Breti Jewish Cemetery
The old village of Breti is located near Kareli, on the left bank of the Prone River. In the 6th century, Father Pyrrhus, one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers, lived and worked in the village. According to Georgian church tradition, in the 6th century, a group of monastic missionaries arrived from Mesopotamia to Georgia to strengthen Christianity in the country. Many monasteries in modern Georgia are named after the Assyrian Fathers and are believed to have been founded and led by them. The monastery founded by Father Pyrrhus was built in the centre of Breti and was a significant place for education, literacy, arts, and culture for many years.
It is not known when exactly Jews first settled in Breti. According to Z. Chichinadze, Jews have lived in Breti for centuries, while E. Mamistvalishvili suggests that Jews moved from Southern Georgia to Kartli, then from Vakhani to Breti in 16th century. The Avalishvili family settled in Breti in 1605 along with their Jewish serfs. According to I. Cherny (as he was told in Breti), the Jews moved to the village from Akhaldaba, Akhaltsikhe, and Vakhani in the 1680’s and, in 1749, several more Jewish families moved there from Tamarasheni. Only 25 Jewish families lived in Breti in 1870, the majority of whom moved in the same year to Tskhinvali, Kareli, or Surami. Cherny has also produced a description the Breti synagogue. At the beginning of the 20th century several Jewish families lived in Breti. Based on information gained during an expedition organized in 1934 by the Historical and Ethnographic Museum of the Jews of Georgia, the mass resettlement of Breti’s Jews to Tskhinvali, Kareli, and Surami took place in about 1870.
The Jewish cemetery in Breti was active until the beginning of the 20th century. It is not possible to determine the exact dates of the cemetery’s history as the tombstones are no longer in the premises. The cult of famous ‘The Bible of Breti’ is connected to the Jews from the village Breti. Since the 17th century, the Bible belonged to the Avalishvilis, who owned Georgian and Jewish serfs. There are many legends about the miraculous features of the ‘Bible’. Eventually, the ‘Bible’ became the central item of worship for Georgian Jews. According to Luda Cherny (1835-1880) not only Jews, but Georgian people as well, made sacrifices and donations to the Bible of Breti for blessings of health and recovery. The ‘Bible’ had the cult power of vowing to bondmaids. It was handwritten on the parchment in 1513 and had a leather-wrapped cover which consisted of 452 sheets. From the second half of 19th century, the medieval handwritten version of the ‘Bible’ was replaced by a printed version.