivated tobacco. The Jewish vineyards were especially notable. The Jews and their Christian Armenian neighbors were the main producers of wine, an activity prohibited for Muslims by their religion. Judaism, in turn, limited some types of meat consumption. Unlike their neighbors, the Jews raised few domestic animals. At the same time, they were renowned tanners. Tanning was their third most important economic activity after farming and gardening. At the end of the 19th century, 6% of Jews were engaged in this trade. Handicrafts and commerce were mostly practiced by Jews in towns.
The Soviet authorities bound the Mountain Jews to collective farms, but allowed them to continue their traditional cultivation of grapes, tobacco, and vegetables; and making wine. The former isolated lifestyle of the Jews has practically ended, and they live side by side with other ethnic groups.

Religious and educational institutions

Originally, only boys were educated and they attended synagogue schools. With Sovietization, Tat became the language of instruction at newly-founded elementary schools. This policy continued until the beginning of World War II. In 1928, the first native-language newspaper, Zakhmetkesh (Working People), was published. After WWII, Russian was the required language at quba schools, and the newspaper stopped publication. Mountain Jew intellectuals are active in qubai culture.[citation needed]

Notable Mountain Jews



  1. ^ a b Mountain Jews: customs and daily life in the Caucasus, Leʼah Miḳdash-Shemaʻʼilov, Liya Mikdash-Shamailov, Muzeʼon Yiśraʼel (Jerusalem), UPNE, 2002, page 17
  2. ^ Mountain Jews: customs and daily life in the Caucasus, Leʼah Miḳdash-Shemaʻʼilov, Liya Mikdash-Shamailov, Muzeʼon Yiśraʼel (Jerusalem), UPNE, 2002, page 9
  3. ^ Mountain Jews: customs and daily life in the Caucasus, Leʼah Miḳdash-Shemaʻʼilov, Liya Mikdash-Shamailov, Muzeʼon Yiśraʼel (Jerusalem), UPNE, 2002, page 19
  4. ^ "Б. Сафаров. Установить всех жертв поименно не удастся". Эхо. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Mass Grave Found in Northern Azerbaijan". Visions. Spring 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Rovshan Mustafayev: "More than 3000 Mountain Jews were killed by Armenians during 1918-1919"". Retrieved 1 June 2013. 

External links

  •, New York Times
  •, website created by Vadim Alhasov in 2001. Daily updates reflect the life of Mountain Jewish (juhuro) community around the globe.
  •, New Frontier is a monthly Mountain Jewish newspaper, founded in 2003. International circulation via its web site. «Новый Рубеж» является ежемесячной газетой Горско-Еврейской общины США. Она издается с мая месяца 2003 года. Отражая жизнь общины не только в пределах своей страны, она информирует о новостях и событиях происходящих в Горско-Еврейских общинах во всем мире.
  •, Israeli website of Mountain Jews.
  •, Mountain Jews, website in Russian language.
  • "Judæo-Tat", Ethnologue

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