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Rabbinic Succession in Bukhara 1790-1930

by Giora Fuzailoff

Translated from the Hebrew original

Introduction

The hundred years between the end of the 18th century and the end of the 19th century saw a radical change in every aspect of Jewish life in Bukhara, Central Asia.

 

Present day map of Uzbekistan. Click the image for a larger view.

At the beginning of this period, the community was small, numbering between 3,000 and 5,000 souls, was poor, was concentrated in the city of Bukhara and lived under the rule of a fanatic and harsh Moslem regime that enforced many religious edicts against it. Its spiritual well-being was in jeopardy both because of government pressure to convert to Islam and its physical isolation from any nearby center of Jewish life. This almost resulted in its total assimilation into the surrounding Moslem milieu. By the end of the 19th century, we see a flourishing prosperous community, numbering nearly twenty thousand, living in some thirty cities and towns throughout Central Asia with a small group living in Jerusalem. The emissary of the Sephardic Kolel to the cities of Bukhara in 5652/1892, Rabbi Benjamin ben Yohanan Ha-Cohen, points out in his report that he visited twenty-five cities throughout Central Asia. The community's members were involved in a multiplicity of industrial and commercial endeavors whose annual productivity was valued in the tens of millions of rubles. Their civil and legal standing among the general population had also improved.

The religious revival began with the arrival of the emissary from Safed, Rabbi Yosef Maman Maravi (b. Tetuan or Meknes 5501/1741, d. Bukhara 23 Kislev 5583/December 7, 1822) and with a number of factors that joined together to influence the spiritual leadership of the community. They courageously led all the communities in Central Asia, while maintaining a close relationship with the heads of the Jewish communities in the diaspora and in Jerusalem.

This paper will deal primarily with the spiritual leadership of the community and the transmission of authority from generation to generation. It will explore the main factors that influenced rabbinic succession and what effect the community's economic development had on the transfer of authority.

The Beginnings of Spiritual Leadership in Bukhara

This leadership, composed of a twosome, one spiritual and the other secular, was the norm for Bukhara throughout the period of study.

When Rabbi Yosef Maman arrived in Bukhara, a Nasi, Mullah Yosef Hasid, who was the Parnas and head of the community and Mullah Kamliadin led the community. This leadership, composed of a twosome, one spiritual and the other secular, was the norm for Bukhara throughout the period under study. Hacham Yosef agreed to settle in Bukhara on the condition that a Yeshiva be established for the study of Torah and for training a group of students who would be teachers, ritual slaughterers of meat (Shohatim), and to serve as future leaders of the various communities. Prominent families as well as those newly arrived in Bukhara from the diaspora sent their sons to the Yeshiva to study. Among the students were Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen ben Isaac of Baghdad, Rabbi Yosef Chak-Chak and his son Mullah Fuzail who came from Baghdad or Aleppo, Rabbi Jacob ben Moses Samendar and others. Over the years, these students became the leaders of the Central Asia's Jewish Communities.

The traveler, R. David D'Beit Hillel, emissary of the Ashkenazi Perushim community of Safed, while in Baghdad in 5587/1827 met two Bukhara Jews who were on their way to Eretz Yisrael. They related to him the activities of Hacham Yosef Maman and he adds, "The entire conversation was conducted in Hebrew." He testifies they were scholars and well-versed in Jewish customs and Hebrew religious texts. Hacham Yosef Maman had a remarkable impact on the Jews of Bukhara. He was very highly thought of and they called him "Or Yisrael / the Light of Israel." Not only did he save them from spiritual assimilation, but because of his influence and that of the students who came after him and led the communities in Central Asia, he developed a deeply rooted and faithful Jewish community loyal to the Torah of Israel and longing for its redemption. He inspired the Jews of Bukhara to begin publishing religious texts for the community's use and to start settling in Jerusalem, and he provided generous financial aid to the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael, as well as many other praiseworthy deeds.

When Hacham Yosef arrived in Bukhara, he met a Jew named Zechariah ben Matzliah, who, according to the apostate Joseph Wolf, was originally from Yemen. Wolf relates that over a long period of time there was conflict and tension between them, both over the leadership of the community and on fundamental principles. For example, R. Yosef Maman considered the Zohar as very important while R. Zechariah did not. R. Yosef persuaded the community to use the Sephardic prayer liturgy, while Hacham Zechariah was of the opinion that they should continue using their inherited liturgy, which was that of the Persians based on the prayerbook of R. Sa'adia Gaon. In his book, Tagger describes in detail the dispute that almost led to a split in the community. R. Yosef Maman was victorious and became the leader, but he was not satisfied with that and attempted to strengthen his influence and approach.

Hacham Yosef had two daughters, Miriam and Sarah, and two sons, Isaac-Menachem and Abraham, who were born in Bukhara. His sons and daughters married the leaders, the most affluent and highly respected scholars of the community. His oldest daughter, Miriam, married the son of the wealthiest leader of the community, R. Pinhas the son of R. Simha and grandson of Yosef Hasid, who was the community's leader when R. Yosef Maman arrived in Bukhara. R. Pinhas (5565/1805 - 5635/1875) was known as R. Pinhas Ha-Katan. This outstanding student who continued in his path is known as R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol (5548/1788 - 29 Iyar 5618/May 13, 1858) and was chosen as the successor of R. Yosef, evidently, even during his rabbi's lifetime. R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol received this designation after sanctifying the Name of Heaven when he was thrown, on the Emir's order, from the Kilan minaret, the highest tower in the city of Bukhara, and survived. From then on, the Emir and the Moslem scholars considered him a holy man. His son, R. Isaac Hayim relates,

"My master, the Great Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Cohen, of blessed memory, occupied his post for forty years with a clean heart and pure hands and I, his son, have succeeded him in his position..."

It appears that in these dealings - having his daughter marry the wealthiest member of the community of the time, appointing his outstanding student as his right-hand man, and training an entire generation of scholars who studied in his Yeshiva - R. Yosef Maman sought to ensure the continuation of his approach in the leadership of the community. We will later see how marital ties with the ruling families only intensified.

Consolidation of the Community's Leadership

The Period of Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Gadol and Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Katan

As the successors of Hacham Yosef Maman, R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol and R. Pinhas Ha-Katan complemented each other. Mullah Pinhas Ha-Gadol served as spiritual leader as the Chief Rabbi (Mollai Klon). He headed the Yeshiva, the rabbinic court, the infrastructure for slaughtering animals, and was supported by a number of scholars from among the senior member of the community who constituted the "Seven Town Elders." (See the list of the Scholars, Shklov, 5593/1833). R. Pinhas Ha-Katan, the Klontar of the community, one of R. Yosef Maman's most devoted students and a scholar in his own right, managed the community's material needs. His principal task was to collect taxes and to turn them over to the government. At about this time (5585/1825), R. Elijah Hacham Shohet came to Bukhara for commercial purposes. R. Elijah, who in Baghdad wrote Torah scrolls, in a short period of time was admired by the community's leadership. He agreed to settle down there and married the granddaughter of R. Yosef Maman, Zipora, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Yazdi Ha-Cohen. R. Elijah was in charge of the slaughtering of animals and of writing Torah scrolls for the community. He wrote dozens of scrolls. His son, R. David, wrote to the Hebrew newspaper Hamagid about his father (Rosh Hodesh Shevat 5629/January 13, 1869):

"I, the son of the Hacham Elijah the son of Hacham Rahamim Shohet who was among the distinguished Jews of Babylonia [Iraq] and my mother, my teacher, the daughter of Hacham Yosef Maman who was the son of Grimo from Tetuan...After the death of the Tzadik, my father, may he be granted a long life, came from Babylonia and married the granddaughter of the above mentioned Tzadik. My father also took on the responsibilities of slaughtering and checking the meat and wrote over forty Torah scrolls and countless sets of tefillin and Mezuzah parchments..."

R. Elijah Hacham died in Bukhara in the month of Kislev 5640/November-December 1879.

During this time, the migration of Jews from Bukhara to the nearby cities of Samarkand, Tashkent and others began. They established themselves in the business and economic life of their new locations and scholars who were graduates of the Central Yeshiva of Bukhara were sent to serve them. They maintained an uninterrupted association in matters of Jewish law with the spiritual leadership of Bukhara. The Jewish book publishers of Eastern Europe produced religious texts for the Jews of Bukhara; the Yeshiva continued to expand and grow; schools were established for the young, teachers were trained and a Yeshiva was set up for older boys.

In the early 1840's, many refugees from Meshad, Persia, who fled in the wake of the riots that took place there on the 12th of Sivan 5599/May 25, 1839, when they were forced to convert to Islam, were absorbed into the Bukhara and Samarkand communities. Thanks to the efforts of R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol, the Emir opened the gates of Bukhara to the refugees. Many of them who had an extensive knowledge of Torah influenced the spiritual life of Bukhara's Jews, while those who sought a different atmosphere that was more liberal, emigrated to Samarkand as time went on. Simultaneously, the Samarkand community developed into one of merchants, while the Meshad natives were totally assimilated and also occupied important positions in the community's leadership.

This period saw the strengthening of the relationship between four of the leading families of Bukhara, the Maman and those of R. Elijah Hacham, Pinhas Ha-Katan, and R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol.

This period saw the strengthening of the relationship between four of the leading families of Bukhara, the Maman and those of R. Elijah Hacham, Pinhas Ha-Katan, and R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol. The familial and ideological bond as well as their being disciples of the esteemed Hacham Yosef Maman influenced the nature of the leadership of the community.

R. Pinhas had four daughters with his first wife: Sarah, Leah, Rebecca, and Tova; two sons with his second wife: Abraham and Abba; and one son with his third wife Rebecca, R. Isaac Hayim. Leah, the daughter of Sarah and granddaughter of R. Yosef Maman, married R. Pinhas Ha-Katan. Leah was the sister of Ziporah the wife of R. Elijah Hacham. Yocheved, the daughter of R. Abraham and the granddaughter of R. Yosef Maman, married David the son of R. Pinhas Ha-Katan. Rabbi Isaac Hayim the son of Pinhas Ha-Gadol married in about 5626/1866 Yocheved Bano, the daughter of Rachel and the granddaughter of Sarah and R. Yazdi Ha-Cohen. Yocheved Bano was the great-granddaughter of R. Yosef Maman. At this point in time, the latest age at which girls married was 15 and a generation was considered as spanning 15 to 17 years.

In addition to his role as Nasi of the community, R. Pinhas Ha-Katan was involved in the Yeshiva and it is probable that he was its head for a period of time. R. Pinhas was the father-in-law, teacher and rabbi of Rabbi Abraham Hayim Gaon who was known as "The Kabbalist from Bukhara." He was one of the scholars of the Yeshiva of the Kabbalists, Beit El, in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Isaac Hayim Ha-Cohen, the Successor to Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Gadol 

b. 5608/1848- 3 Sivan 5656/May 15,1896

At the age of only 20, Rabbi Isaac Hayim was chosen as the rabbi of Bukhara; his appointment raises a few questions: When his father, R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol died, R. Isaac Hayim was only ten years old; Why did the community wait a full ten years to select a successor to his father and not nominate someone else as rabbi? Let us assume that Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Gadol designated this son as his successor before his death. How could this have been acceptable, since we are talking about a large community numbering some ten thousand people that included scholars and an established spiritual leadership?

It appears that Rabbi Isaac Hayim had two things in his favor: (1) his pedigree, for he was the son of Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Gadol, who was highly thought of by Bukhara's Jews and (2) he had the support of the community's leadership and in particular, the backing of the Klontar, R. Pinhas Ha-Katan. From this, it looks like the powerful position - the close relationship between R. Pinhas Ha-Gadol and R. Pinhas Ha-Katan, the esteem for their Rabbi Yosef Maman, the marriage ties amongst the community's leadership - tipped the scales in favor of his appointment despite his youth, and we hear of no controversy or opposition to his appointment.

The traveler, Ephraim Neimark (A Journey to the Land of the East, edition of A. Ya'ari, Jerusalem, 5707), visited Bukhara in 5646/1886, and records that there were a number of attempts to oust R. Isaac Hayim some years after the death of R. Pinhas Ha-Katan (d. 5635/1875). Thus, with the weakening of the secular leadership, the position of the Chief Rabbi declined. However, from the other sources, we do not hear of any attempt to depose him.

In the thirty years of R. Isaac Hayim's leadership, the extraordinary changes described in the introduction occurred in Bukhara.

In the thirty years of R. Isaac Hayim's leadership, the extraordinary changes described in the introduction occurred in Bukhara. After the Russian conquest of Central Asia (5628/1868), emigration from Bukhara to other regions under Russian rule increased dramatically. The Emirate of Bukhara surrendered to the Russian army, but the Emir continued to rule his autonomous principality. The Jews preferred living in areas of Central Asia outside his jurisdiction that were under direct Russian rule, the reasons being the greater civil rights they enjoyed under direct Russian rule and the tremendous economic possibilities that presented themselves.

The 1870's and 1880's saw an increase in Aliyah from Central Asia to Jerusalem. In the 1880's, the first emissaries from Eretz Yisrael arrived in Bukhara. They strengthened the ties between the remote areas of Central Asia and Eretz Yisrael and encouraged Aliyah. Some five hundred Central Asian Jews were concentrated in Jerusalem, and in 1891 they began building their own neighborhood in the city. In the 1890's, emissaries from the various Kolelim of cities of the Holy Land as well as from the diaspora visited the communities of Central Asia. Many of these emissaries remained in these communities serving as educators, shochtim, and teachers, etc., while others taught in the Central Yeshiva in Bukhara where the preeminent Jewish scholars were concentrated.

During these years, R. Isaac Hayim focused on teaching Torah in the Central Yeshiva of Bukhara. The number of students who studied there is not clear. He was also the head of the community's Beit Din that exclusively dealt with matrimonial matters. The Bukhara Yeshiva and its resident Beit Din represented the highest authority for the determination of Jewish law in all of Central Asia as well as in the distant communities that were under Russian rule. R. Isaac Hayim acted in his post with a high hand and spoke severely to the rabbis of the communities when he felt that they did not insist on carrying out the details of Halakha (Jewish law) properly.

Serving along with Rabbi Isaac Hayim and R. David Hacham (whose wife, Yocheved Bano was his cousin) was R. Aaron the son of R. Pinhas Ha-Katan, Klontar of Bukhara. At this time, the family name of Rabbi Isaac Hayim was Pinhasov, as was customary based on the name of the father of the family.

In 5653/1893, R. Isaac Hayim visited Eretz Yisrael and changed the family name to Rabin, Russian for rabbi.

R. Isaac Hayim Ha-Cohen Rabin died in Bukhara on 3 Sivan 5656/May 15, 1896 at the age of only forty-eight. He left five sons and five daughters. His sons were R. Pinhas, R. Mashiah, R. Hizkiyah, R. Rahamim and R. Nisim; his daughters were Rivkah, Yafa, Peninah, Perichah, and Adina. He directed that his third son, R. Hizkiyah Ha-Cohen Rabin be appointed as his successor as the rabbi of the community.

Rabbi Hizkiyah Ha-Cohen Rabin

b. Bukhara, Rosh Hodesh Shevat 5632/January 11, 1872 - d. Jerusalem, 9 Tevet 5705/December 13, 1944.

The Bukharan Jewish community in Central Asia at the end of the days of R. Isaac Hayim was different from that during the dozens of years preceding his death. There had been widespread economic and religious activity. The communities throughout Central Asia became well established and were generally wealthier and larger than the mother community in the city of Bukhara. However, Torah education and decisions in Jewish law for all of Central Asia originated in Bukhara. The great importance given to these communities and especially to Bukhara and its leadership by the emissaries along with its crucial role among the heads of the Sephardic Kolel in Jerusalem as the principal supporter of the Kolel greatly increased the importance of the community and its head. Even more significantly, the role of the Klontar, the president of the secular community, was a key position in the past, when there were few wealthy members and the connections of the president, like those of R. Pinhas Ha-Katan, with the Emir were of the essence. Now there were many positions of Klontar among the numerous communities throughout Central Asia and the despotic power of the various Emirs of Bukhara declined. As the Russian government sought to strengthen the position of the Jewish community, which was loyal to it, the centrality of the president of the community greatly declined. On the other hand, the rabbi of the community, who until this time had concentrated his efforts in only a relatively few areas such as his involvement with his students and as the decider of matters of Jewish law for his congregation, was now discovered by the entire world as the rabbi of a wealthy and important community.

As has been mentioned above, Rabbi Isaac Hayim designated his third son, Rabbi Hizkiyah Ha-Cohen, as his successor and heir. However, in contrast to the appointment of Rabbi Isaac Hayim, there was opposition in the community to this appointment. We learn about cracks in Rabbi Hizkiyah's religious leadership from a letter he sent to Rabbi Medini in which he writes: "...since I am young and they are old, they do not have confidence in my declarations..." There were opponents to his decisions in Jewish law and the elders of the community refused to accept him as the rabbi. Meanwhile, a letter from Bukhara was sent to Rabbi Jacob Saul Elyashar, the Rishon Le-Zion (the Sephardic Chief Rabbi) in which Rabbi Hizkiyah's opponents complain that "the desolation is great and we are as sheep without a shepherd." The Rishon Le-Zion called on the Bukharan Jews resident in Jerusalem to meet for the purpose of appointing from among themselves a Chief Rabbi for Bukhara. In response to the letter of complaint, and the meeting called in Jerusalem to deal with the matter, Rabbi Hizkiyah's supporters wrote in Iyar 5657/May 1897 to the Rishon Le-Zion, Rabbi Elyashar, on the spiritual status of the community and on the activities of the emissaries from the holy cities and added: "How did they coat over their eyes preventing them from being able to see the fruit of the goodly tree, the fine young scholar, our teacher and Rabbi Hizkiyahu..." The signatories on the letter of support for Rabbi Hizkiyah were the heads of the Bukhara community: the president, R. Aaron the son of R. Pinhas Ha-Katan, his brother Zion, Aaron Maman, Pinhas Ha-Cohen Rabin the brother of R. Hizkiyah, Elisha Yehoudaioff (among the wealthiest members of the community who constructed the 'Palace' in Jerusalem's Bukharan neighborhood in the beginning of the 20th century) and some twenty other leaders of the community. Though in the past the support of the president assured the appointment of the rabbi, as had happened with Rabbi Isaac Hayim, this support was now important but was not decisive, as the standing of the president had declined to a great extent.

The dispute lasted for a number of years and during this time the community in Bukhara did not have an official rabbi. Even the Rishon Le-Zion, Rabbi Elyashar, refrained from deciding whether or not to support Mullah Hizkiyah. Most probably, the rabbi hesitated to get himself involved in an internal dispute of Central Asia, since during this time the Jews of Bukhara sent large sums of money to support the institutions of Jerusalem's Sephardic community. Taking a position and backing a particular side in the controversy would alienate the Sephardic leadership in Jerusalem from a specific group of Bukharan Jews and lead to a loss of income. It appears that other communities in Central Asia also experienced a spiritual decline after the death of Rabbi Isaac Hayim. Moving from these towns increased, especially since several of the scholars of these communities settled in Jerusalem. Only after Mullah Hizkiyah served the community and occupied the position as rabbi, and reports from emissaries arrived in Eretz Yisrael about the wise leader who was expert in deciding questions of Jewish law and who courageously led the community, did the Rishon Le-Zion send him rabbinic authorization (s'mikha) to teach and to judge. In spite of the authorization from the Rishon Le-Zion, the members of the community did not accept Mullah Hizkiyah as rabbi at once. Only on 22 Kislev 5661/December 3, 1901 was the document issued, signed by 38 members of the community representing the Jews of Bukhara in Central Asia, stating that they retroactively, that is from the time of his father's death, accept Rabbi Hizkiyah as their Chief Rabbi. On 11 Iyar 5662/May 18, 1902, in a letter signed by forty-two people, the Ashkenazi community of Bukhara located in the city of Kagan, that is New Bukhara, accepted the authority of the rabbi.

Subsequently, the Emir as head of the government of Bukhara, sent an endorsement granting Hacham Hizkiyah the right to conduct marriages and issue divorces. Attached to this document was the consent of the Russian Consul in Bukhara. The consent of the Russian government to his appointment was necessary to grant Rabbi Hizkiyah official status as he also conducted marriages of Russian citizens. Despite his youth, the religious leaders and many emissaries to the area recognized him as a person of great stature. People came to his court from all of the surrounding cities, especially to arrange divorces, Levirate marriages and halitzah. People from the small towns even came to have him officiate at their marriages.

The time of Rabbi Hizkiyah Rabin was one of both growth and accomplishment for the Bukharan communities both in Central Asia and in Jerusalem.

The time of Rabbi Hizkiyah Rabin was one of growth and accomplishment for the Bukharan communities both in Central Asia and in Jerusalem. The Central Yeshiva of the community continued operating in his house, as was the practice of both his father and grandfather. The scholars of the community as well as the emissaries that came from Eretz Yisrael and the diaspora bringing the Torah of the Land of Israel to Central Asia studied in the Belt Midrash. These emissaries also served on the rabbinical court set up by Rabbi Hizkiyah and their decisions reached the far ends of the earth. His rabbinical court had wide authority and he was even allowed to hand down sentences of physical punishment such as flogging. This institution was the highest legal authority for Central Asia's Jews in matters of religion. The upgrading of religious life was due to the emissaries, some of whom like Rabbi Solomon Judah Leib Eliazaroff of Hebron served communities in Central Asia.

The first segment of Rabbi Hizkiyah's rabbinate continued until the outbreak of World War I in 5674/1914. The Bolshevik revolution took place in Russia in 1917 and in 1920 the Bolsheviks captured the Emirate of Bukhara. Between 1920-1930, many Jews died or were murdered in Central Asia and the lives of the survivors were severely disrupted. Anxiety over his possible execution [by the Bolsheviks] forced Rabbi Hizkiyah to flee from Bukhara in 1930. He arrived in Eretz Yisrael in 5695/1935 and served for a time as a judge on the Sephardic rabbinic court in Jerusalem.

Summary

Becoming heir to the position of Chief Rabbi depended on many factors. We would expect that the personality and the status of the potential replacement would take center stage in considering his appointment as his father's successor. There were times when the ambitions of the leaders of the community or other factors determined the successor. The selection of the successor to the Chief Rabbi in Bukhara in the 19th century was due to a number of issues.

Pinhas Ha-Gadol Ha-Cohen - he was noted for continuing in the path of his rabbi and teacher and was appointed during his teacher's lifetime.

Rabbi Isaac Hayim Ha-Cohen - the decision of the secular leadership; the son of Rabbi Pinhas Ha-Gadol.

Rabbi Hizkiyah Ha-Cohen - all of the above, but most important was his personality, his legal stature and his excellence.

These differences teach us about the development of the Jewish community of Bukhara in the 19th century. They reflect the growing power of the religious leadership and the declining influence of the secular heads caused by the strengthening of various groups in the community, especially from an economic standpoint. In the beginning of the period, the status of the rabbi in Bukhara was strong and powerful. This was mostly a result of his compelling personality but the opinion of the secular leadership was also important. Yet, we are still dealing with the rabbi of an isolated community. By the end of this era, the rabbi was the leader of the Bukharan Jews throughout Central Asia. Even with the dispersion of the population, their great economic advancement, their Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, and their exposure to other Jewish communities in the Diaspora, the status of the rabbi did not weaken. On the contrary, even though they were found in many cities throughout Central Asia with each developing strong secular leadership, the exclusive source of Torah education and decisions in Jewish law was the Central Yeshiva in Bukhara. At first, leadership was in the hands of an oligarchy. With time, resulting from changed residential patterns, the process of choosing the Chief Rabbi and the influence of his birthright changed. The rabbi's stature came from his knowledge of traditional Jewish texts rather than from the status inherent as father's successor.

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Footnote

1. This article was written with the assistance of a research grant from the Keren Paz Fund of the Organization of Bukaran Jews in Israel, Tel Aviv. It appeared in English in a different format in the periodical Shvut - Studies in the History and Culture of the Jews of Russia and Eastern Europe, Vol. 8, number 24, 1999, pages 36-57, edited by Professor Benjamin Pinkus, published by the Diaspora Research Institute, Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with the Ben Gurion Research Center, Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. (return)


Dr. Giora Fuzailoff was born in Petah Tikvah and is a researcher of the Jews of Bukhara specializing in the areas of history, Aliyah and settlements in Eretz Yisrael, customs, history of religious leaders and the literature of the community. Additionally, he is researching the history of the religious leaders of the Oriental Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael and in their countries of origin as well as the history of the Jewish community in Jerusalem under Ottoman rule. He has published a number of books and articles in these areas. 

This article was published in Sharsheret Hadorot (Journal of Jewish Genealogy of the Israel Genealogical Society), October 2001, Vol. 16, No. 1, and is reproduced with kind permission of the editor, Yocheved Klausner.