The Summer Synagogue in Quba, Azerbaijan.
Photo Credit: Michael Silberstein
An article, by Peter Rothholz, in JNS.org reports on the Jews in Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim nation. In “Jewish life in Azerbaijan embodies Muslim-majority nation’s culture of tolerance” (November 13, 2015), Rothholz writes that peaceful co-existence is possible, notably when there is a history of tolerance:
Located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea and bordered by Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia, Azerbaijan has a Jewish community that traces its roots back some 2,000 years. Throughout that period—and even during the years from 1920 to 1991, when it was a part of the Soviet Union—Azerbaijan has prided itself on its tradition of tolerance and acceptance of minorities. Among the country’s population of 9 million, 95 percent are Muslim and about 12,000 residents are Jews.
As part of a recent delegation to Azerbaijan from Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, I visited six synagogues there, as well as a Jewish day school and Jewish Community Center. There were no police, private guards, or noticeable security measures at those sites, unlike a city such as Los Angeles and many European cities. Azeri Jews can also walk the streets wearing yarmulkes without fear of being harassed.
Azeri Jews participate fully in the social and economic life of the country without reference to their religion or ethnicity. Education is free from grade school through university, so individuals are limited only by ability and ambition. When our delegation asked the Hon. Tatiana Goldman, a Jewish member of the Azeri Supreme Court, about the effect of her Jewishness on her career and life, she replied, “I don’t even think about it. I think about my work.”This speaks volumes, particularly when it is different in so many other places around the world, where Jews are reminded that they are not only Jewish but also foreign. Having a majority culture within a nation, notably one informed by religion, need not mean that other religions can’t live peacefully within its borders. How much special privileges, or accommodations as some call it, the minorities receive is all dependent on the goodwill of the majority and its governing authority. I see no reason to change such an arrangement, particularly if it maintains peace, goodwill and order,
For more, go to [JNS]