Caucasian Jews in danger of assimilation to radial Islam

A Jewish businessman accuses Israel of 'forgetting' the Jews of the Caucasus region.

Shlomo Witty ,

בית כנסת בקווקז
בית כנסת בקווקז
צילום: דוד נזרוב

Muslim leaders in Azerbaijan are working to forestall assimilation between Jews and Muslims. Caucasian Jewish businessman Baruch Leviev, who heads the Yad Yerushalayim organization and is in contact with the Jewish communities in the Caucasus in Azerbaijan, addressed the phenomenon.

"As a result of my interests in the Caucasus, I am exposed to more and more instances of assimilation," Leviev says. "Assimilation is not just about getting married - it can also mean conversion to another religion, or joining religious extremists in the area."

Leviev points out that it is Muslims who report these occurrences the most. "It is the Muslims who speak openly about it. about it. Jews are ashamed to say that their son has joined a militant group."

Leviev's involvement in the matter came from an unlikely incident that has not been resolved to this day. "Approximately two years ago I treated a Jewish man who had been abducted by the Chechens. I never found out what became of him; there are rumors that he has already been murdered, but his mother and I do not believe it. While we searched for him, we began to hear strange things, and eventually understood what was happening to our people.

"As someone who cares about his people and about Judaism, that information was of great importance to met," Leviev says, adding: "When Caucasian Jews are asked about assimilation, they say no, there is no such thing. We are the most conservative and most Jewish people around, and there have been genetic tests to prove it. They are blind to the happenings that they need to stop."

In his remarks, Leviev states that of all the Jews in the Diaspora, "the most neglected and deprived community is the Caucasian community. Not enough time or effort is devoted to tracking that community. I have called for years for a department to be established to research and connect to this unique community; it is different in every way from the jews of the Soviet Union save accent and dress. Thus far, there has been neither research nor outreach."

As for the Jews who take on Islam, Leviev says that while there is no Israeli interest in the issue and while the Caucasian Jews attempt to conceal them, "Muslim leaders and Muslim activists take action in this regard because this issue is important to them. The Jews in question have forgotten their religion - how can we allow this to be more important to a Muslim than to the Jewish world?"