The Georgian Synagogue in Tbilisi
The Georgian Synagogue is also known as the Great Synagogue. It was founded by Jews from Akhalzikhe, who settled in Tbilisi in the late 19th century, hence its second name, “synagogue of the people of Akhalzikhe”. Adjoining the synagogue was another prayer house founded by the Jews of Tshinvali.
The synagogue was built with bricks, in an eclectic style, between 1895 and 1903 and surmounted by a dome and a lantern. The two-story structure measures 24.5 m (length) x 15 m (width) x 14 m (height) and contains two prayer halls. The main gate of the synagogue is decorated with a Star of David.
The upper prayer hall, the bigger of the two, is used for services on Sabbath and festivals and has a gallery for women. The walls and the ceiling of the upper hall were painted in the 1940s with geometric and vegetable motifs, biblical verses and prayers. The walls of the lower prayer hall are decorated with similar motifs and texts. The latter hall is used for daily prayers and does not have a women’s section.
There is a Holy Ark – heikhal in each prayer hall with Torah cases covered with a small garment (kabah) which resembles a Torah mantle.
The Torah staves on top of the cases are adorned by kerchiefs donated by women of the local community. The scrolls are crowned by pairs of engraved and soldered silver and wood carved Torah finials (rimonim), with bells from the turn of the 20th century, ornaments, a variety of geometric and vegetable motifs, biblical verses and depictions of holy places and of the Tabernacle vessels.
Although the identity of the craftsmen is unknown, these rimonim were apparently made in Tbilisi, and may reflect an earlier artistic tradition.
The synagogue is surrounded by a wall with an iron gate. A bakery and a Talmud Torah, and facilities for ritual slaughter, are located on the same premises as the synagogue.
The Georgian Synagogue
45-47 Leselidze Street
Jewish Community of Tbilisi, Georgia