The Jewish community in Armenia has its long history that goes back to ancient times. The community is quite active and enthusiastic about preserving their traditions. As a result of mixed marriages, you can meet many people in Armenia of both Armenian and Jewish background.
Jewish Community in Armenia is actively engaged in the social life of the country. The number of Jews in Armenia is not large. It is between 500 today because of immigration after 1990-s.
The president of Jewish Community of Armenia is Rimma Varzhapetyan.
Being not large in number, Jewish people in Armenia never let us forget about them, surprising us with their unique culture, cuisine, and celebrations.
Jewish people in Armenia are very delicate towards their religion as well. The Jewish Synagogue “Mordechai Navi” is located at 23 Nar-Dos Street, in the center of Yerevan. It is also the center of Jewish Community of Armenia.
The major part of their celebrations, festivals, meeting are held there. While in Yerevan, you can also pay a visit to the memorial dedicated to Holocoust and Armenian genocide in Yerevan, which was initiated by the head of Jewish community in Armenia.
Besides Jewish people living in Armenia, there are many outstanding people that have both Armenian and Jewish heritage. We’ve created a list of distinguished people who had an immense role in Armenian history and many of them have also Armenian-Jewish background.
History of Jewish People in Armenia
The history of Jews in Armenia comes from unmemorable times. The first mentioning about Jews inhabited in Armenia was by ancient Armenian historian Movses Khonatsi.
He stated that King Tigranes the Great brought with him thousands of Jewish captives to the Kingdom of Armenia.
Forming their large community, they were actively engaged in social and commercial affairs of Armenia.
The medieval period of the Jewish community in Armenia was kind of misty for a long time. There weren’t any mentioning or facts indicating this period of time.
One piece of the puzzle was missing from Jewish history in Armenia. However, at the beginning of 1990-s, there was an opening which changed the whole image of Jewish history in Armenia.
In the province of Vayots Dzor, in the village of Yeghegis, about 40 gravestones were discovered during the archeological excavations. The gravestones date from 1255-1497. There are inscriptions on the gravestones which indicate that the Jewish settlers in that region came from Iran (that time Persia).
During the historic hustle and bustle the Jewish community in Armenia increased and decreased in its number.
7 People of Armenian and Jewish Background Who We Should Know
#1 | Sergei Dovlatov
Sergei Dovaltov was a famous Soviet writer and journalist of Armenian-Jewish descent. He had an Armenian mother and Jewish father.
Sergei Dovlatov is widely recognized throughout the world as one of the most famous writers of 20th century. Dovlatov belongs to those rare writers whose works were appreciated and gained fame during his lifetime.
Through Dovlatov started his professional career in Russia, he had to immigrate to the USA because of social and political instability in the former Soviet Union.
The majority of his works though were published after his death, as it coincided with the fall of Soviet Union.
#2 | Yelena Bonner
Yelena Bonner is one of the most outstanding representatives of Armenians and Jews in the USSR. She had Armenian father and Jewish mother. The name of this woman was associated with courage, honesty and femininity in the USSR.
In the strict Soviet authoritarian regime, Yelena Bonner was courageous enough to advocate for human rights.
She was the wife of famous physicist Andrei Sakharov. Not once Bonner and her husband were victims of the harsh regime. However, this exceptionally enthusiastic and smart woman was not born for restrictions. She has done an immense work to help the political prisoners and their families.
Yelena Bonner was even arrested for “anti-soviet agitation and propaganda”. Though this didn’t stop Bonner from being with people who needed her help. Bonner was awarded a number of human right awards later.
#3 | Veronika Zonabend
Even though Veronika Zonabend has no Armenian blood and is originally from Russia, we couldn’t skip her. Her role and efforts in making Armenia better and fighting for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide are immense. You can meet her name very frequently in media, especially during recent years.
Veronika Zonabend, who is of Jewish descent, is a famous philanthropist, entrepreneur, and the founding member of Dilijan UWC, the first international college in Armenia.
She is mostly known as Ruben Vardanyan’s wife, who is a Russian-Armenian entrepreneur manager and philanthropist.
Veronika Zonabend has always been actively engaged in a number of charity projects in Armenia together with her husband.
She is one of the main initiators of the Aurora Humanitarian Prize Awards commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
#4 | Levon Aronian
Levon Aronian is one of the most famous Armenians throughout the world. It’s also essential to state that this genius grandmaster has also Jewish descent.
Aronian started playing chess at a rather early age and had a leading chess career starting from 2000-s. He won many international competitions including World Chess Cup in 2005.
Very often Armenians call Levon Aronian the pride of Armenian nation.
Aronian was born in a Jewish–Armenian family of Seda Avagyan, an Armenian mining engineer, and Gregory Leontevich Arononv, a Jewish physicist.
Levon is a bright representative of Armenian and Jewish mixed culture and traditions.
#5 | Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan
Another distinguished person who has a Jewish background. Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan is originally from Russia. Then what made us include her in this list? Well, this woman is the wife of the first president of the Republic of Armenia.
Yes, the first Armenian First Lady was Jewish.
Lyudmila was born and raised in Leningrad. Later she got married to a young post-graduate Armenian student, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and moved to Armenia. She might not even have an idea that several years later she is going to be the First Lady of that country.
During the presidency of her husband, Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan was profoundly engaged in the social life of Armenia. She was the founder of All-Armenian Women Union, a non-governmental organization, the aim of which was to protect the rights of Armenian women and children.
By the way, the initiative of All-Armenian Women, The National Assembly of Armenia was the first among post-soviet Republics to adopt laws concerning children’s rights.
Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan was awarded a medal of UNICEF for public activities in 1995. Being an honorary participant of various International conferences, Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan organized 4 international Women conferences in Armenia as well.
#6 | Garry Kasparov
You’ll meet quite a lot of Armenian-Jewish people in chess. Many people consider Gary Kasparov the greatest chess player ever!
Gary Kasparov is a former World Chess Champion, writer and political activist. Kasparov was born in a Jewish-Armenian family. His father was Jewish and mother was Armenian.He was the youngest chess player to become a world champion.
In 1985, at the age of 22, Gary Kasparov defeated Anatoly Karpov gaining the so much desired title of the world champion.
Kasparov quitted his professional career of chess player officially in 2005. Today he is mostly engaged in politics. Now Gary Kasparov is the chairman of Human Rights Foundation.
His political views are very often opposed to the today’s Russian political system. Kasparov has obtained Croatian citizenship in 2014 and currently, lives in New York.
#7 | Rima Varzhapetyan-Feller
Rima Varzhapetyan is the president of the Jewish community in Armenia since 1996.
Rima Varzhapetyan is also a member of European Jewish Parliament. She constantly represents the interests of Jews in Armenia both within the country and in international tribunes.
Rima Varzhapetyan also fights for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Due to her active social participation, Rima has a huge respect and popularity in Armenia.
She is loved by the Armenian Jewish community members very much, as she is always open to listen to the problems and suggestions of the members and is willing to help and find solutions.
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