Abayev wants to get married, but first he must find a Bukharian Jewish woman who meets his parents’ approval.
A home-cooked feast with Bachsh and Oshi Piyozi brought smells of Uzbekistan into the Queens apartment.
“When a child becomes a teen, he asks the question, ‘What does it mean to be a Bukharian Jew?
’ ” says Imonuel Rybakov, chairman of the Association of Bukharian Jewish Youth of the USA — Achdut. ’ And sometimes parents can’t explain.” For some, defining their identity means using newfound religious freedom and knowledge to rediscover their ancestors’ Orthodox Jewish past.
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.
Abayev, the accountant living in Fresh Meadows, defines himself as “50 percent Bukharian, 30 percent Jewish and 20 percent American.” He talks passionately about attending celebrations with Bukharian music, eating traditional home-cooked food, welcoming guests and spending Friday night dinners with family. “To change would be partial suicide.” To ensure that others follow Abayev’s path, some young adults are starting organizations to keep their culture alive.