Armenian Jews have their long history which goes back to ancient times. Jewish community of Armenia is rather active and enthusiastic in preserving their traditions. You can come across many people in Armenia with both Armenian and Jewish background as a result of mixed marriages.
Jewish Community in Armenia is actively engaged in social life of the country. The number of Armenian Jews 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, Armenian Jews never let us forget about them, surprising us with their unique culture, cuisine and celebrations.
Armenian Jews are very delicate towards their religion as well. The Jewish Synagogue “Mordechai Navi” is located on 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 exactly there. While in Yerevan, you can also pay a visit to the memorial dedicated to Jewish and Armenian genocide in Yerevan, which was initiated by the head of Jewish community in Armenia.
Besides Jewish people living in Armenia (so-called Armenian Jews), there are many outstanding people that have both Armenian and Jewish heritage. So we’ve decided to create a list of distinguished people who had an immense role in Armenian history and many of them have also Armenian-Jewish background.
History of Armenian Jews in the Region
The history of Armenian Jews 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 connected with Armenian Jews and Jewish community of Armenia was kind of misty for a long time. There weren’t any mentioning or facts indicating this period of time.
One piece of 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 Armenian Jews history.
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 Armenian Jews settled 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-Jewish Background Who We Should Know!
Outstanding Armenian-Jewish People #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 Dovlatos started his professional career in Russia, he had to immigrate to USA because of social and political instability in former Soviet Union.
The majority of his works though were published after his death, as it coincided with the fall of Soviet Union.
Outstanding Armenian-Jewish People #2 | Yelana Bonner
Yelana Bonner is one of the most outstanding representatives of Armenian Jews in USSR. She had Armenian father and Jewish mother. The name of this woman was associated with courage, honesty and femininity in USSR.
In the strict Soviet authoritarian regime, Yelana Bonner was courageous enough to be the representative of human rights in USSR.
She was the wife of famous physicist Andrei Sakharaov. Not once Bonner and her husband were the victims of 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 being with people who needed her help. Bonner was awarded with number of human right awards later.
Outstanding Armenian-Jewish People #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 is immense. You can meet her name very frequently in media especially during recent years.
Veronika Zonnabend who has Jewish descent is a famous philanthropist, entrepreneur and the founding member of Dilijan UWC, the first international collage 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 number of charity projects in Armenia together with her husband.
She is one of the main initiators of Aurora Humanitarian Prize Awards commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
Outstanding Armenian-Jewish People #4 | Levon Aronian
Levon Aronian is one of the best-known 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 number of international competitions including World Chess Cup in 2005.
Very often Armenians call Levon Aronian the pride of Armenian nation. His fame is so great in his country, that he is even called celebrity in Armenia.
Aronian was born in a Jewish–Armenian family of Seda Avagyan Armenian, mining engineer and Gregory Leontevich Arononv, a Jewish physicist.
Levon is a bright representative of Armenian and Jewish mixed culture and traditions.
Outstanding Armenian-Jewish People #5 | Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan
Another distinguished person who has Jewish background. Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan is originally from Russia. Then what made us include her in this list? Well, because this woman is the wife of the first president of the Republic of Armenia.
Yes, the first Armenian First Lady was Jewish.
By the way, Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan is her adopted name, the original name was Froimi Pleskovskaya.
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 year later she is going to be the First Lady of that country.
During the presidency of his husband, Lyudmila Ter-Petrosyan was profoundly engaged in 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.
Lyumila Ter-Petrosyan was awarded by 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.
Outstanding Armenian-Jewish People #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 Jewish-Armenian family. He has both Armenian and Jewish background. 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 defeating Anatoly Karpov gained the so much desired title of world champion.
Kasparov quitted his professional career of chess player officially in 2005. Today he is mostly engaged in politics, at the moment 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. He lives in New York today.
Outstanding Armenian-Jewish People #7 | Rima Varzhapetyan-Feller
Rima Varzhapetyan is the president of Armenian Jewish community since 1996. Very often she is admitted being the best-known Armenian Jew living in Armenia.
Rima Varzhapetyan is also a member of European Jewish Parliament. She constantly represents the interests of Armenian Jews both within Armenia and in international stages.
Rima Varzhapetyan also fights for the recognition of Armenian Genocide. Thanks to her active social activity, Rima has great respect and popularity in Armenia.
She is loved by the Armenian Jewish community members very much, as she is always open to listen the problems and suggestions of the members willing to help and find solutions.
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