The Jewish Heritage of Bukhara

On the very first day of my Uzbekistan trip last September, I stumbled across something that was to add a new perspective to my trip, and give me lots to think about. There I was wandering around the Saviksty Museum in Nukus and looking at the various works of art when I came across this painting of a “Bukharan Jew”, by Y.U. Razumovskaya (Charcoal on Paper, 1927).

Karakalpakstan Museum of Art, Savitsky Collection, Nukus Museum

It was the caption that caught my attention for I was not aware of the presence of Jews in Bukhara or in Central Asia. Since I was curious to know more about the painting and the community the man in the painting represented, I asked my guide at the museum for more information. While the guide could not give me more information on the painting or its painter, she did mention that Bukhara was once home to the largest number of Jews in Central Asia. She said that though there were Jews still living in Bukhara, the numbers had come down drastically.

That night, as I waited for my dinner to arrive in my hotel at Nukus, I read up on the Bukharan Jews. Continue reading “The Jewish Heritage of Bukhara”

The Jewish heritage of Mumbai

Somewhere in Basra, c. 1831

The room was dark and the only light, feeble as it was, came from a flickering oil lamp placed in a corner of the room. But it was enough for the fortune-teller to recognise the man being ushered in by his son.

“Salaam, Master,” the fortune-teller greeted the robed man.

You know who I am, ” the robed man said. It was a statement and not a question.

“Who doesn’t know you, Master?” said the fortune-teller. “Everyone knows you and about you.”

“Then you also know why I have come here.”

“I can guess, Master,” the fortune-teller bowed.

“I have no choice but to leave this region. Where should I go? London? China? Where does my future lie?”

The fortune-teller was silent for a long time. Just when the man was about to ask him again, the fortune-teller said.

“Your should leave immediately for Bombay in Al-Hind [Arabic for India]. A bright future and fortune lies awaits you there.”

The robed man was surprised with the response, but he knew better than to ignore the fortune teller’s advice. After paying him handsomely and thanking him, the robed man left. His mind was already planning for the move to Bombay.

And sometime later in 1832, the man arrived in Bombay and over the next 32 years made a phenomenal contribution to the city that Bombay was developing into. That man was David Sassoon

Continue reading “The Jewish heritage of Mumbai”