Monday, April 4, 2011

The Bukharian Jews

 
There is tradition that Bukharian Jews are the descendants of the Tribe of Naphtali and of the Tribe of Issachar and that they were exiled during the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 7th century B.C.E.  The Bukharian Jews of Central Asia, today’s Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, were essentially cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 2,500 years. 
They are considered one of the oldest ethnic groups of Central Asia and over the years have developed their own distinct Jewish culture. In the region of Bukhara (Uzbekistan), the largest concentrations were in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khokand. In Tajikistan, they lived in the capital, Dushanbe. Throughout the years, Jews from other Eastern countries such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Morocco migrated into Central Asia by way of the Silk Road, as did Jews who were exiled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition; all these joined the Central Asian Jewish community and were later collectively known as Bukharian Jews.
The first written account of this Central Asian Jewish Community comes from the 4th century C.E.  The Talmud relates the story of Rabbi Shmuel bar Bisna from the academy in Pumbeditha who traveled to the region now known as Turkmenistan and feared that the local wine and spirits produced there by the Jewish community were not kosher. There is also evidence of a Jewish presence from the 5th and 6th centuries C.E. found on ossuaries discovered in the mid 1950’s.
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