Bukharan Jews

Bukharan Jews

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Bukhar(i)an Jews

pop = approx. 150,000-200,000
region1 = flag|Israel
pop1 =100,000-120,000
ref1 =
region2 =flag|United States
pop2 = 50,000-60,000
ref2 =
region3 = flagcountry|European Union
pop3 = 5,000-10,000
ref3 =
region4 = flag|Uzbekistan
pop4 = 100-1,000
ref4 =
region5 = flag|Tajikistan
pop5 = 50-100
ref5 =
languages = Traditionally Bukhori, Russian and Hebrew spoken in addition.
religions = Judaism
related = Other Jewish groups
smaller|(Mizrahi, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, etc.)

Bukharan Jews, also Bukharian Jews or Bukhari Jews, ( _he. בוכרים, "Bukharim") are Jews from Central Asia who speak Bukhori, a dialect of the Persian language. Their name comes from the former Central Asian Emirate of Bukhara, which once had a sizeable Jewish community. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the vast majority have emigrated to Israel or the United States (especially Rego Park & Forest Hills boroughs of Queens, NY), while others have emigrated to Europe or Australia. [http://www.bjews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=212&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0&POSTNUKESID=66024085b93bd342f22115d6d77e982a]


There is a tradition among the Bukharian Jews that they trace their ancestry to the Lost Tribes of Israel. These Jews claim to be descendants of the Issachar, Nephtali, and Ephraim Israelite tribes who never came back from the Babylonian captivity after exile in the 7th century BCE. They maintain that some of the Israelites migrated eastwards in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, in the time between the fall of Nineveh to Nabopolassar in 612 BCE and the fall of Jerusalem to his successor Nebuchadrezzar II in 597 BCE, during the transition from Neo-Assyrian to Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) rule. [ [http://www.imninalu.net/2history02.htm IM NIN'ALU's 2nd. Page - HISTORY (2) ] ] [http://www.joanroth.com/bukhara.html Joan Roth Photography: Bukhara ] ]

The Bukharian Jews of Central Asia were essentially cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 2,000 years and somehow managed to survive and preserve their Jewish identity and heritage in the face of countless odds. They are considered one of the oldest ethno-religious groups of 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), as did Jews who were exiled from Spain during the Inquisition [http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/bloom/oralhistories/natanova_rev102301.html] ; all these joined the Central Asian Jewish community that was later on called the Bukharian Jews. In Central Asia, they survived for centuries, subject to many conquering influences.

Most Bukharian Jews lived in Emirate of Bukhara (currently Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), while a small number lived in Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and some other parts of the former Soviet Union. In Emirate of Bukhara, the largest concentrations were in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khokand. In Tajikistan, they similarly were mainly concentrated in the capital, Dushanbe.

Prior to the Partition of British India, some Bukharian Jews could be found among the Afghan population of Peshawar, a city in what is now Pakistan. After partition and the creation of Israel, nearly all of these Jews left for Israel and other countries. One synagogue still exists in Peshawar and there are two main synagogues and several Jewish cemeteries that still function in the port city of Karachi.

Name and language

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 "Isro'il" and "Yahudi."

The appellative "Bukharian" was adopted by Bukharian 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.

Bukharian Jews used the Persian language to communicate among themselves and later developed "Bukhori", a distinct dialect of the Tajiki-Persian language with certain 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 Bukharian generation use Bukhori as their primary language but speak Russian with a slight Bukharian accent. The younger generation use Russian as their primary language, but do understand or speak Bukhori.

The Bukharian Jews are Mizrahi Jews. They practice their own isolated form of Judaism [http://www.bjews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=212&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0&POSTNUKESID=66024085b93bd342f22115d6d77e982a] and have been introduced to Sephardic Judaism.


The first primary written account of Jews in 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 [Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Aboda Zara, 31b, and Rashi] . 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. ["A History and Culture of the Bukharian Jews" by D. Ochildiev, R. Pinkhasov, I. Kalontarov. Roshnoyi-Light New York 2007]

Having developed over the millennia from Spanish Jewish and northeastern Persian and Arab Jewish communities, this Central Asian community has experienced alternating periods of freedom and prosperity, as well as periods of oppression. With the establishment of the Silk Road between China and the West in the 2nd century BCE that lasted well into the 16th century, many Jews flocked to the Emirate of Bukhara and played a great role in its development. After the Babylonian exile, they came under the Persian Empire, as they prospered and spread through the area. However, around the 5th century, began a period of persecution. Famous Jewish academies in Babylon were closed, while many Jews were killed and expelled (See Mishnah). After Arab Muslim conquest in the early 8th century, Jews (as well as Christians) were considered Dhimmis and were forced, among other things, to pay the jizya head tax. The Mongol invasion in the 13th century also adversely affected the Jews of Bukhara.

In the beginning of the 16th century, the area was invaded and occupied by nomadic Uzbek tribes who established strict observance of Islam and religious fundamentalism. Confined to city quarters, the Jews were denied basic rights and many were forced to convert to Islam. Under the Uzbeks, Bukharians went through a lot of discrimination. They had to wear black and yellow dress to distinguish themselves from the Muslims. Since the Bukharian Jews were dhimmis, during their annual tax, the heads of the dhimmi households had to be slapped in the face by Muslims. [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Bukharan_Jews.html]

By the middle of the 18th century, practically all of Bukharian Jews lived in the Bukharan Emirate. In 1843, Bukharian Jews collected 10,000 silver tan'ga and purchased land in Samarkand, known as "Makhallai Yakhudion" close to Registon.

At the beginning of 17th century, the first synagogue had been constructed at Bukhara city. It was done in contravention of the law of Caliph Omar who had forbidden the construction of new synagogues as well as the destruction of those that existed in the pre-Islamic period. [http://pagetour.narod.ru/bukhara/Magoki.htm] The story of construction of the first Bukhara synagogue relates to two persons: Nodir Divan-Begi - important grandee, and nameless widow, who outwitted an official.

During the 1700s, Bukharian Jews faced a lot of persecution. Their Jewish centers were closed down, the Muslims of the region usually forced conversion on the Jews, and the Bukharian Jewish population dramatically decreased to the point where they were almost extinct. [http://www.everyculture.com/Russia-Eurasia-China/Bukharan-Jews-History-and-Cultural-Relations.html] Due to pressures to convert to Islam, persecution, and isolation from the rest of the Jewish world, the Jews of Bukhara began to lack knowledge and practice of their Jewish religion. They only had three of five books of the Torah, did not know Hebrew, and replaced Bar Mitzvahs with Tefillin-banons. [http://www.bukharacity.com/jews.htm]

In 1793, a Sephardic Jew from Tetuan, Morocco, named Yosef Maimon traveled to Bukhara and found the local Jews in very poor condition, and he decided to settle there. Maman was disappointed to see so many Jews lack knowledge and observance of their religious customs and Jewish law. He became a spiritual leader and wanted to educate and revive the Jewish community's observance and faith in the Judaism. [http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/m/a/m/Jeffrey-Mammon/] He changed their Persian religious tradition to Sephardic Jewish tradition. During this time, the Jews of Bukhara were almost extinct, and Middle Eastern Jews came to Central Asia and joined the Bukharian Jewish community. Maimon's work and the Middle Eastern Jewish move to Central Asia helped revive the Bukharian Jewish community that was almost gone. Yosef Maimon is an ancestor to Shlomo Moussaieff (businessman), author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, and First Lady of Iceland Dorrit Moussaieff.

In the middle of the 19th century, Bukharian Jews began to move to the historic Land of Israel. Land on which they had settled in Jerusalem was called the "Bukharian Quarter" (Sh'hunat HaBucharim) still exists today. [http://www.joanroth.com/bukhara.html]

In 1865, Russian troops took over Tashkent, and there was a large influx of Jews to the newly created Turkestan Region. From 1876 to 1916, Jews were free to practice Judaism. Dozens of Bukharian Jews held prestigious jobs in medicine, law, and government, and many Jews prospered. Many Bukharian Jews became successful and well-respected actors, artists, dancers, musicians, singers, film producers, and sportsmen. Several Bukharian entertainers became merited artitists and gained the title of "People's Artist of Uzbekistan," "People's Artist of Tajikistan," and even "People's Artist of the Soviet Union." In sports, several Bukharian Jews in Uzbekistan were renowned boxers and won many medals for the country. [http://bjews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=2&page=2]

oviet era

Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, the Bukharian Jews were one of the most isolated Jewish communities in the world. [http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/01/18/dining/18rego.html "The Silk Road Leads to Queens" "New York Times" 18 January 2006] ]

With the establishment of Soviet rule on the territory in 1917, Jewish life seriously deteriorated. Throughout 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 government. World War II and the Holocaust brought a lot of Ashkenazi Jewish refugees from the European regions of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe through Uzbekistan. In the early 1970s, one of the largest Bukharian Jewish emigrations in history occurred as the Jews of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan emigrated to Israel and the United States, due to looser restrictions on immigration. In the late 1980s to the early 1990s, almost all of the remaining Bukharian Jews left Central Asia for the United States, Israel, Europe, or Australia. This was another large Bukharian Jewish emigration.

After 1991

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and foundation of the independent Republic of Uzbekistan in 1991, there was an abrupt growth of nationalism, chauvinism, and xenophobia in Uzbek public consciousness. Advent of Islamic fundamentalism in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan caused a sudden increase in the level of emigration of Jews (both Bukharian and Ashkenazi). Before the collapse of the USSR, there were 45,000 Bukharian Jews in Central Asia. [http://books.google.com/books?id=USUKO5AJmBUC&pg=RA1-PA189&lpg=RA1-PA189&dq=Jewish+Central+Asians&source=web&ots=ZV4Vlr-JO_&sig=yj8bARyGpBRMVP1uYOYHzAB96Ls&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result]

Now, there are about 100,000 in Israel, 50,000 in the US (mainly Queens, New York), about 100-1,000 still remain in Uzbekistan, and almost no Bukharian Jews remain in Tajikistan (compared to 15,000 in Tajikistan 1989).

Currently, Bukharian Jews are mostly concentrated in the U.S. in New York, Arizona, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego as well as in Israel, Austria, Russia, France England, Australia, Argentina, and Uzbekistan. [http://www.bjews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=212&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0&POSTNUKESID=66024085b93bd342f22115d6d77e982a] New York City's 108th Street, often referred to as "Buharlem" or "Bukharian Broadway" in Forest Hills, Queens, is filled with Bukharian restaurants and gift shops. They have formed a tight-knit enclave in this area that was once primarily inhabited by Ashkenazi Jews (many of the Ashkenazi had also become more assimilated to wider American and American Jewish culture with successive generations).

On the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5765 (2005), the Bukharian Jewish Community of Queens (mainly Rego Park and Forest Hills) celebrated the opening of the Bukharian Jewish Congress. This establishment further reflects the growing Bukharian community in Queens and their desire to preserve their identity in an ever-changing world.

In early 2006, the still-active Dushanbe synagogue in Tajikistan as well as the city's mikveh (ritual bath), kosher butchery, and Jewish classrooms were demolished by the government (without compensation to the community) to make room for a new Presidential residence. After an international outcry, the government of Tajikistan reversed its decision and will allow the synagogue to be rebuilt on its current site. Because Tajkistan's government decided to destroy the country's only synagogue, most of the Bukharian Jews from Tajikistan have very negative views towards the country.

Bukharian Jews are very proud of their Jewish heritage and religion, which are the chief components of their culture. Most are Zionist and strongly support Israel. Bukharian Jews also support the Central Asian governments in their struggle against Islamic Fundamentalism. Charitable funds named after prominent Central Asian cities, such as Tashkent and Samarkand, help maintain the Jewish cemeteries of these cities.

In 2007, Bukharian-American Jews initiated lobbying efforts on behalf of their community. [http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a738/News/New_York.html] One of the Bukharian leaders said, "This event represents a huge leap forward for our community. I am so grateful to God that we are here, that I was able to witness this. 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 [Bukharian] 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 people." [http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a738/News/New_York.html]


Dress Codes

Bukharian Jews had their own dress code, similar to but also different from other cultures (mainly Altaic cultures) living in Central Asia. On weddings today, one can still observe the bride and the close relatives put on the traditional kaftan (Jomah-ҷома-ג'ומא in Bukhori and Tajik) and the richly-embroidered fur-lined hats and dance.


The Bukharians have a distinct music called "Shashmaqam", which is an ensemble of stringed instruments, infused with Central Asian rhythms, much klezmer, Muslim melodies, and even Spanish chords.


Bukharian 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. Samsa, 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.

Plov is a very popular slow cooked, cumin-spiced rice dish, sporting carrots, and in some varieties, chick peas, and often topped with beef or lamb. Most Bukharian communities still produce their traditional breads of old: one being "Leeployshka", a circular bread with a flat center, 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.

Notable Bukharian Jews

*Jacques Abramoff - Monegasque businessman, inventor, past president of the Monaco Jewish Community
*Yisrael Aharoni - Famous Israeli chef and restaurateur
*Zvia Leviev Alazarov - Businesswoman and Vice President of Marketing for the Africa Israel Investments.
*Jacob Arabo - Proprietor of Jacob & Co.
*Ari Babakhanov - Famous musician from Uzbekistan
*Rena Galibova - Soviet actress, "People's Artist of Tajikistan"
*Meirkhaim Gavrielov - Journalist murdered in Tajikistan in 1998
*Shimon Hakham - Bukharian-Israeli Rabbi/ Writer/ One of the founders of Bukharian Quarter
*Nial Iskhakov- Actor from the movie Eurotrip
*Jeremy Issacharoff- Israeli Ambassador to Washington D.C.
*Lev Leviev - Billionaire businessman, investor, philanthropist, president of the Bukharian Jewish Congress
*Boris Kandov - President of the Bukharian Jewish Congress of the USA and Canada
*Malika Kalantarova - Famous Dancer, "People's Artist of Soviet Union" (Queen of Tajik Dance)
*Fatima Kuinova - Soviet singer, "Merited Artist of the Soviet Union"
*Yosef Mammon - Religious leader
*Simon Gaon-Artist
*Ilyas Malayev- Musician and Poet from Uzbekistan
*Dorrit Moussaieff - First Lady of Iceland
*Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson - Author
*Shlomo Moussaieff (businessman) - Israeli millionaire businessman
*Shlomo Moussaieff (rabbi) - Co-founder of the Bukharian Quarter in Jerusalem
*Yudik Mullodzhanov - One of the greatest Tenor singers, violaists, and teachers. Also known as "Bukharian Pavarotti"
*Rosa Mullodzhanova, Opera Singer "Honored Artist of Tajikistan"
*Shoista Mullodzhanova - Famous Shashmakon singer, "People's Artist of Tajikistan" (Queen of Tajik Music)
*Gavriel Mullokandov – Popular shashmakom artist, "People's Artist of Uzbekistan"
*Jacob Nasirov - Bukharian-American Rabbi from Afghanistan (member of the Bukharian Rabbinical Counsel)
*Daniel Nissanoff - Renown Internet Entrepreneur and Author [http://www.auctionculture.com]
*James Raphael - Classical pianist
*Bronson Pinchot-Actor
*Isaac Suleymanov - American Actor in Law And Order, The King Of Queens, NYPD Blues, General Hospital
*Anthony Yadgaroff - British Businessman, Jewish community leader
*Itzhak Yehoshua - Chief Rabbi of the Bukharian Jews in the USA
*Suleiman Yudakov - Soviet composer and musician, "People's Artist of the Soviet Union"

ee also

*Africa Israel Investments
*Azerbaijani Jews
*Bais Yaakov Machon Academy
*Bukhori language
*Dushanbe synagogue
*Emirate of Bukhara
*History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
*Judaism and Islam
*Kazakh Jews
*Mizrahi Jews
*Sephardi Jews
*Mountain Jews
*Ohr Avner Foundation
*Persian Jews
*Sephardic Judaism
*Tajik Jews
*Uzbek Jews


External links

* [http://www.kikayon.com/index_files/Page2122.htm "Alanna's Cooper's publications on Bukharan Jews"]
* [http://www.BJews.com Bukharian Jewish Global Portal]
* [http://www.Boojle.com "Bukharian Entertainment and News at your Fingertips"]
* [http://www.sdjewishjournal.com/stories/oct03_5.html "A Lost Tribe...Found in Queens"]
* [http://www.abramoffgroup.com/yadvashem.htm "Rescue of Jews of Bukharan in occupied France"]
* [http://www.JosephMammon.com "My Story, By Joseph Mammon"]
* [http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/01/18/dining/18rego.html "The Silk Road Leads to Queens".] Brief culinary history and restaurant review from New York Times.

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