5 reasons Bukharan Jews are a unique Jewish community

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English: Jewish Children with their Teacher in Samarkand. Early color photograph from Russia, created by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work to document the Russian Empire from 1909 to 1915.
Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection (Library of Congress)

Bukharan Jews flourished in Central Asia for hundreds of years. Here are five facts about the community, provided by Alanna Cooper, Jewish studies scholar at Case Western Reserve University, for the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies.

  1. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, over 50,000 Bukharan Jews lived in the Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikstan.
  2. The Bukharan language is a Jewish dialect of the Persian language.
  3. Bukharan Jews lived in Central Asia for over 1,000 years. They were documented by the 12th century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela as the “Israelites of Samarkand.”
  4. Like other groups, their religion was forced underground by the Soviets. Religious weddings were performed in the middle of the night with only immediate family attending.
  5. Beginning in the 1990s, the vast majority of Bukharan Jews emigrated. Most came to the United States and Israel, but others settled in the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany.

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