The beautifully exotic Bucharian Kippot are a firm favorite among many due to their striking patterns and comfortable form. But who are the Bucharian Jews? We invite you to explore with us this fascinating groups’ history and hope that the information will make that next purchase of a Bucharian Kippah all that more special and will allow you to appreciate another sector of the Jewish people…
Bucharian Jews originate from Central Asia and speak Bukhori which is a dialect of the Tajik language. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union the majority of the community emigrated to Israel. Others moved to America, Europe and Australia.
According to Bucharian Jews’ tradition, they are descendants of the tribes of Naphtali and Issachar who may have been exiled from Israel during the seventh century. Bucharian Jews were isolated from the rest of world Jewry for over two thousand, five hundred years. Despite this, they held strongly to their Jewish faith and over time developed a distinct culture.
The very first mention of Jews in Central Asia is recorded in the Talmud by Rabbi Shmuel bar Bisna. Ossuaries found in the fifties provide evidence of Jewish presence in the area in the fifth and sixth centuries.
The Bucharian Jews experienced periods of affluence and oppression. Islamic domination following the Arab conquest of Central Asia in the eighth century led to people of any other faith being regarded as second class citizens who would have to pay a tax for the right to practice their religion freely. The Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century was also detrimental for the Jewish community.
Nomadic Uzbek tribes invaded at the beginning of the sixteenth century and their strict observance of Islamic Sharia law led to a particularly difficult period for the Jewish community. They were discriminated against, denied basic human rights and humiliated. The
Jews had to wear a special costume to distinguish them from Muslims.
In 1793 Rabbi Yosef Maimon arrived in Buchara. Rabbi Maimon was a Sephardic Jew from Morocco and a famous Kabbalist in Tzfat. He was horrified by the physical and spiritual conditions that the Jews were living in. He became their spiritual leader, changing their Persian tradition to Sephardic. He revived the community, re-teaching the basics and re-instilling Jewish faith. Thanks to his efforts the Bucharian Jewish community was saved from extinction.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century Bucharian Jews began settling in Israel due to the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Soviet rule, the Holocaust and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Today, most of the Bucharian community live in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area in Israel.