Last December, Azerbaijan said goodbye to Yevda Abramov, a proud member of our Mountain Jewish community and Azerbaijani Parliamentarian.
Yevda Abramov, like so many of us in the Jewish world, has a unique family history, and particularly so in that they can trace their Azerbaijan roots back over 750 years. In the early 20th century, they moved from Shamakhi, and settled in the all-Jewish Red Town of Quba in the north-east of Azerbaijan. That is where Yevda Abramov was born, where he has lived all his life, and raised his children. In 2005, he was elected to Azerbaijan’s Parliament, representing the 53rd Quba-Qusar election district.
Yevda Abramov’s career as a public servant began many years before he was elected to Milli Majlis (Parliament). In his early adulthood, Yevda Abramov studied history, and mastered fluency in Azerbaijani, Russian, Turkish and Farsi. He brought his love of history and learning to the place where it would make the greatest difference – the classroom, and was a teacher throughout his constantly expanding career as a civic leader, from the early 1970’s up until he entered regional politics in the early 2000’s. For Yevda Abramov, it was his love for community, for the very special region he had always called home, that provided him the drive and endless enthusiasm to continue doing more and more, and helping as many people as he could along the way.
Once elected to Parliament in 2005, Yevda Abramov took an especially active role, utilizing his talents and skills to contribute to the development of Azerbaijan. During his tenure as MP, until he passed away, Yevda Abramov served as deputy chair of the Standing Commission of the Milli Mejlis on Human Rights; as well as head of Azerbaijan-Israel Working Group on Interparliamentary Relations. Abramov was always one of the most outspoken and active members of Azerbaijan’s Parliament, deeply respected by everyone who knew him, by his constituents and the society at large. For his active role in Azerbaijan’s social and political life, Abramov was awarded the Order of Shohrat (Glory) by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in 2018.
For Yevda Abramov, all of this came down to the simple and lasting values he learned growing up in Red Village, that he imparted to his own four children. Yevda Abramov loved his motherland Azerbaijan with every beat of his heart. He also loved Israel, and all Jewish people, and sought opportunities to connect with Jewish communities around the world. In 2015, Yevda Abramov and I traveled to Los Angeles, at the invitation of Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple and the Sinai Temple Men’s Club, to receive a most priceless gift. Having learned about the amazing history and promise for peace that is embodied in Azerbaijan, the community of Sinai Temple, in the utmost gesture of friendship, love and generosity, gifted our Mountain Jewish Community with a Sefer Torah. On February 13, 2015, we received the Torah at Sinai Temple, and later that same year, 45 members of the Sinai Temple Community, along with Rabbi David Wolpe, visited Azerbaijan to dance with this new Sefer Torah all together in the streets and the Mountain Jewish synagogue of Baku. It was a week I will never forget, and I know for Yevda Abramov, it was one of the highest points of his life.
Some have been lucky enough to call Yevda Abramov a friend, and many have had the honor of working with, or meeting him, perhaps on one of the many delegations of Rabbis, synagogue members and other faith leaders, who visited Azerbaijan, and ended up meeting the most revered Jewish Parlimentarian, a testimony to what is possible in a truly peaceful majority-Muslim land.
We will miss Yevda Abramov. The legacy of what he achieved, who he was and what he stood for, will live on in all those who knew him and loved him. It will live on in his children, and all of the children of Red Town, who have been privileged to grow up in a way that few Jewish children around the world can understand – in an all-Jewish town, something that for most is a relic of the past, yet in Azerbaijan, continues as a thriving heart and home of a people with thousands of years of history – the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan. We have been so blessed to have Yevda Abramov as our representative, our mentor, and our inspiration. To the family of Yevda Abramov, we say, may the Almighty comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. To the rest of the world we say – here lived an example of true and lasting hope – let us always remember Yevda Abramov. Rest in peace, my Friend!