The Jewish community of Azerbaijan includes various subgroups, mainly mountain Jews, Georgian Jews, and Ashkenazi Jews, as well as Kurdish Jews, Bukharian Jews and others. The Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan are neither Sephardim (from the Iberian Peninsula) nor Ashkenazi (from Germany and Eastern Europe), but rather conduct their ancestry from the Jews of the Persian Empire dating back to the 5th century AD. Mountain Jews kept their religion for centuries, developing their unique traditions. Their language, called the Tat language, is an ancient south-western Iranian language that unites many elements of ancient Hebrew.
It is believed that they reached Persia from Ancient Israel as far back as the 8th century BC. They continued to move to the east, settling in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus. Mountain Jews experienced numerous historical vicissitudes, settling in extremely remote and mountainous areas. They were known to be outstanding warriors and equestrian riders.
Mountain Jews never experienced anti-Semitism and lived in peaceful and respectful coexistence with their neighbors and flourished, especially in Azerbaijan.
The first Ashkenazi Jews settled in Baku in 1810. Their immigration was relatively stable, which led to the fact that by 1910 their number exceeded the number of the local mountain Jewish community.
Many Ashkenazi Jews emigrated from Azerbaijan after 1972, as a result of which by the mid-1990s the Mountain Jews became the largest Jewish community in the country.
Most Ashkenazi Jews speak Russian as their first language, and in Azeri they speak the second language.
The JFuture Jewish Educational Sunday School, a special project of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, functions in Baku. The 11-year secondary Jewish school “Chabad or Avner”, Women’s Organization “Khava”, Hesed Gershon, and a special club for young people are also open in Baku.
The Azerbaijan community in the EAJC is represented by the Baku Religious Community of European Jews.