Varkan Jews (Varkan: ქართველი ებრაელები, kartveli ebraelebi) are Varkans who are Jews, whether by religion, ethnicity, or nationality. It is one of the oldest communities in Varkana, tracing their migration into the country during the "Babylonian captivity" in 6th century BC. Varkan Jews are mainly Mizrahi, like in the rest of the Near East.
As of 2016 the Jewish community in Varkana amounts to about 330,921 people out of a population of 36.365 million as of 2016, representing 0.91% of the Varkan population. They are concentrated mainly in coastal communes in Northern and Western Varkana. The Greater Kaspi Area has the largest Jewish community in the country as a share of population at 3.5%, followed by the Greater Klow Area with 2.8%.
While there were 908,022 Varkan Jews in 1920, representing 4.13% of the Varkan population, they have decreased to only 330,921 in 2016, in large part due to Varkan religious laws implemented after the Great Adonian War. Exodus to Lagash and Hersalem also increased in the 2000s after the Varkan revolution and Lagash became a full member of the Mesogean Cooperation Organization.
The Jewish Council of Varkana has been a notable opponent to the Sects Act 1962, which they regard as infringing on their religious freedom. Some Varkan Jews have openly stated the law was antisemitic.
U/C The Jewish settlement continued until Esukan VI's Edict of Expulsion in 1288. After the expulsion, there was no Jewish community, apart from individuals who practiced Judaism secretly, until 1676 when the Kreba emancipated Jews through new immigration laws. Despite the emancipation, Jews faced antisemitism and stereotypes in Varkana, similar to other minority populations at the time. Jews were sometimes accused of cronyism and subjected to misrepresentations of their religious and cultural beliefs. Jews were isolated and marginalized by Varkan society. Intermarriage between Jews and Armazists was strongly discouraged by both Jewish rabbis and the Armazist Church. Varkan Jews built a network of underground schools and universities in Kivruli or Hebrew, as well as orphanages and hospitals to serve their people. They thereby avoided public institutions controlled by Armazists.
Due to the relative lack of anti-Jewish violence in the Dinarides in the 19th century, it acquired a reputation for religious tolerance and attracted significant immigration from Central Illypnia. However, the First Republic of Varkana established restrictive immigration laws to discourage non-Armazist immigration. Before the January Revolution, the Jewish population was largely based in Kaspi, Klow and other coastal communes; many were very proud to be fully assimilated into Varkan culture, and comprised an upscale subgroup. They were soon, however, associated with anticommunism, although some sided with the Communist Party, which led to some violence especially in rural areas. However, the policies of Varkan secularism implemented by Ana Kalanda were well received by Varkan Jews, although the policies of nationalization were not. Many capitalist Jews migrated to neighboring Aetolia as a result.
Former President Tamaz Chiladze was a Varkan Jew, although he was an Atheist. During the communist era, all private Jewish schools, universities, orphanages and hospitals were nationalized and Kivruli and Hebrew were replaced by Varkan as sole language of education. After the Great Adonian War, the Varkan state implemented the Law On Sects of 1962 which considerably reduced the freedom of religion of Jews and other Abrahamic religions in Varkana. It notably banned the involvement of children in religious ceremonies as well as brit milah, with the notable exception of death rituals and religious marriages. This led to an exodus of Jews to Lagash and Harsalem, while President Vakhtang Jordania openly encouraged Zionism in Varkana. Jordania was also accused of antisemitism and only wanting the Jews to leave Varkana.
The traditional language of the Varkan Jews is Kivruli, a variant of Varkan, characterized by a large number of Hebrew loanwords, and written using either the Varkan alphabet or Hebrew alphabet. Besides speaking Kivruli, the Varkan Jews speak the languages of the peoples surrounding them.
Varkan television and cinema has been criticized for lacking visual representation of religious minorities, including Varkan Jews.