Bukharian Jewish Leaders Meet with City Officials

At the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (center), City Council member Karen Koslowitz (left) and NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce (far left)

At the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (center), City Council member Karen Koslowitz (left) and NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce (far left)

Bukharian Jewish community leaders met Dec. 8 with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce and other officials to discuss security measures after a string of seven fires were set at Jewish-owned properties in the enclave of Cord Meyer. The latest one occurred on Sunday around midnight.

Many in the community are angered over what they consider an inadequate response on the part of officials. The NYPD, which has so far stopped short of calling the acts hate crimes, released surveillance footage Friday of the still-unidentified alleged arsonist.

At a press conference following the meeting, attended by Times Ledger‘s Gabriel Rom, community leader Aron Borukhov was optimistic: “Today’s meeting was a very good sign that both the community and the police department, fire department and elected officials are all interested in solving the problem at hand.”

He added that community security patrols, working in conjunction with police, would be organized.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky concluded the press conference by saying, in regards to the Bukharian community, “It’s sad that they cannot feel safe in their homes anymore, that they left a disturbing situation in the former Soviet Union and they have to face this in their new home.”

Her words hit home for Lilianna Zulunova, who looked on from the audience.

“I can remember the fires burning down the buildings on my street when I lived in Uzbekistan,” Zulunova said. “That’s what caused my parents to come to America.”

“Now, 29-plus years later, I see the same thing happening here: fires every week.”

In an earlier story published prior to the meeting, Rom noted that Bukharians and some longtime Forest Hills residents do not always see eye-to-eye when it comes to housing. The former have traditionally preferred larger homes.

While “proudly” showing the reporter a book of abandoned “beautiful” Bukharian homes in his native Uzbekistan, Rafael Nektalov, editor and publisher of the local Bukharian Times, said:

“We came to America as Jewish refugees and we will never forget what America did for us,” he added. “But now we feel that we are being ignored.”

The story also quoted community member Manashe Khaimov, who spoke of the isolation felt by the Bukharian Jews: “We feel like we’re on our own, and that’s not a great feeling to have.”

Khaimov connected the arsons to an upswing in global anti-Semitism. “There is a saying that if you open up an umbrella in France, you must open up an umbrella in Odessa, too,” he said. “Well, what is happening in France is beginning to happen here.”

“If this isn’t a hate crime, then what is?” he added.

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