Senaki Jewish Cemetery (Jewish section in Menji Municipal Cemetery)

Cemetery Information

Site address
At the intersection of Eliava and Shamatava streets (at the level of no. 23, Eliava Street, turn into Shamatava street and head south-east. After 300 meters, pass under the railway bridge and turn right. The cemetery is 700 along, on the left.
GPS coordinates
42.27325, 42.03674
Perimeter length
249 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
Type and height of existing fence
The section is fenced with a concrete wall about 1.5 meters in height.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
Perhaps the most well-kept Jewish cemetery in Georgia.
Number of existing gravestones
Around 250.
Date of oldest tombstone
1949 (there is also a stone containing only the date of 1908, but it appears to be the date of birth of the deceased. There are also several stones with barely readable inscriptions).
Date of newest tombstone
Urgency of erecting a fence
Fence is not needed
Land ownership
Property of local community
Preserved construction on site
There is an ohel-like construction above the grave of the Rabbi Khakham Bentsion Epremashvili.
Drone surveys

Historical overview

Senaki is a town in Western Georgia. Its history dates back to the 17th century. After the construction of the Poti-Tbilisi railway in 1871 which connected the Black Sea port city of Poti with Georgia’s capital, Senaki developed as an important centre. The construction of a station in the town led to the development of an urban settlement originally called “new Senaki” (Akhalsenaki) which was granted the status of a city in 1921. In 1933, the city was renamed Tskhakaia in honor of the Georgian Soviet revolutionary leader Mikheil Tskhakaia. In 1989, the city returned to its old name of “Senaki.”

According to Georgian historian Zakaria Chichinadze, a small number of Jews lived in Senaki at the beginning of the 20th century and were involved in trade. 40 Jews lived in the town in 1910, 118 in 1926, and about 400 by 1939. By 1976, the number of Jews in Senaki had grown to 741. Mainly Jews from Bandza, Kulashi, Vani, and Sujuna settled in Senaki in the 20th century. By the 1970’s, Senaki became a powerful centre for Jewish life in Western Georgia.

While the history of the Jewish cemetery in Senaki requires more research, according to the National Historical Archives of Georgia, Senaki’s stone synagogue was built in 1880. Tombstones visible in the cemetery suggest that it was mostly in use in the second half of the 20th century until 2003. Some of the tombstones are barely legible and could originate from an earlier period.