Many an ancient traveller and merchant took the old Silk Road to China or to the Mediterranean. Ten generations ago, the Khaimov family settled in Central Asia, eventually in the mythical center of Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
By the 21st century, however, many of these Bukharian Jews found themselves embarking for another mythical place: New York City. In 2001, the Khaimovs joined that exodus, and their son, Manashe, 14 at the time, found himself in this vast metropolis and a city uncertain post 9/11.
And yet it was to New York that his family came, “for the future, to stay among the Jewish people,” recalls Khaimov. “All our relatives, all the Jewish people in Samarkand, had left or were leaving.”
Today, living in Brooklyn with his wife and newborn son, Khaimov is working for his people as director of Bukharian Youth Services, a division of the Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA). At the JCCA, Khaimov runs the Bukharian Teen Lounge in Forest Hills where he himself was once a Bukharian teen.
His family was always concerned with helping other Jews, volunteering for the synagogue and for the mikveh. “I always was a proud Jew. But I saw young Jews who didn’t know about their identity, or weren’t so proud,” Khaimov said. In college he was president of the Baruch College Hillel and became involved in helping Russian-speaking Jews in Brooklyn.
“As a Bukharian, though, we didn’t have much in common with Russians other than 70 years of living under Communism,” said Khaimov.
Khaimov got involved with JCCA five years ago when he was invited by Bella Zelkin, the organization’s director of émigré services, to help develop the Bukharian Teen Lounge, an after-school program that now serves more then 60 teens daily and 500 annually, including some at-risk.
The program assists teens with college and career advice as well as individual and group counseling. It also guides them to leadership and community service. Most of all, Khaimov said, “They learn how to integrate into the larger Jewish and American community, while maintaining their rich and beautiful Bukharian culture, helping these teens to love who they are.”
Coining a hobby: In his spare time, Khaimov collects currency from different countries.