CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, William Daroff, and Azerbaijani ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, meet in Jerusalem to discuss the role of the American Jewish Organizations in strengthening cooperation between Baku and Jerusalem.
Israel-Azerbaijan relations: At the end of last week, Azerbaijani ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, met with CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, William Daroff.
Following the meeting, Mammadov stated, “The Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has always been a supporter of Azerbaijan. I was glad to meet the new CEO of the Conference, William Daroff, to discuss Azerbaijan-Israel partnerships and future perspectives. I look forward to continued cooperation with American Jewish organizations towards expanding our partnership.”
According to the ambassador, Azerbaijani leadership has undertaken a policy of outreach to world Jewish leaders, continuing a centuries-old tradition of exceptional brotherly relations with the Jewish people.
Immediately following his appointment in Israel, Mammadov also met with the vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, where they agreed to deepen the Jewish ties between the countries.
Prior to the meeting with Hoenlein, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had met with the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, during the Munich Security Conference. President Aliyev, who has been targeted by Iranian propaganda due to his overt ties with Israel, emphasized to Rabbi Goldschmidt that close relations with the Jewish people are part of “the Azerbaijani way of life.”
As recently publicized, hundreds of members of the Conference of European Rabbis will arrive in Baku this November for their large biennial conference. The rabbis will visit local synagogues and meet with representatives of different Jewish communities across the country.
Azerbaijan has seven synagogues: three in Baku, two in Quba, and two in Oghuz. A new synagogue opened in Baku in 2010, and is now one of the largest synagogues in Europe.
The local Jewish residents see the Muslim country as a model of interfaith harmony, where the nation embraces and protects its Jewish community – the largest in any Muslim country in the world - which has existed in the region since the 7th century, as far as is known.
Baku was one of the hubs of the Zionist movement during the Russian Empire in the late 19th century. Its first Hovevei Zion chapter was founded in 1891, followed by the establishment of the first Zionist organization in 1899. The short-lived Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan (1918–1920) saw the continuation of the movement, which was marked by the founding of the Jewish Popular University in 1919, periodicals published in Yiddish, Hebrew, Judeo-Tat and Russian, as well as a several schools, social clubs, charitable organizations, and cultural institutions.
“It is not just the strategic alliance with Israel, it is not just a common threat from Iran; this is something much deeper, this is a unique history. The Azerbaijanis don’t just ‘tolerate’ Jews, like in other countries. They consider us their brothers. One of the national heroes of the country is a Jewish tank commander named Albert Agarunov, who fell while protecting Azeri land from Armenian occupation. He is revered as a Jew - they emphasize that each and every time. It is not hidden or suppressed,” explained Rabbi Zamir Isayev, chairman of the Georgian Sephardic community in Azerbaijan.
This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel