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Stalin’s Forgotten Corner

Ari Greenspan and Ari Z. Zivotofsky

An unplanned visit to Georgia unearthed signs of vibrant Jewish life, even during the Communist reign. How did the “Gruzinis” of the past manage to keep a warm hold on tradition despite the chilling odds?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If everything had gone according to plan, you would now be reading about our trip to Tunisia. We’d heard tantalizing anecdotes about shuls in Tunisian caves, and we wanted to see those, and other exotica, firsthand. So we did our research and mapped out a detailed itinerary. As an added perk, we planned to join a small film crew together with Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, a dayan and world Jewish traveler, who is putting together a media series called “The Jew of the World.” It’s a program after our own hearts, a series that follows his travels to exotic communities to meet the last Jewish remnants and understand their history. But then when the three bochurim were kidnapped and murdered and the Gaza war started, the Israeli foreign ministry warned us of concrete threats toward Israelis in Tunis. We were disappointed that Tunis was no longer on the agenda — at least not this summer — but we didn’t cancel our travel plans entirely. Instead, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip toGeorgia, a spectacularly beautiful, tree-covered country in the former Soviet Union.

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