Touring Bukharian Queens

(Photo by Daniel Allen via The Forward)

Don’t mistake Bukharian Jews for Russian Jews, Manashe Khaimov says. “The only thing we share with Russian Jews are the 70 years we lived under the Soviet Union. For 2,000 years, we had a different history, a different culture.”

In a story that appeared in The Forward, reporter Simone Somekh joins Khaimov, a Samarkand-born immigrant, on a session of his “Jewish Silk Road Tours” which delve into the little-known Bukharian community in New York. Some 70,000 live in Queens, Forest Hills in particular.

Khaimov started leading the tours in 2017 to offer a glimpse into his people’s history and long-standing customs, while supporting local businesses. His tour includes a stop at one of the area’s dozens of active synagogues, a visit to a traditional bakery and a live performance of Shashmaqam (traditional Uzbek) music.

The community organizer also goes into their history, from the origins of the word “Bukharian” to how the people ended up in Central Asia, and what they endured under Soviet rule. The tour includes stops by the Bukharian Jewish Congress of United States and Canada in Forest Hills, and the appointment-only Bukharian Museum, founded by Aron Aronov, who in the words of Khaimov is a “legendary figure in the community.”

Aronov tells tour attendees: “New York is not a melting pot.” Go to The Forward to see what he meant as well as to find out more about the Bukharian community as recounted by Somekh, and to see video from the tour.

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