Why is Azerbaijan suddenly so focused on promoting its Jewish community?

Rabbi Zamir Isayev is the director of Baku's Jewish school and a community leader in Azerbaijan. (Photo courtesy of Rabbi Isayev / Twitter)

In recent months, the small nation of Azerbaijan has been making a big push to show off their Jews. The leader of the local Jewish community, Rabbi Zamir Isayev, has gone around the world promoting Azerbaijani-Jewish life, making his pitch to Canadians during a visit in November 2022. Here at The CJN, we’ve received numerous pitches and press opportunities to go on free trips to visit the country’s “Mountain Jews”. (We haven’t taken them up on any.)

There may be grander geopolitical logic behind all this. Sandwiched in the mountainous Caucasus region between Russia and Iran, the dominantly Muslim country has emerged as an important strategic ally for Israel, who threw its support behind Azerbaijan in the last decade during Azerbaijan’s ongoing conflict with Armenia. The culmination of all this has been Azerbaijan opening its first embassy in Tel Aviv in late March 2023.

To get a clearer picture about why Azerbaijan is making this push, and to understand the on-the-ground human element underscoring these international trends, we’re joined by Rabbi Isayev in Baku, who paints a very glowing picture of Jewish life in his home country.


Yehupetzville is hosted by Ralph Benmergui. Michael Fraiman is the producer and editor. Our music was arranged by Louis Simão and performed by Louis Simão and Jacob Gorzhaltsan. Our sponsor is PearTree Canada, which you can learn more about at peartreecanada.com. This show is a member of The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast or donating to The CJN.