Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism by Alanna E. Cooper

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By Alanna E. Cooper

Part ethnography, half heritage, and half memoir, this quantity chronicles the complicated earlier and dynamic current of an historical Mizrahi group. whereas in detail tied to the relevant Asian panorama, the Jews of Bukhara have additionally maintained deep connections to the broader Jewish international. because the group started to disperse after the autumn of the Soviet Union, Alanna E. Cooper traveled to Uzbekistan to rfile Jewish existence ahead of it disappeared. Drawing on ethnographic learn there in addition to between immigrants to the united states and Israel, Cooper tells an intimate and private tale approximately what it capacity to be Bukharan Jewish. along with her ancient study a couple of sequence of dramatic encounters among Bukharan Jews and Jews in different elements of the realm, this full of life narrative illuminates the tensions inherent in keeping Judaism as a unmarried international faith over the process its lengthy and sundry diaspora history.

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Over the course of this contemporary period of isolation they had forgotten how to practice their religion and had lost their sense of connection to Jewish history and to the Jewish People. They came to the United States with only the vaguest historical memory of their ties to the rest of the Jewish world. Upon arrival, the story continued, many had been fortunate enough to find their way to Torah Academy. Here, they were given the opportunity to learn about their religion and reconnect with their people.

The Jews of the USSR began to migrate en masse to the United States and Israel, and I was compelled to meet these people whose own experiences had so strongly shaped my under- 4 I n t roduc t ion standing of my own Jewish identity. As it happened, this event occurred when I was beginning graduate school in cultural anthropology, and was starting to formulate a research project. It seemed an auspicious time to find entrée into the lives of the Jews who were emigrating. I began studying Russian and took a job at Torah Academy, one of the many private Jewish high schools that had been established in New York to help this immigrant population.

Most were from a relatively tight social and religious circle, lived in a few neighborhoods in Queens, had studied in the same religious academies, and looked to the same Agudat Israel1 rabbis for guidance. As teachers at Torah Academy, they were fully committed to imparting their particular understanding of Judaism to their students, most of whom were from the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. I learned how strong this commitment was toward the end of the school year when I found out that most of the teachers had not received their paychecks in a timely, regular fashion.

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