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Mullodzhanova’s husband arrived home from synagogue, and her sisters walked over.The married women wore shirts with high necklines and long skirts, stylish scarves covering their hair in accordance with Jewish tradition.
The challenges of remaining a traditional Bukharian Jew in the U. Mushiyeva attended public school, wears brand-name jeans and speaks like an American.Peter Pinkhasov, 28, founded Bukharian Jews.com, a Web site with 950 registered members who chat, view photos, listen to music and read about Bukharian Jewish history, traditions and culture. Imonuel Rybakov, 23, a Queens College finance major, founded Achdut in 2002, a cultural organization that targets 16-to-35-year-old Bukharian Jews, running festivals, lectures, a band, political volunteering and online classes in the Bukharian Jewish language, a dialect of Farsi.Discussions can attract 100 people, Rybakov said, and dance parties nearly 500.Chief Rabbi Itzhak Yehoshua estimates approximately 40 percent of Bukharian Jewish elementary school students nationwide attend Jewish schools, half of them Bukharian schools. Many of these Jews find identity through culture — eating Bukharian Jewish food, listening to traditional music, learning their ancestors’ history, or dating other Bukharian Jews.Abayev, the accountant living in Fresh Meadows, defines himself as “50 percent Bukharian, 30 percent Jewish and 20 percent American.” He talks passionately about attending celebrations with Bukharian music, eating traditional home-cooked food, welcoming guests and spending Friday night dinners with family. “To change would be partial suicide.” To ensure that others follow Abayev’s path, some young adults are starting organizations to keep their culture alive.One Friday night at the home of Larissa Mullodzhanova, 20, Shabbat candles were lit and the table was set.
A home-cooked feast with Bachsh and Oshi Piyozi brought smells of Uzbekistan into the Queens apartment.
But Abayev has a different mind-set about family than most of his coworkers.
At 29, he still lives with his parents because in Bukharian Jewish culture, adults leave home only to begin their own family.
Abayev is one of 40,000 to 50,000 Bukharian Jews in Queens — some are scattered in other cities across North America — who struggle to maintain their identity while confronting the economic and cultural pressures of the United States.
The struggle is most apparent among young Bukharian Jews, most of whom left Uzbekistan in Central Asia after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and are now trying to define their identity away from the surroundings that shaped their heritage and traditions.
The efforts of these youth parallel activities in the larger community.