Bukharian Jews (also Bukharan Jews) stem from Central Asia and speak Bukhori, a northern dialect of Tajiki language. The origin of Bukharian Jews can be traced back to the destruction of the Northern Israelite and Judean kingdoms. Exiled Jews left in droves, mostly northern and western, but a smaller number settled in the east, in what was then the Persian Empire. Many of them made the city of Bukhara their home, hence the name “Bukharian” Jews. In the 600s, the Arab conquest of Central Asia began and Islam became the dominant religion of the region. It was already evident here that the Bukharian Jews were taking steps to protect themselves from assimilation. They strove to live together in Jewish neighborhoods, and lived under their own rule with a community chief, called a kalontar. Despite varying levels of self-imposed segregation, cultural exchange did take place, and one can see many similarities in music, dance, food, and dress between Bukharian Jews and other Central Asian populations.

During the spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, control of Bukhara was transferred between many different Islamic administrations. In 1219, the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan, conquered Bukhara, pillaging and burning the city to the ground, destroying the Bukhara Jewish community. In the beginning of the 16th century, Central Asia was invaded and conquered by nomadic Uzbek tribes who established strict observance of Islam and religious fundamentalism. During this period many Jews were forced to convert to Islam. The town of Bukhara eventually became a center of Jewish life in Central Asia, absorbing Jews fleeing cities located in the midst of battles between warring Islamic parties. More Jews relocated to Bukhara when the city of Samarkand was destroyed by an earthquake in the 16th century.

Because of their ability to speak numerous languages, Bukharian Jews often acted as liaisons between various groups of foreign traders. Some Jews were financiers, others were known for their crafts, especially the dyeing of cloth, and silk weaving. Wealthier Jews invested in caravans which traveled the Great Silk Road.

In the middle of the 19th century, many Bukharian Jews began to move to Palestine, and there they established the well known Bukharian Quarter (Sh’hunat Buhori), that still exists today in Jerusalem. They had arrived by railroad and on animals, many bought land in Jerusalem either to live in, or to visit; some desired to hold onto the land in the event of a pogrom or persecution from which they would have to flee from their native land. At this time, many Jews began to support many of the Russian influences on Central Asia as a way to escape the persecution they had faced under the Muslim governments. This compliance with the Russian influence put them at odds with the Islamic majority, and there were riots against the Jews for most of the time between 1918 and 1920.

In the 19th century, Bukharian Jews were joined by Jews from other parts of what would become part of the Soviet Union. These new arrivals noticed the distinctive splendor of the costumes and customs of the Bukharian Jews. The woman’s costume included a loose-fitting ikat silk gown in shades of rose or violet, over which was worn an elaborately-embroidered coat with kimono sleeves, called a kaltshak. Head-covering was either an embroidered cap or tulle scarf with a jeweled forehead ornament. Other jewelry included bracelets, earrings and coin necklaces. Until modern times, Bukharian Jewish men wore a caftan-like garment called a djoma, secured at the waist by a cord girdle. Over the djoma was worn a long, loose-fitting flared coat. The usual head-covering was made of Astrakhan, short curled lamb hair, or a handsomely embroidered kippah. While Jewish men were forbidden to wear the turban, the rest of their clothing did not differ from Bukharian Muslim dress of the period.

Since the creation of the independent Republic of Uzbekistan in 1991, a growing number of Bukharan Jews have left the country due to the rise in Muslim fundamentalism and the poor economy. More than 70,000 Jews have left the country since its inception, and have moved to Jerusalem and the United States. Large Bukharan Jewish populations are located in Jerusalem and Queens, New York. The Jewish community of Bukhara is now around 3,000 and, in Samarkand, there are approximately 2,000 Bukharan Jews.
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Rosh Hashanah 1909 Praying on the Williamsburg Bridge, NYC


Rosh Hashanah 1909 Praying on the Williamsburg Bridge, NYC

(via thejewsareinspace)

On a Rosh Hashanah which fell on Shabbos - R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchiv rose and said:

"Lord of the Universe, today You judge each person for the coming year, and grant him life or condemn him to death. But, on this Rosh Hashanah You are forced by Your own Torah to grant a good and healthy life to all Your people in coming year. After all, on Shabbos You have decreed in Your Holy Torah that it is prohibited to write. How then can You fulfil ‘On Rosh Hashanah it is written down’? There is no way for You to inscribe anyone in the Book of Death, because writing is forbidden. On the other hand, You may certainly inscribe us all in the Book of Life, because when there is pikuach nefesh (danger to life) the prohibition on writing does not apply."


Tattoos and Religion


I turned 18 recently, and I’m at a college in a very liberal area where people all around me have super cool tattoos. I’ve been to a local tattoo and piercing shop a couple of times with my roommate for consultation on her second tattoo she’ll be getting soon. I plan to get a cartilage piercing there as celebration whenever I get a job.

I’ve known for a while that I want to be a person who has tattoos, and I’ve thought a lot about what I might want. I know I will probably get a chalice tattoo, the religious symbol of my faith, Unitarian Universalism. I know many UUs, including ministers who have one of these tattoos or want one. I’ve drawn a few designs I like, and think I may have an idea of where I want it. Recently, I came up with the idea for what will likely be my first tattoo when I feel the time is right. It will be a small peacock feather on the inside of my left foot. There is a lot of symbolism throughout cultures of both feathers and peacocks. It is special to me because it is a symbol of the UU summer camp where I work, where I have a very real home and family, along with an array of valuable experiences over many years.

But, there is one tattoo idea I really like that I cannot make a solid decision about. It would be the Hebrew script for Shalom. The word is significant on its own, but also there is a song called “Shalom Chaverim” that my home church has adopted as our permanent closing song. We hold hands to sing it in all of our services, many meetings and at most youth group events. The English words go “Shalom my friends, shalom my friends, shalom, shalom, we’ll meet again, we’ll meet again, shalom, shalom.” I’ve grown up with this song, and the message about goodbyes and peace line up perfectly with a lot of my personal philosophy. So, solid idea, right?

Except I am not Jewish, and the cultural appropriation as that stands could raise some questions. But also, Jewish scripture speaks very clearly against tattoos. Obviously I am fine with Jewish people choosing to get tattoos, as many reform Jews believe it is acceptable. Still, I do not know if I am in a place to get a tattoo so connected with Judaism, even though it has a lot of personal meaning for me.

So, I still don’t know how I feel about it, but as of today I am leaning towards getting a shalom tattoo simply because it is so beautiful and personal. I don’t really know if I will, but if I do, it will at least be where it can be covered up in a sensitive situation.

Please do not get this tattoo. I don’t need to explain why - it seems like you already know why. You’ve already made the argument against. It’s a form of cultural appropriation, and it’s one that’s especially harsh when paired with faiths of a Christian background, of which many UU churches are. 

If the song is so meaningful for you, why not get the tattoo, “peace, friends,” instead? After all, that’s meaning of it in English, which I assume is your language. If it’s the Jewish roots of the song that are so important to you, show your respect for Judaism by not appropriating it.

So yes, you already know why you shouldn’t. So why would you? It’s one thing to get one out of ignorance, but you can’t claim that. It’s another issue to chose to get the tattoo knowing full well that Jews find this harmful. You have plenty of other options.

Then when G-d asks [Cain], ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ he arrogantly responds, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’
In essence, the entire Bible is written as an affirmative response to this question.
— Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy (via mermaideleh)

(via thejewsareinspace)


If you believe that your “pro-Palestinian activism” and being a “good ally to the Palestinians” requires you to ignore Jews, hijack their conversations, deny them a discourse on their identity in the diaspora, and tell them that having and educating others on their religious and ethnic identity is detrimental to your cause, then you are doing the pro-Palestinian movement the worst possible disservice.  

Antisemitism in pro-Palestinian circles makes Jewish allies feel rightfully unsafe and unwelcome.  It tells left-wing Jews that they need to disassociate with their ethnicity, culture, religion, upbringing, history, and identity in order for you to accept them as worth listening to.  Political Zionism has its deepest roots in places where Jews were and are marginalized, excluded, and hated, and creating that environment in activist circles does nothing but alienate true allies and hurt your cause.  It also perpetuates the really harmful idea that pro-Palestinian circles are automatically antisemitic, or that anti-Zionism itself is antisemitic by default, and push curious and open Jews further to the right.  

"Allies" and "activists" who do this are the reason why most of my leftist Jewish friends didn’t go to rallies for Gaza or campus meetings for anti-Zionist groups.  The cause of Palestinian freedom and statehood is righteous and worthy, and the last thing that the Palestinians need are vocal bigots and oppressors who claim to support them. 

(via frightened)