The Bukharic Jews are from Central Asia who historically spoke Bukharic, a dialect of the Tajik-Persian language. Their name comes from the former Central Asian Emirate of Bukhara, which once had a sizable Jewish community.
“We hate the word 'melting pot,'” Aron Aronov claimed, reflecting on his people?s disposition regarding American assimilation. Aronov, who is often called the Mayor of Queensistan, has received the unusual moniker because of his arduous activism for preserving the culture, language, and heritage of his people, the Bukharic Jews, who have migrated the USA and specifically Queens New York from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The Bukharic Jews are believed to be descendants of Israelites who were exiled to Babylonia in 586 BC. Having later come under the influence of the Persians, they today speak a language called Bukharic. They speak Bukharic, Russian, and English.
For over two thousand years, Bukharic Jews were one of the most isolated Jewish groups in the world. Eventually settling in the region of Bukhara in Central Asia due to, among other reasons, commercial opportunities along the Silk Road, Jews from this region came to be known as “Bukharan Jews.”
The New York metro area has the largest population in the world and the majority of Bukharic Jews in the United States. They are concentrated along 108th Street in Forest Hills, the street has been dubbed “Bukharan Broadway,” and neighboring Rego Park has been dubbed “Regostan,” both, of course, part of “Queensistan.” The Bukharic Jews are so concentrated in the borough that Queens College actually started a Bukharan Jewish history and culture class in 2010.
Now that freedom to practice their religion has been realized, many Bukharan Jews have used the opportunity not only to embrace their distinct religious identity but also to gain knowledge of Orthodox traditions normally associated with the Ashkenazi branch of Judaism. As the Bukharan Jewish community's chief rabbi explains, “About twenty percent of the community are Orthodox, sixty percent are traditional but not necessarily observant, and twenty percent are unaffiliated.” Despite the influence of Ashkenazi Orthodoxy in Queens, Bukharans (while being Mizrahi like many other Jews from Central Asia) still practice Sephardic Judaism. Most Bukharan Jews are very superstitious and do not question their rabbis, which is one reason why their distinct religious rites and customs have been preserved.
Almost nightly, the Bukharan restaurants in Queens convert into party halls, usually celebrating someone's birthday, wedding, bar mitzvah, or a Jewish holiday. If a Bukharan family is wealthy enough, these parties take place in their large mansions, which house multiple generations of families under one roof. While the Bukharan community has its share of unemployed people with limited English skills, a super-wealthy class has emerged as well, primarily from working in the jewelry industry.
By far the most visible Bukharan adherent to Orthodox Judaism is Lubavitcher Lev Leviev, a diamond cutter who is one of the world’s wealthiest Jews and biggest philanthropists, donating millions to Chabad Lubavitch and Bukharan causes.
Many Bukharic Jews are more comfortable in Russian than they are Bukharic, which leads people to confuse them with “Russian Jews.”
The language of Bukharic is having a small revival in Queens, where a Bukharan theater regularly performs plays in Bukharic.
"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9, NIV)