The three major Jewish centers are Tashkent (13,000), Samarkand (3,000), and Bukhara (2,000). There are 2 categories of Uzbekistan's Jews: The Ashkenazim who came to the region from other parts of The Soviet Union during Soviet rule as well as earlier, and the indigenous Bukharan community, which has its own Tajik-Jewish dialect, and which traces its roots back many centuries. The Bukharans are generally more religious than The Ashkenazim. Almost the entire community in Samarkand are Bukharan. Nearly all the Ashkenazim live in the capital, Tashkent, as do some 2,000 Bukharan Jews. In recent years, many Jews left Uzbekistan due to economic impoverishment and fear of the nationalistic "Uzbekization" trend of the government. Most Bukharan Jews have settled in Queens, New York, where they have established a well organized community. The Ashkenazim have largely settled in Israel, Russia, and Germany. Jewish quarters, traditionally called mahalla, still exist in Samarkand, Bukhara, and smaller cities of The Ferghana Valley. Jews continue to follow a traditional way of life there.
Bukharan Jewry is an ancient community that claims descent from 5th Century exiles from Persia. Bukharan Jews believe that Bukhara is actually Habor (II Kings 17:6), to which the ten tribes were exiled. Although The Jews were subject to harsh treatment under the various rulers of the region, they still managed to become important traders in this area, which straddled the route between Europe and China and The East. In The Late Middle Ages, Jewish weavers and dyers were asked to help in the local cloth industry. Bukhara became a key Jewish city when it became became the capital of the country in The 1500's.
Following the area's incorporation into The Russian Empire in 1868, many Jews from The Western Russian Empire moved into Uzbekistan. Although Soviet authority was imposed on the country, Jews were allowed greater freedoms than those afforded Jews in other parts of The Soviet Union, and they stayed with Judaism better than other Soviet Jews. Still, the number of synagogues in Samarkand plummeted from 30 in 1917 to 1 in 1935. At this time, many Jews became factory workers or collective farmers. There was also a Jewish influx into the new capital, Tashkent. During World War II, Jews from European Russia were evacuated to Uzbekistan, and many remained there.
Bukharan Jews have made great efforts to preserve Jewish life, even in the face of pressure from the Soviet authorities. Intermarriage was almost unknown. The community in Samarkand has a synagogue and enjoys the benefits of a Bukharan rabbi who is affiliated with Chabad. There are also Jewish schools and cultural centers in Uzbekistan.
About 40% of Tajik Jews are of Bukharan origin, and the rest are Asheknazim who came from other parts of The Soviet Union during World War II. Most Jews live in Dushanbe, the capital, but there is a smaller community in Shakhrisabz. Dushanbe and Shakrisabz have synagogues and Dushanbe also has a library. Since 1989, 10,000 Tajik Jews have emigrated to Israel. There are currently 1,800 Jews remaining.
Jews first came to Kazakhstan when The Soviets rescued several thousand Jews when The Nazis invaded The Soviet Union in 1941. Others arrived after the war. The community also includes some 2,000 Bukharan and Tat Jews.
Today, there are 15,000 Jews in Kazakhstan most of which are concentrated in the capital, Alma Ata, but there are also communities in Karaganda (1,500 people.), Chimken (1,500 people.), Semiplatinsk, Uralsk, Kokchetav, Dzhambul, and several other towns.
The Mitzvah Association is an umbrella organization that unites more than 20 different local groups, both religious and non-religious. It has a chair on The All-Peoples Assembly of Kazakhstan.
There are synagogues in Alma Ata and in Chimkent. There are more than 11 schools with some 650 students in 11 different communities and a Jewish library in Alma Ata.
Israel and Kazakhstan have maintained full diplomatic relations since 1992. Since 1989, 8,000 Jews from Kazakhstan have made aliyah to Israel.
Historians claim that Jews arrived in Armenia after the destruction of The First Temple.
The modern day Jews are almost all Ashkenazim who came there during the Soviet period. There are also several Georgian Jewish families. In The 1990's, most of the Jews of Armenia have emigrated to Israel and elsewhere. Since 1989, a total of 1,246 Armenian Jews have made aliyah to Israel.
Nearly all the remaining 110 Jews live in Yerevan, the capital, where there is a prayer house served by an Orthodox rabbi.
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