Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ancient Pictures of an Ancient Jewish Community in Samarkand

Jews sitting in their Samarkand Sukka (circa 1870) See
another view of the Sukka here
Bukharan Jews, from what is today the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, may be one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.  According to some researchers, the community may date back to the days of  the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile.  Over the centuries, the community suffered from forced conversion to Islam and from Genghis Khan's pillage and destruction of the region.

Click here for a history of the Bukharan Jews.
Bukhari Jews in a Sukka in Jerusalem
(circa 1900) and here




By the end of the 18th century the community was under pressure from several sources and was in danger of disappearing. It was discovered by a Moroccan rabbi, Joseph Maman, who, until his death in 1823,  spent 30 years in Bukhara serving as the spiritual leader and transforming the community to a more observant lifestyle.  In the mid-1800s, Bukharan Jews began moving to the Holy Land where they established a community outside of Jerusalem's Old City.  [View a previous feature from this website on the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem].

The photographs presented here are from a collection we recently discovered in the Library of Congress files and which offer an amazing peek at Jewish life in Samarkand in the mid-1800s.  The pictures show preparations for a wedding between a boy and a girl who appear barely in their teens; the community's school and synagogue; and teachers and their pupils.

Bukhari Jewish families discuss the
dowry prior to a wedding (circa 1870).
The caption identifies the two bundles
behind them as the dowry
The groom meets the bride's parents
prior to the wedding. Note how young
the couple appears


Click on pictures to enlarge



Click on caption to view the original


Bringing the bride (far left) to the
groom's house
Jewish "Prayer House" in Samarkand












Jewish school in Samarkand. Note the
school children on the left

Samarkand Jews reading Psalms and here
and here










Teacher and pupils in Samarkand
and here and here












Jewish women at a funeral. Note the use of a drum

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