Staunton, March 19 – The once large and vibrant Mountain Jewish community in the North Caucasus has lost another of its remaining leaders, Rabbi Iznyagu Pashayev, who led the 30 members of this community still in the Daghestani city of Buinaksk before he was savagely beaten to death earlier this week.
According to police, he was killed by a man who objected to the fact that the rabbi had given shelter to his sister when she had no place to go. Assuming that is true, it suggests that the attack on Pashayev was not driven by anti-Semitism but by those in that community who remain powerfully affected by North Caucasus traditions (md-gazeta.ru/news/82671).
Only 762 people declared themselves to be Mountain Jews (Tats) in the 2010 Russian census – most were in Daghestan -- a far cry from the tens of thousands who did so only 50 years ago. Most have emigrated to Israel where there are estimated to be more than 125,000 Tats, although some have reidentified as Jews which may have further depressed their number.
Rabbi Pashayev not only helped hold the community survive but was active in restoring the local cemetery and reopening a local synagogue, both of which were desecrated in Soviet times (stmegi.com/gorskie_evrei/posts/77241/spustya-30-let-ot-buynakska-do-ierusalima-ot-istoricheskoy-sinagogi-do-sozdaniya-muzeya/).