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The first constituent assembly of the World Congress of Georgian Jews (WCGJ) was preceded by much preliminary work done by the preparatory committee. The committee decided that the constituent assembly will be held on January 22, 2003 in the Congress Hall in Jerusalem and 250 delegates will participate in this assembly.

Towards this date, delegates from different countries began to arrive in Israel, among them well-known statesmen, public figures, businessmen, scientists, and other conspicuous representatives of the Georgian Jewry.

On January 22, the Congress began its work. Jacob Ofir, Managing Director of the WCGJ opened the assembly. Speeches were made by:

  • Shabtai Tsur, Vice-Mayor of Ashkelon;
  • Prof. David Baazov;
  • Benny Atanelov, President of the Georgian Jews community in New York;
  • Jemal Ajiashvili, Member of Parliament of Georgia;
  • Shalva Kosashvili, Chairperson of the Association of religious Jews in Tbilisi;
  • Meir Zizov, “Joint” curator in the Causasian republics;
  • Leon Rizhinashvili, President of the Georgian Jews community in Austria;
  • Abraham Ashkil, Chief Rabbi of the Georgian Jews’ synagogue in New York;
  • Aaron Khen, Chairperson of the Georgian Jews Federation in New York;
  • Ariel Levin, Chief Rabbi of Georgia;
  • Bentsion Shalolashvili, representative of WCGJ in Russia;
  • Tamar Mamistvalov, Chairperson of the Women’s Committee of WCGJ;
  • Otar Sepiashvili, film critic, New York;
  • Shalom David, Chairperson of the Eduction and Heritage Committee of WCGJ;
  • Amiran Mikhelashvili, Manager of Moscow Georgian Jews’ synagogue;
  • Menahem Pivzner, Chief Rabbi of Saint Petersburg synagogue;
  • David Shalolashvili, businessman, Moscow;
  • Shalva Chikvashvili, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Tbilisi; and
  • Raphael Mesengiser, Deputy Gabai of Tbilisi synagogue.

Nine departmental committees have been formed to carry out a substantial part of the Congress activities. The following is a list of them with their chairpersons:

  • Religion Committee, I. Gagula
  • Science Committee, D. Baazov
  • Education and Heritage Committee, Sh. David
  • Social Aid and Absorption Committee, P. Mikhaeli
  • Culture Committee, I. Bardanashvili
  • Women’s Committee, T. Mamistvalov
  • Sports and Tourism Committee, B. Chachanashvili
  • Press and Mass Media Committee, R. Enoch
  • Public Relations Committee, A. Abramishvili

 The plenary session elected Mikhael Mirilashvili as President of the  World Congress of Georgian Jews.

Businessmen gathered in a separate hall to discuss the matters associated with the financial support and sponsorship of the WCGJ and their participation in the Congress activities.

The closing working session of this momentous day for the Georgian Jewry was the Forum. The Congress Hall could not hold all those wishing to take part. An interesting and far-reaching speech by the President of WCGJ Mikhael Mirilashvili opened the Forum. Among those who addressed the audience were Shabtai Tsur, Guram Batiashvili, Georgia’s Prime Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze, Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Chief Rabbi of Georgian Jews Raphael Elashvili, the spiritual leader of Israel’s sephardic Jews Eliahu Bakshi Donon, Member of Israeli Parliament and Minister of Civil Construction Nathan Sharansky, President of Bukhari Jews Congress Lev Levayev, Russia’s Member of Parliament Josef Kobzon, Member of Israeli Parliament Izhak Gagula, an Israeli student Ilona Elashvili, representing more than 250 students given a one-time financial aid, and many others.

A splendid and mirthful concert that lasted till the break of dawn rounded off this great day.

We would like to conclude this short report with the following two citations.

Several days before the Congress assembly, Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said to the Mayor of Jerusalem: “I am not leaving Jerusalem now and want to stay here, because the assembly of the World Congress of Georgian Jews  is an utterly important event for me at this stage. This is a very interesting community and a very warm-hearted people that cherish their heartfelt love for Israel. I love them and pride myself upon them.”

The Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert addressed the Congress: “Jerusalem is proud of being the host of this Congress. I hope that the second Congress will also be held in Jerusalem and take place at our stadium, which is large enough to hold all our guests.”

Well stated and sincerely said, so there is nothing to add to this.

We hope that this good start will be followed by kind deeds and their lasting results.


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