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Bukharians Are Different

Bukharians Are Different

 Steve Lipman’s article, “New Generation of Russians Now Making Its Mark” (July 13), may be an accurate portrayal of a major proportion of the 200,000 Russian-speaking Jews in the Greater New York area, but Russian-speaking Jews are not monolithic. 

We must differentiate between those born in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Odessa and the European-influenced parts of the former Soviet Union (FSU) from those who emanate from the Muslim-influenced Central Asian countries of the FSU — Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan — known as Bukharian Jews. 

The former group came here nearly four decades ago, while Bukharian Jews immigrated in great numbers (40,000) during the mid-late 1990s, settling mostly in Central Queens, where many continue to live. The European-Russian Jews were primarily secular, while Bukharians are from very traditional, observant backgrounds, and were generally accustomed to living with other Jews. The Bukharians came to New York to settle together as one people — and to remain as one tightly knit group.

Jewish Child Care Association has worked very closely with this community since its mass immigration to Queens. We have found Bukharian youth and young adults to be deeply respectful of and more connected to their parents’ values.

Having been here far less time, second generation Bukharians — now high school teens — have not become as Americanized as their counterparts, and struggle with their identity. Young Bukharian professionals who participate in our Kalontar (Leadership) Program are learning about and embracing the concepts of volunteerism and philanthropy, values highly regarded by the American Jewish community. 

Our hope is that by engaging in grass-roots community building, Russian speaking Bukharian Jews will feel more connected to the broader Jewish community, and will be strengthened as they face the ongoing challenges of being “newcomers” in New York.

Deborah H. Perelmuter,
Vice-President: Services in the Jewish Community

Lisa Sherman-Cohen, Director, Communications & Marketing Jewish Child Care Association

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