History of the Jews in South Ossetia
Much of the early Jewish history in South Ossetia is similar to that of other Jewish communities in the Georgian region. At the same time, the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali was known for its sizable Georgian Jewish population, where the community had its own quarter.
In 1891, an Ashkenazi rabbi Avraham Khvolis moved to Tskhinvali from Lithuania. In Tskhinvali, Khvolis founded a school and synagogue, and he taught European rabbinical thought to Georgian Jews. Today, the synagogue Khvolis founded sits abandoned on a desolate street with what appears to be a hole from an artillery shell in its facade. On Sundays, Baptist services are held there.
According to the Soviet censuses of 1926 and 1939 there were about 2000 Jews in South Ossetia, all but a few in Tskhinvali. As late as 1926 almost a third of the town's inhabitants were Jews. Their number declined later as they moved to bigger cities of Soviet Union or emigrated to Israel or other countries.
Most of the Jewish population fled South Ossetia for Israel and Georgia proper during the First Ossetian War in 1991. The remainder fled in advance of the 2008 war. Today, only one Jew remains in South Ossetia, a single elderly woman living in Tskhinvali.
Sources and references
"Georgia's Jewish heritage imperiled with talk of war" Matt Siegel. Jewish Telegraphic Agency Feb. 27, 2008
"Last Jew in S. Ossetia" Russia Today Sept. 15, 2008 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS-7xYzrU7M
"Jews will come back to S. Ossetia" Russia Today Sept. 26, 2008 http://www.russiatoday.com/ossetianwar/news/30985
- Jewish news of Greater Phoenix online, Jews caught on both sides of Georgia-Russia fighting, August 15, 2008