What Does It Mean To Be Bukharian?
Образование | Bais Yaakov Machon Yehudis

We are proud to present to you the speeches of our two valedictorians. It provides much food for thought. They are continuing their education in Adelphi University, Hunter College, New Seminary, and Ohr Naava Seminary.

I graduate high school as a proud Bukharian, but what does being Bukharian mean? Does it mean bachsh or ploff? Does it mean Bukharian music, or dance? What about the Indian movies from Bollywood? If one of your children or grandchildren like pizza better than ploff, and doesn't like Bukharian music, isn't he or she still Bukharian? What does being Bukharian mean?

I never thought of this question in elementary school because I was one of the few Bukharian girls out of 208 Ashkenazi girls in my grade and I wished I can be more like them. Bais Yaakov Machon Yehudis has helped me understand and take pride in being Bukharian. But what does it mean to be Bukharian?

When I asked different people what they thought it means, I received answers like lots of food, loud music, dance and traditions.A friend of mine told me «what it really means to be Bukharian is to always be happy, because Bukharian find any excuse to make a party.» Although all these things may be part of being Bukharian, most of them come from the Uzbeks and therefore can't be what defines a true Bukharian.

As I was thinking about this question, I came across a portrait of my great–grandmother Kseniya.I looked at the portrait and admired who I was named after.She has such a kind look in her eyes and a beautiful friendly smile. She is dressed modestly in one of those flowered dresses and her hair is covered with a decorated cloth. I remembered stories my grandmother and father told me about her life.

My great–grandfather Yosef Chaim was asked one day to help out a strange man who needed a place to eat, rest and sleep. He took him in without question and gave him whatever he needed, because it is a mitzvah to be kind and help people. This all occurred during the time people were not allowed to keep Torah and mitzvoth. When it was discovered that Yosef Chaim still kept religion despite all the laws that prohibit it, he was sent to Siberia to die.Miraculously, the guard that was in charge there was the same man that my great grandfather had helped previously. The man helped my great–grandfather and he was sent home. Unfortunately, he became sick in Siberia and died at a young age. Through the merit of this mitzvah he was able to die at home with his family and not alone in Siberia.

Another story that happened was that when it was illegal for Jews to slaughter animals in the kosher way, my other great–grandfather Eliyahu secretly slaughtered animals in his backyard so that the Jews could eat kosher meat.

Many Jews at that time risked their lives to secretly go and buy the kosher meat.All of my friends know of similar stories in their families. All of our great–grandparents worked hard to keep religion, even though it was dangerous. Then the answer to my question seemed so obvious to me. Being a Bukharian Jew means to keep the path of our fathers, grandfathers, and great–grandfathers.

When did that change and who changed it? Stalin changed that. He hated Jews and was determined to destroy Judaism.Stalin sent the Rabbis to Siberia, and planned to send all the Jews in Siberia to die. A week before he wanted to put his plan to action, he mysteriously died.Unfortunately he still succeeded, because after Stalin we redefined Bukharian Jews to only the Uzbek culture. But our heritage is to go in the ways of our fathers, grandfathers and great–grandfathers–- to live a life of Judaism and Torah.

Did our grandparents sacrifice so much for us to just throw it away? Many of our grandmothers prayed that their families would be able to move to a place of freedom — so that they could keep Torah proudly and openly. Their prayers were answered and we live in freedom — but now we need to fulfill the goals of those prayers.

However, to follow in the footsteps of our grandparents and great–grandparents and their parents is very difficult to do in today's secular world. We are being pulled from all directions to do the wrong thing. Unfortunately, many of us in the younger generation fail in this challenge and give into society's demands to be «American.» Unlike our grandparents who had to sacrifice to keep their parents' way, we have it fairly easy because we are not being persecuted by anyone. They say that America is the land of opportunity and G–d / Hashem specifically brought us here so we can have the opportunity to reclaim our true Bukharian heritage. But of course the major question lies in HOW. How can we claim our Bukharian heritage?

 I know that my true Bukharian heritage lies in being more Jewish.The reason I am so sure of this is simple. As the saying goes «Because my grandmother did it.» My grandparents gave of themselves and their families in order to do the right Jewish thing. My grandfather understood that being a true Bukharian man meant only eating strictly kosher. When Stalin banned kosher food, he would travel for miles on horse in severe cold weather in order to get truly kosher meat. My great–grandmother understood that being a true Bukharian woman meant keeping the laws of Family Purity, and when the government closed the mikvas, she would go into freezing water to keep this precious mitzvah. Hearing all of their amazing sacrifices inspires me to also continue in their path because if Torah would not be the real way of life — then they would never sacrifice so much in order to keep it. Their sacrifice / mesirat nefesh proves that being really Jewish is the true Bukharian way.

The more I learned the more I began to realize that we all do things because there is a root of Jewish Torah to it. For example, even before my family kept Shabbat we always had Friday night dinner with Kiddush. Of course we also had the TV on in the background. I thought that it was just the «Bukharian way» — then I realized that we had the dinner because it is a big mitzvah to have a meal on Shabbat. I always thought that my grandmothers covered their hair with a handkerchief because the Muslims made them do it, but then I learned that after a woman gets married she has to cover her hair.Even now we may do things just because it is customary but if we think about it really there is a mitzvah behind many, many things that we do. Rabbi Young is fond of saying that «Every Bukharian is already religious — they just don't know it yet!»

It has been a long journey for me to reclaim my Bukharian heritage.With the guidance and support of Rabbi and Mrs. Young and all the other amazing teachers of Bais Yaakov Machon Yehudis I have slowly but surely have been able to connect back to my grandparents' way of life. My sister who went to Machon before me began to pave the way for our family to find our way back to our roots. Therefore when I first came to Machon in seventh grade I was keeping a few mitzvoth on a very basic level. As I began to get older the teachers began to tell me things that I have never heard before. I started to realize that every single mitzvah has a reason behind it. My teachers never forced anything upon me.Rather it was like an open ball game and you choose to catch whatever you want. This was very important to me because once I understood a mitzvah and began to keep it because I want to the mitzvah began to be more special to me.

One very important lesson my teachers taught me was to take it one step at a time. When I heard that you can grow little by little, it took off some of the pressure from me. I know that it may be overwhelming to take things on all at once, so knowing this piece of information comforted me. I am proud to say that as a senior of Bais Yaakov Machon Yehudis I was taught to be a true Bukharian Jewish woman. Without the inspiration of my teachers I know that I would not be the same person today and I am forever grateful to them.

Mrs. Young used to say «Don't go through life, but grow through life», and I pray and hope that all of us will have the wisdom and the privilege of living our lives in that way. I think that the Bukharian community as a whole will always be indebted to Rabbi Young for helping the younger generations of Bukharian girls to pick the right path, the path of our great–grandparents.

Благородная миссия:

Почти все мы покинули места нашего прежнего проживания с болью в сердце, ибо каждый из нас оставил там могилы отцов и матерей, братьев и сестер.Наш народ на протяжении всей своей...

Celebration of success. Leadership awards of 2009:

On June 24, 2009, The Jewish Child Care Association, aka JCCA and Association of Bukharian Jewish Youth of the USA “Achdut Unity,” hosted a formal dinner award ceremony...

Встреча поколений:

Интересное, удивительное событие произошло 17 июня 2009 года в НьюЙорке. Во всяком случае, для наших авлодов: Некталовых, Исхакбаевых, Хаимовых, Галибовых, Фузайловых...


© 2009 BukharianJewishCongress.org