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Rybakov said 80 percent of those who get engaged keep the ritual of shirini huri, a party that includes eating sweets, Bukharian music, dress and dancing.Almost all celebrate the Passover seder with Bukharian Jewish songs, food, clothing and ritual.On Friday night, he eats Shabbat dinner with his family.On Saturday, he works as a barber, a common profession for Jews from Uzbekistan.Although Abayev admits to feeling tempted to move away from his parents’ watchful eyes, “I really can’t do that,” he says. You may find a job and girlfriend but you won’t have a family connection.You won’t have bachsh,” a traditional Bukharian dish, on Friday night.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.
Mullodzhanova’s brother-in-law, Boris Abramov, 24, grew up hearing stories of his grandfather, who spent 25 years in Soviet jails for selling kosher meat. “Our generation is more religious than our parents,'” Abramov said.
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.
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.
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.