(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
A colorful procession of dancers and musicians walked down the aisles and took
the stage Sunday night at Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium, the venerable music venue
where the sounds of Bach and Mozart are more often heard than the blares of huge
Korzai trumpets and bangs of Doyra drums.
In the stands some 2,800
Bukharan Jews and dignitaries – a handful of whom were dressed in the colorful
traditional garb of the Central Asian community – clapped and cheered on the
occasion of the Bukhara Jewish Congress’s 11th annual gathering.
Corridors of Power: The Bukharan connection
The Bukharans are coming
umadeton,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the crowd when he took the
stage, a phrase which means welcome in Bukharan.
“There are at least four
lawmakers of Bukharan descent in the Knesset. What does this prove? That
they aren’t only sharp-witted but also have warm hearts.”
dignitaries attended the event including Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who is
Bukharan on his mother’s side; Minister Limor Livnat, several MKs and Jewish
Agency Chairman Nathan Sharansky.
Billionaire businessman and president
of the Bukhara Jewish Congress Lev Leviev, who was born in Uzbekistan but moved
to Israel as a teenager, opened the festive gathering, as he does every
“This year we decided to highlight the doings of the Bukharan Jews
during WWII,” he said, honoring the role that the Jews of Bukhara had in helping
East European Jews who took refuge in the region.
There are about 300,000
Jews who can trace their roots back to the province of Bukhara, located in
modern- day Uzbekistan, according to Yair Borochov, the editor of Menora, the
community’s weekly news digest that is published in three languages and printed
in 30,000 copies.
“About 150,000 live in Israel and are spread out
between Jerusalem, Or Yehuda and Lod,” he said.
The other largest
concentration of Bukharan Jews in the world lives in Queens, New York on a
street that locals have dubbed “Bukhara Broadway.”
Only a few hundred
Bukharan Jews still live in their ancestral home.
Before the event began
a group of dancers and musicians wearing multi-colored jackets and broad kipas
lingered outside the hall waiting their cue to perform.
“We’re not from
Bukhara,” said Marian Urinster, who stood holding the karnai, a giant
gold-plated Bukharan trumpet which produces a loud noise similar to the South
African vuvuzela. “I’m from Russia but I like the culture and I am paid to come
dance at family events. I especially love the food.”
Bukharans were very insular and would often frown upon marriages between members
of the community and Jews from other parts of the world.
“For hundreds of
years they were very strict because they didn’t want to assimilate with
Muslims,” Borochov, the newspaperman, said.
“Nowadays they are much more
lax and there’s usually no problem marrying with other Jews, although there is a
preference for someone with a shared heritage and culture.”
“But that too
is giving way,” he admitted. “Youth today certainly aren’t as strict in that
sense than their parents were. In any case, there’s zero percent intermarriage
with non- Jews.”