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Peace Project and Temple Ner Tamid

Misha Grishashvili and his wife Keti Chikviladze and a group of committed and fiercely independent Jews founded the first liberal community in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2022. TNT has partnered with this extraordinary group of Jews, and has hosted Misha and Keti here in New Jersey.

Calling themselves Dor L’Dor Progressive Judaism Study Center, they are one of the newest progressive communities in one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. Jews have had a continuous presence in Georgia for 2600 years, but this is the first time liberal Judaism has had a voice there. 

Their passion for expressing themselves Jewishly in a way that feels authentic and meaningful, and their willingness to fight for it despite threats to their financial and physical well-being, has led to a year and a half of joy, pain, and sacrifice. In June, 2023, with a little help from TNT members, the community held an adult b’nai mitzvah during Shavuot services, and women read from the Torah for the first time in Georgia’s history.

While we were there, during Shavuot 2023, the community began to face significant threats from the local established Jewish community, from attempts to prohibit members of the existing communities from participating to publishing scathing comments on social media, to threatening actual violence. The attacks have continued, and Keti and her staff made the difficult decision to resign from their positions at Hillel in September.

And yet, their well of inspiration is full.  Though they have been met with significant obstacles from within the established Jewish community, they have persevered and will continue to do so.

Keti Chikviladze

Keti Chikviladze, executive director of Hillel-Tbilisi until forced to step down in September, also serves as a shamashit, or leader of the community and was among the first b’nai mitzvah. (She also happens to be married to Misha.) A dynamic and effective leader, she served Hillel-Tbilisi for nine years.  During that time, even as the Jewish population of Tbilisi has diminished, she grew the Hillel membership from about 350 when she started to 500 today. While programming was barely existent when she began, Hillel Tbilisi now boasts a robust roster of 15-20 ongoing weekly and monthly programs, as well as trips to Jewish sites around Georgia, programs focused on student interests like Jewish cuisine, exhibitions, even summer camping programs. 

Her position was threatened for months before she finally stepped down because of her involvement in the liberal group. She nevertheless retains a fierce commitment to continuing to serve.

 

Misha Grishashvili

An engineer and former executive director of Hillel-Tbilisi, Misha is chief engineer for SOCAR Georgia Petroleum, an oil and gas distribution company. He serves as the founding president of Dor L’Dor Progressive Judaism Study Center. He’s outspoken in his desire to express his Judaism in a liberal format and has himself been threatened with violence for his role by the established Jewish community. Committed to the project, he was among the first to step forward to serve as a shamash, a leader of the fledgling group, and then to serve as its first president. He was among the first group of adult b’nai mitzvah and has been instrumental in forming the community, making early and critical strategic decisions in fending off challenges, and maintaining an articulate and calm but forceful approach.

Rabbi Golan Ben-Chorin

A third-generation Reform leader based in Haifa, Israel, Rabbi Ben-Chorin holds rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR in Jerusalem and a doctorate in education from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He has established innovative spiritual communities in Israel and around the world, and has taught on five continents and often focuses on pluralism, both within Judaism and in the interfaith arena. Through his connection to the House of One, an umbrella organization based in Berlin for projects including three Abrahamic faiths under one roof, he was asked to bring a Torah to the Peace Synagogue. There, in 2022, he met Misha, Keti, and the rest of the community. It wasn’t long before he became their de facto part-time rabbi, guiding the group both in person and via Zoom through their first year, helping them create a charter, celebrate holidays, and study together. The year culminated in an adult b’nai mitzvah service, held during the festival of Shavuot, that marked the first time women read Torah in Georgia.

Summer 2023 Trip to Tbilisi

Travel with us: 
Immerse in the breathtaking landscapes of Georgia. Learn to toast the Georgian way. Taste classic Georgian cuisine. Delve into the country’s 2600-year-old Jewish history as we form bonds with the leaders of L’Dor v’Dor, the fledgling liberal Jewish community at the Peace Project: a church, synagogue, mosque, and interfaith space under one roof. Visionary founder Bishop Malkhaz Songulashivili will accompany our group, led by Rabbi Golan Ben-Chorin and Johanna Ginsberg from Finding North. We will stay at the Ibis Styles, a 3-star hotel in the heart of Tbilisi's Old City.

Mon, May 20 2024 12 Iyyar 5784