Samarkand, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Dushambe sound like name straight off a movie taking place in the snowy mountain of Caucus, difficult to pronounce and so far beyond our hyper-westernized imagination, but they are real places, with real people and a whole lot of very real history behind them. Who knew that a big slice of people from such countries could find refuge in the
“Bukharan Broadway” of Forrest Hills, Queens. And a Jewish slice of it to say the least.
These are the Bukharan Jews, immigrants from Central Asia who speak a mix of Persian and Tajik dialect called Bukhori and live by the Mizrahi *(Sephardic from Arabic Countries) Jewish tradition. They are a mutt of Jews from Iran, Iraq, Syrian, Yemen, Morocco migrated there using the Silk Road around the 4th century.
How did they all end-up in Queens then?
Well, with the advent of the Soviet rules around the 1917 the Jewish traditions were severely subdued and so most of the Central Asian Jews started migrating to Palestine. Later, after the WWII and the Holocaust, more started fleeing the country and landed in the United States where Judaism was not persecuted and freedom of religion was a state of mind for everyone in the new land. More Jews immigrated even later when the Soviet Union disintegrated and the growth of Xenophobia increased.
Now there are about 200 thousand Bukharan jews in the world of which the majority is in the USA, Israel and Australia.
my fist encounter with the bukharan Jews of Queens