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Georgia PM to Attend Anniversary of 120-Year-Old Synagogue

The prime minister of Georgia is set to attend the anniversary of the country’s oldest functioning synagogue, leaders of Georgia’s Jewish community said, per the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The ceremony will take place in Oni, a city located on a mountain ridge 120 miles northwest of the capital Tbilisi, on Sept. 2 at the 120-year-old temple, according to Jewish ritual slaughterer Micho Benzion, who now lives in Tbilisi. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili will be the guest of honor.

“It’s a bittersweet occasion,” he said. “On the one hand, it’s symbolic of how the government supports us here, in a country with virtually no anti-Semitism. On the other, it’s a reminder of how our oldest synagogue, once full of life, has become a monument.”

Oni once was a city that housed a vibrant Jewish community, but the population has nearly died out with only 16 Jews remaining.

Georgia used to have 250,000 Jews, who belong to an ancient community that some believe dates back 2,000 years and has developed its own endemic customs, including special prayer styles. Most of them moved to Israel in the 1970s and 1990s, with only a few thousand remaining in Georgia.

The synagogue was renovated following a severe 1991 Racha earthquake with the aid from the government and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee four years later.