Moscow Rabbi coming to Baku as New Shluchim Rabbi

Rachel Brooks

March 26, 2021 

Image description: Synagogue in Baku, 2016. “File:Synagogue in Baku.jpg” by Interfase is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

On March 25, COLive reported that Rabbi Nakhshon Yunaev and his wife Eden have been invited by Rabbi Shneur Segal, Chief Rabbi of Azerbaijan Head Silach, to run local youth programs. Rabbi Yunaev is originally from Moscow. He had been working at the Marina Roscha Jewish Community Center of Moscow before this invitation. 

CO Live stated that Chief Rabbi Segal has known the Yunaev family for a long time. Segal’s wife, Chabad Segal, knew Eden Yunaev when she was a child in Baku, from her time at the local Chabad.

Rabbi Segal called Rabbi Yunaev “one of the most promising young Russian-speaking Rabbis.” Yunaev’s return with his wife was signaled as a “return to their roots” for the young couple.

The news of a new Sluchim comes on the eve of the traditionally-observed Passover all over the world. 

Despite politicized rhetoric, Jews are at home in the Caucasus and have developed a regional culture of their own. 

The region of the Caucasus is frequently subjected to politicization and rhetoric of religion. Azerbaijan is no exception to this rule. Propagandists, due to the nation’s Shia Muslim majority population, are prone to portray the country as a religiously hostile place. The social acceptance of Jews and Christians, however, appears to be tolerant and cordial at the majority level. 

Despite narratives of religious intolerance in the region, Jews thrive in Azerbaijan, with unique cultural expression

Jews, however, were described by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as having a special love of their culture and a free expression in the nation of Azerbaijan. One cultural fact is that the Jews of Azerbaijan and the former Soviet Union eat an excessive amount of the traditional matzah bread, more even than the rations of the Israeli armed forces. This special “emotional attachment” to the traditional bread has come from years of Soviet oppression of Jewish expression that has been resolved in post-Soviet Azerbaijan. Local Rabbis described Passover, and the traditional bread as “probably the safest way” to remain associated with Judaism during Soviet times, and this love extends into the present. 

In contrast, the Jews of Azerbaijan are actively engaged in Azerbaijan’s culture 

In direct contrast to the public majority, Jews engage in the social culture of Azerbaijan in a variety of ways. The local Jewish community postponed 2021’s Purim celebration as the holiday calendar lined up with a national day of mourning for the Khojaly Massacre of 1992. 

Likewise, Jews of Azerbaijan were reported by The Jerusalem Post in January 2021 to have hosted a charity event in honor of the memory of Black January’s victims.