Bukharan Jews, also Bukharian
Jews or Bukhari
Бухарские евреи Bukharskie evrei ; Hebrew:
בוכרים Bukharim ; Tajik and
яҳудиёни бухороӣ Yahudiyoni bukhoroī
(Bukharan Jews) or яҳудиёни Бухоро
Yahudiyoni Bukhoro (
Jews of Bukhara),
Bukhori Hebrew Script:
יהודיי בוכאראי and יהודי בוכארי), are Jews
Central Asia who historically spoke Bukhori, a Tajik dialect of
the Persian language. Their name comes from the former Central Asian
Emirate of Bukhara, which once had a sizable Jewish community. Since
the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the great majority have
Israel or to the
United States (especially Forest Hills,
New York), while others have immigrated to
Europe or Australia.
1 Name and language
2.1 16th to 18th centuries
Rabbi Yosef Maimon
2.2 19th century
2.3 Soviet era
2.3.1 After 1991
3 Immigrant populations
3.2 United States
4.1 Dress codes
5 Notable Bukharian Jews
6 See also
8 External links
Name and language
Interior of the Great
Synagogue in Bukhara, sketch based on a
photograph by Elkan Nathan Adler.
The term Bukharan was coined by European travelers who visited Central
Asia around the 16th century. Since most of the Jewish community at
the time lived under the Emirate of Bukhara, they came to be known as
Bukharan Jews. The name by which the community called itself is
The appellative Bukharian was adopted by Bukharan
Jews who moved to
English-speaking countries, in an anglicisation of the Hebrew Bukhari.
However, Bukharan was the term used historically by English writers,
as it was for other aspects of Bukhara.
Jews used the
Persian language to communicate among
themselves and later developed Bukhori, a Tajik dialect of the Persian
language with small linguistic traces of Hebrew. This language
provided easier communication with their neighboring communities and
was used for all cultural and educational life among the Jews. It was
used widely until the area was "Russified" by the Russians and the
dissemination of "religious" information was halted. The elderly
Bukharan generation use
Bukhori as their primary language but speak
Russian with a slight Bukharan accent. The younger generation use
Russian as their primary language, but do understand or speak Bukhori.
Jews are Mizrahi Jews and have been introduced to and
The first primary written account of
Central Asia dates to the
beginning of the 4th century CE. It is recalled in the
Talmud by Rabbi
Shmuel bar Bisna, a member of the Talmudic academy in Pumbeditha, who
traveled to Margiana (present-day
Merv in Turkmenistan) and feared
that the wine and alcohol produced by local
Jews was not kosher.
The presence of Jewish communities in
Merv is also proven by Jewish
writings on ossuaries from the 5th and 6th centuries, uncovered
between 1954 and 1956.
Further information: History of the
Jews in Central Asia, History of
Jews under Muslim rule, and Soviet Jews
According to some ancient texts, there were
Israelites that began
Central Asia to work as traders during the reign of King
Jerusalem as far back as the 10th century B.C.E. When
Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon, he encouraged the
liberated to settle in his empire, which included areas of Central
Asia. In the Middle Ages, the largest Jewish settlement in Central
Asia was in the Emirate of Bukhara.
Among Bukharan Jews, there are two ancient theories of how Jewish
people settled in Central Asia. One theory is that Bukharan
be descended from the
Tribe of Napthali
Tribe of Napthali and the
Tribe of Issachar
Tribe of Issachar of
the Lost Tribes of Israel who may have been exiled during the
Assyrian captivity of
Israel in the 7th century BCE. Isakharov (in
different spellings) is a common surname.
Modern sources have described the
Jews as, for example, "an
ethnic and linguistic group in Central Asia, claiming descent from
5th-century exiles from Persia".
Jews are considered one of the oldest ethno-religious
Central Asia and over the years they have developed their
own distinct culture. Throughout the years,
Jews from other Eastern
countries such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and
Morocco migrated into
Central Asia (usually by taking the Silk Road).
Bukharan girls in Samarkand, ca 1900
16th to 18th centuries
In the beginning of the 16th century, the area was invaded and
occupied by nomadic Uzbek tribes who established strict observance of
Around 1620, the first synagogue was constructed at
Bukhara city. This
was done in contravention of the law prescribed to
Caliph Omar who
forbade the construction of new non-Muslim places of worship including
synagogues as well as forbade the destruction of those that existed in
the pre-Islamic period. There was a case when Caliph Umar had ordered
the destruction of a mosque, which was built illegally on Jewish
land. Before the construction of the first synagogue, Jews
had shared a place in a mosque with Muslims. This mosque was called
the Magoki Attoron (the "Mosque in pit"). Some say that
Muslims worshipped alongside each other in the same place at the same
time. Other sources insist that
Jews worshipped after Muslims. The
construction of the first
Bukhara synagogue was credited to two
people: Nodir Divan-Begi, an important grandee, and an anonymous
widow, who reportedly outwitted an official.
During the 18th century, Bukharan
Jews faced considerable
discrimination and persecution. Jewish centers were closed down, the
Muslims of the region usually forced conversion on the Jews, and the
Bukharan Jewish population dramatically decreased to the point where
they were almost extinct. Due to pressures to convert to Islam,
persecution, and isolation from the rest of the Jewish world, the Jews
Bukhara began to lack knowledge and practice of their Jewish
religion. By the middle of the 18th century, practically all Bukharan
Jews lived in the Bukharan Emirate.
Rabbi Yosef Maimon
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Jews celebrating Sukkot, c. 1900.
The borders of the Russian imperial territories of Khiva,
Kokand in the time period of 1902–1903.
Rabbi Yosef Maimon, a
Jew from Tetuan,
prominent kabbalist in Safed, traveled to
Bukhara and found the local
Jews in a very bad state. He decided to settle there. Maimon was
disappointed to see so many
Jews lacking knowledge and observance of
their religious customs and Jewish law. He became a spiritual leader,
aiming to educate and revive the Jewish community's observance and
faith in Judaism. He changed their Persian religious tradition to
Sephardic Jewish tradition. Maimon is an ancestor of Shlomo
Moussaieff, author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, and the First Lady of
Iceland Dorrit Moussaieff.
In 1843 the Bukharan
Jews were visited by the so-called "Eccentric
Missionary", Joseph Wolff, a Jewish convert to Christianity who had
set himself the broad task of finding the Lost Tribes of
the narrow one of seeking two British officers who had been captured
by the Emir, Nasrullah Khan. Wolff wrote prolifically of his travels,
and the journals of his expeditions provide valuable information about
the life and customs of the peoples he travelled amongst, including
the Bukharan Jews. In 1843, for example, they collected 10,000 silver
tan'ga and purchased land in Samarkand, known as Makhallai Yakhudion,
close to Registon.
In the middle of the 19th century, Bukharan
Jews began to move to
Palestine. The land on which they settled in
Jerusalem was named the
Bukharim quarter (Sh'hunat HaBucharim) and still exists today.
In 1865, Russian troops took over Tashkent, and there was a large
Jews to the newly created
Turkestan Region. From 1876 to
Jews were free to practice Judaism. Dozens of Bukharan
prestigious jobs in medicine, law, and government, and many Jews
prospered. Many Bukharan
Jews became successful and well-respected
actors, artists, dancers, musicians, singers, film producers, and
sportsmen. Several Bukharan entertainers became artists of merit and
gained the title "People's Artist of Uzbekistan", "People's Artist of
Tajikistan", and even (in the Soviet era) "People's Artist of the
Jews succeeded in the world of sport also, with several
Uzbekistan becoming renowned boxers and winning many
medals for the country. Still, Bukharan
Jews were forbidden to
ride in the streets and had to wear distinctive costumes. They were
relegated to a ghetto, and often fell victim to persecution from the
Jewish students with their teacher in Samarkand, c. 1910.
By the time of the Russian revolution, the Bukharan
Jews were one of
the most isolated Jewish communities in the world.
With the establishment of Soviet rule over the territory in 1917,
Jewish life seriously deteriorated. Throughout the
1920s and 1930s, thousands of Jews, fleeing religious oppression,
confiscation of property, arrests, and repressions, fled to
Palestine. In Central Asia, the community attempted
to preserve their traditions while displaying loyalty to the
World War II
World War II and the
Holocaust brought a lot of Ashkenazi
Jewish refugees from the European regions of the
Soviet Union and
Europe through Uzbekistan.
Starting in 1972, one of the largest Bukharan Jewish emigrations in
history occurred as the
Israel and the United States, due to looser restrictions on
immigration. In the late 1980s to the early 1990s, almost all of the
Central Asia for the United States,
Israel, Europe, or
Australia in the last mass emigration of Bukharan
Jews from their resident lands.
With the disintegration of the
Soviet Union and foundation of the
independent Republic of
Uzbekistan in 1991, some feared growth of
nationalistic policies in the country. The resurgence of Islamic
Tajikistan prompted an increase in
the level of emigration of
Jews (both Bukharan and Ashkenazi). Before
the collapse of the USSR, there were 45,000 Bukharan
Jews in Central
Today, there are about 150,000 Bukharan
Israel (mainly in the
Tel Aviv metropolitan area including the neighborhoods of Tel Kabir,
Shapira, Kiryat Shalom, HaTikvah and cities like Or Yehuda, Ramla, and
Holon) and 60,000 in the
United States (especially Queens—a borough
of New York that is widely known as the "melting pot" of the United
States due to its ethnic diversity)—with smaller communities in the
USA like Phoenix, South Florida, Atlanta, San Diego, Los Angeles,
Seattle, and Denver. Only a few thousand still remain in Uzbekistan.
About 500 live in
Canada (mainly Toronto, Ontario and Montreal,
Quebec). Almost no Bukharan
Jews remain in
Tajikistan (compared to the
1989 Jewish population of 15,000 in Tajikistan).
In early 2006, the still-active Dushanbe
well as the city's mikveh (ritual bath), kosher butcher, and Jewish
schools were demolished by the government (without compensation to the
community) to make room for the new Palace of Nation. After an
international outcry, the government of
Tajikistan announced a
reversal of its decision and publicly claimed that it would permit the
synagogue to be rebuilt on its current site. However, in mid-2008, the
Tajikistan destroyed the whole synagogue and started
construction of the Palace of Nation. The Dushanbe synagogue was
Tajkistan's only synagogue and the community were therefore left
without a centre or a place to pray. As a result, the majority of
Tajikistan living in
Israel and the United States
have very negative views towards the Tajik government and many have
cut off all ties they had with the country. In 2009, the Tajik
government reestablished the synagogue in a different location for the
small Jewish community.
Jews are mostly concentrated in the U.S. in New
York, Arizona, Atlanta, Denver, South Florida, Los Angeles, San
Diego. New York City's 108th Street in the borough of Queens, often
referred to as "Bukharan Broadway" or "Bukharian Broadway" in
Forest Hills, Queens, is filled with Bukharan restaurants and gift
shops. Furthermore, Forest Hills is nicknamed "Bukharlem" due to the
majority of the population being Bukharian. They have formed a
tight-knit enclave in this area that was once primarily inhabited by
Jews (many of the
Jews have assimilated to wider
American and American
Jewish culture with each successive generation).
Israel in Corona, Queens, a synagogue founded in
the early 1900s by
Ashkenazi Jews, became Bukharan in the 1990s. Kew
Gardens, Queens, also has a very large population of Bukharan Jews.
Janet Malcolm has taken an interest in Bukharan
Jews in the
U.S., writing at length about
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and, in
Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial, about the 2007
contract murder of Daniel Malakov organized by his ex-wife Mazoltuv
In December 1999, the First Congress of the Bukharian
Jews of the
United States and
Canada convened in Queens. In 2007,
Jews initiated lobbying efforts on behalf of their
community. Zoya Maksumova, president of the Bukharan women’s
organization "Esther Hamalka" said "This event represents a huge leap
forward for our community. Now, for the first time, Americans will
know who we are." Senator
Joseph Lieberman intoned,
"God said to Abraham, 'You'll be an eternal people'… and now we see
that the State of
Israel lives, and this historic [Bukharan]
community, which was cut off from the Jewish world for centuries in
Central Asia and suffered oppression during the Soviet Union, is alive
and well in America. God has kept his promise to the Jewish
Jews had their own dress code, similar to but also different
from other cultures (mainly Turco-Mongol) living in Central Asia. On
weddings today, one can still observe the bride and the close
relatives donning the traditional kaftan (Jomah-ҷома-ג'אמה in
Bukhori and Tajik).
Jews have a distinct musical tradition called Shashmaqam,
which is an ensemble of stringed instruments, infused with Central
Asian rhythms, and a considerable klezmer influence as well as Muslim
melodies, and even Spanish chords. The main Instrument is called
Shashmaqam music "reflect the mix of Hassidic vocals, Indian
and Islamic instrumentals and Sufi-inspired texts and lyrical
See also: Uzbek cuisine
Central Asian style dumpling soup called shurboi dushpera or tushpera
(left) along with traditional tandoor style bread called non in
Bukharan, Tajik, and Uzbek (right).
Bukharan cuisine consists of many unique dishes, distinctly influenced
by ethnic dishes historically and currently found along the Silk Road
and many parts of Central and even Southeast Asia. Shish kabob, or
shashlik, as it is often referred to in Russian, are popular, made of
chicken, beef or lamb. Pulled noodles, often thrown into a hearty stew
of meat and vegetables known as lagman, are similar in style to
Chinese lamian, also traditionally served in a meat broth. Sambusa,
pastries filled with spiced meat or vegetables, are baked in a unique,
hollowed out tandoor oven, and greatly resemble the preparation and
shape of Indian samosas.
Jewish identity was always preserved in the kitchen.
"Even though we were in exile from Jerusalem, we observed kashruth,"
said Isak Masturov, another owner of Cheburechnaya. "We could not go
to restaurants, so we had to learn to cook for our own community.
Plov is a very popular slow-cooked rice dish spiced with cumin and
containing carrots, and in some varieties, chick peas, and often
topped with beef or lamb. Another popular dish is baksh which consists
of rice, chicken breast and liver cut into small cubes, with cilantro,
which adds a shade of green to the rice once it's been cooked. Most
Bukharan Jewish communities still produce their traditional breads
including non (lepyoshka in Russian), a circular bread with a flat
center that has multiple pattern of designs, topped with black and
regular sesame seeds, and the other, called non toki, bears the dry
and crusty features of traditional Jewish matzah, but with a
distinctly wheatier taste.
After Sabbath synagogue service, Bukharin
Jews often eat steamed eggs
and sweet potatoes followed by a dish of fish such as carp. Next comes
the main meal called oshesvo.
Notable Bukharian Jews
Yosef Maimon – Religious leader
Shimon Hakham – Bukharan-Israeli Rabbi/ Writer/ One of the founders
of the Bukharan Quarter
Shlomo Moussaieff (rabbi)
Shlomo Moussaieff (rabbi) – Co-founder of the Bukharan Quarter in
Shlomo Moussaieff (businessman)
Shlomo Moussaieff (businessman) – Israeli millionaire businessman
Dorrit Moussaieff – former First Lady of Iceland
Lev Leviev – Billionaire businessman, investor, philanthropist,
president of the World Congress of Bukharian Jews
Gideon Sa'ar – Israeli politician who served as a member of Knesset
Rafael Pinhasi – Israeli politician and member of the
Amnon Cohen – Israeli politician and member of the
Knesset for Shas
Robert Ilatov – Israeli politician and member of the
Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich – Israeli politician who currently serves
as a member of the
Knesset for Kadima
Yisrael Aharoni – Israeli chef and restaurateur
Guy Haimov – professional football player
Moshe Mishaelof – professional football player
Idan Yaniv – Israeli singer, "2007 Israeli Artist of the Year"
Nitzan Kaikov – Israeli songwriter and music producer
Rinat Matatov – Israeli actress
Avi Issacharoff – Israeli journalist and creator of the series Fauda
was sold to Netflix
Yoni Ben-Menachem – Israeli journalist was General Director of
Israel Broadcasting Authority
Jacob Arabov – Proprietor of Jacob & Co.
Gregg L. Friedman MD - Bukharian Jewish Physician
Boris Kandov – President of the Bukharian Jewish Congress of the USA
Manashe Khaimov – fourth generation community leader and founder of
www.AskBobo.org, the only Bukharian online dictionary.
Iosef Yusupov – Designer
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson – Author
Jacob Nasirov – Bukharan-American
Afghanistan (member of
the Bukharian Rabbinical Counsel)
Rus Yusupov – Bukharan-American Internet Entrepreneur widely known
as a co-founder of Vine.
Milana Vayntrub – Bukharan-American actress and model
Anthony Yadgaroff – British Businessman, Jewish community leader
Meirkhaim Gavrielov – Journalist murdered in
Tajikistan in 1998
Barno Itzhakova – vocalist, famous for her rendition of traditional
Shashmaqom songs in Tajik and Uzbek
Suleiman Yudakov – Soviet composer and musician, "People's Artist of
the Uzbek SSR"
Shoista Mullodzhanova – Shashmakon singer, "People's Artist of
Tajikistan" (Queen of
Gavriel Mullokandov – Popular
Shashmakom artist, "People's Artist of
Ilyas Malayev –
Musician and Poet from Uzbekistan, "Honoured Artist
Malika Kalontarova – Dancer, "People's Artist of Soviet Union"
(Queen of Eastern Dance)
Ari Babakhanov –
Musician from Uzbekistan
Rena Galibova – Soviet actress, "People's Artist of Tajikistan" (an
awarded title, alluding to national prominence)
Fatima Kuinova – Soviet singer, "Merited Artist of the Soviet Union"
Bais Yaakov Machon Academy
Emirate of Bukhara
History of the
Russia and the Soviet Union
History of the
Jews under Muslim Rule
Ohr Avner Foundation
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LAZGI Firuza Jumaniyazova shimon polatov israel 2011 on YouTube
AVRAM TOLMAS, RUSTAM, YASHA BARAEV on YouTube
Malika Kalantarova - Lazgi.avi on YouTube
Malika Kalontarova Dushanbe Малика Калонтарова
Лазги Душанбе on YouTube
BukharianRadio.com, Bukharian Radio
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