The Jewish Story of the Shida Kartli Region of Georgia

Shida Kartli is located in the eastern part of Georgia. This region is full of cultural monuments and beautiful nature. The areas which were inhabited by Jews were Kareli, Surami, and Gori; as well as a city near the city Mtskheta, which is located in Mtskheta-Mtianeti province of Georgia.

Mtskheta, located at the junctions of the rivers Mtkvari and Araks, is an old capital of Georgia. This is the place where Jews appeared and settled down. After their persecution from Jerusalem in 586 BC, they asked the head of Mtskheta for permission to let them inhabit the area, for which they would pay a relevant amount. They got a positive answer and they occupied the part of the banks of the river Aragvi named Zanavi. After a little while the Jewish moved to different villages and cities, which were trade centers. In “Conversion of Kartli” this community is dated as the year 169 BC. 

In the Georgian Chronicles Georgian Jews are connected to the crucifixion of the Christ. Eliezeri, who was from Mtskheta, and Longinus traveled to Jerusalem and they brought the cloth of Christ with them. Sidonia hugged the cloth, fell on the ground and died, and because they could not get the cloth out of her arms they buried her with it. According to the legend, the gravestone located around Svetitskhoveli territory represents Sidonia’s grave. Sidonia is also connected to Saint Nino; Sidonia traveled around with Nino, along with 6 Israeli nuns and was the witness of her miracles. In the middle centuries’ documents, it is said that many Jews were victims of kidnapping and theft; the cruel behaviour caused Jews to leave the region.  


Kareli, a town in Shida Kartli, Georgia, is located on the river Mtkvari. There was a time when the number of Jews living in Kareli was fairly vast but today that is not the case, on this day the Jewish population is very small; it only consists of 400 beings. Some say the word “Kareli” doesn’t mean the “The place with wind”, and its actual origin is an Herbew word, of men, but that is just an assumption. In old times Jews were accounted as the workers of Tsitsishvili; later as the state peasants. Jews in Kareli usually were merchants and lived ordinary lives, their appearances and rules corresponded with Kareli’s population. The sites you can find in this town are Kareli Synagogue, which was built in the 20th century and a Jewish graveyard

Gori is a city in eastern Georgia, which serves as the regional capital of Shida Kartli and the center of the homonymous administrative district. It is located at the confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Liakhvi. The name comes from a Georgian word gora, which means, “heap”, or “hill”. The city has an old history about the Jews which starts from the 17th century; at first they inhabited the area around Gori tower, since on Sundays a trade was held here and Jews were very involved in it. In the year 1866 there were 281 Jews living within the overall 5000 Gori population. 

Jewish inhabitants were usually merchants and craftsmen. In the 20th century the economy of Jewish population grew. In 1915 there were 104 Jews in Gori (approximately 16-17 families); they inhabited the same area. In 1946, during World War II, a legally registered community was established; under which was this community a synagogue, which was located on 16 Cheloskicenev St. The main Rabbi was Mordechay Davarashvili; he helped Zionist Aliyah in Israel. After the death of Rabbi Mordechay every holy book owned by him was handed to a synagogue. In this city you can find sites such as one big synagogue and Jewish graveyard

Surami is a mountain resort in Shida Kartli’s side of Khashuri Municipality. Until the year 1970, before the migration of Jews started, there were 580 Jewish families living in Surami. The first stage of migration started in the 70s and continued in the 80s and from the 90s to 2000s due to migration only 10 families were left in the city. Majority of Jews sold their houses and the former district of Jews was later named Jerusalem Street.