This March the community will dedicate a new Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills, to house a synagogue, the Bukharian Jewish Congress, a group led by Israeli philanthropist Lev Leviev, himself a Bukhraian Jew, and other community organizations. “The way we grew up, the tradition’s not as important as it was for my grandmother or my mother,” said Nelya Mushiyeva, 23, who immigrated to the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens 12 years ago.
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.
The efforts of these youth parallel activities in the larger community.
In May 2004, Aron Aranov, 66, created a three-room Bukharian Jewish museum in the Gymnasia, a tuition-free yeshiva in Queens funded by Leviev, hoping that Abayev, Abramov and their young counterparts would visit.
Both see signs that the youth are retaining their heritage.
Pinkasov estimates 70 percent of young Bukharian Jews attend synagogue on High Holidays.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.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. 10 (JTA) — David Abayev is a successful Manhattan accountant.