In his native Tashkent, capital of the now-independent Soviet republic Uzbekistan, Aron Aronov built up a collection of Jewish items from Uzbeki life that he would show visitors to his apartment. He couldn’t bring the artifacts in his limited luggage space when he came to the United States in 1989, so he shipped the stuff ahead, at great personal expense.
His collection, now more than 3,000 items, is the core of the Bukharian Jewish Museum that he founded in his Rego Park apartment, and which is now located in three crowded rooms of the Queens Gymnasia day school in nearby Forest Hills, heart of the estimated 50,000 Bukharian Jews who live in Queens.
“Even in Israel, they don’t have it,” he says of his extensive collection.
Aronov, who has worked as a teacher and translator, opens his by-appointment-only museum to school groups, often deferring the job of tour guide to the students’ Uzbeki-born family members. “The parents become guides,” says Aronov, above and left.
His museum features embroidered tapestries and tribal musical instruments, books and photographs.
After he is gone, Aronov says, his artifacts will go to an institution in his community. “Everything,” he says, “belongs to my people.”