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Samarqand (Samarkand)

(2,265 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
Samarkand, today the second largest city in Uzbekistan, is one of the oldest cities in the part of Central Asia known historically as Transoxiana.  It was large and well populated in antiquity as well as in early Islamic times. Located at the crossroads between India, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Turkish steppes, along the Silk Road to Turkestan and China, it was an intensely fertile region, where agriculture flourished thanks to irrigation sustained by the Zarafshān River. Although the Jewish presence in Samarkand can be assumed to be ancient because of the trade routes …

Tashkent

(1,424 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
Tashkent (Tāshkend and Tashkend in Arabic and Persian manuscripts) in the Chirchik oasis of Central Asia is today the capital of Uzbekistan. No surviving historical evidence points to the existence of a Jewish community in Tashkent, then known as Shāsh or al-Shāsh, during the Islamic Middle Ages. Jewish traders from Bukhara began to appear in Tashkent on a regular basis n the first two decades of the nineteenth century, living temporarily in two of the town’s caravanserais. According to oral tradition, a Bukharan Jew nicknamed “Pucha” established a Jewish cemetery near Tashkent as …

Jadīds in Central Asia

(1,152 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
In 1839 the Jews of Mashhad in Iran were forcibly converted to Islam by Shiʿi fanatics. Many of the converts, referred to as jadīd-i Islām (Pers.) or jadīd al-Islām (Ar.) by Muslims, and as “Mashhadis” by themselves and other Jews, continued to practice Judaism secretly. Several decades after the conversion, more than two-thirds of them moved to Khurasan and Afghanistan, where they returned to Judaism openly. Many settled in Herat, and in time, because they were better educated and wealthier, they assimilated the local Jews. In the emirate of Bukhara, in contrast, the local Jews abs…

Bukhara

(4,741 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
Bukhara is a large oasis city in the present-day Republic of Uzbekistan. It is one of Central Asia’s most ancient cities. Documentary and archaeological evidence (mainly from Turkmenistan) indicates that Jews first settled there during the Achaemenid era, sometime after 559 b.c.e. From the end of the sixteenth century, after an almost complete breakdown of communications with fellow Jews in neighboring Iran because of conflicts between the Ṣafavids and the Shaybānids, Bukhara became the new ethno-religious center of the Jews in the regi…

Tajer, Rabbi Shelomo ben Moses

(807 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
Solomon ben Moses Tajer (Tājir, Tagger, and other variants), a rabbi and communal activist in Central Asia, Lebanon, and Syria, was born in Jerusalem in 1866 and died in Damascus in 1935. His father, Rabbi Moses ben Isaac Tadjer (d. 1910), was the head of the Sephardi religious court in Jerusalem and visited Bukhara as a shadar or meshullaḥ (Heb. rabbinical emissary) in the last third of the nineteenth century. Solomon Tajer was educated in the yeshivot of Jerusalem and grew close to the city’s Bukharan Jewish community after his marriage in 1889 to Miriam, a citizen of Bukhara. From 1883 to …

Chala

(909 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
Chala (Tajik: half-finished, incomplete) was a derogatory designation in Bukhara for Jews converted to Islam by force (and their descendants). Since the Chala often secretly practiced Jewish rites and maintained links with the Jewish community, they are somewhat comparable to the Jadīd-i Islām of Mashhad, the Marranos of Spain, and other anusim. Forced conversions occurred throughout the period of Muslim domination of Central Asia despite the Jews' status as ahl al-dhimma (Ar. protected people), but were more numerous in periods of heightened religious fanaticism.…