Phoenix Bukharian synagogue reopens under new leadership

A table displays traditional Bukharian items.

The Chabad Bukharian Center (CBC) is planning to host a celebration at its building on N. Sixth Place in Phoenix sometime in the next few months. The CBC is the new iteration of what had been the Bukharian Jewish Congress of Arizona, which closed its doors in 2021.

Nisan Zadikov, who founded the original Bukharian synagogue in 2005, will attend the opening celebration with his wife, Revital. They moved to California in 2020 but want to return to celebrate with members of their former community.

The reopening of the synagogue is thanks to the partnership of Ohr Avner Foundation, a philanthropic entity of Israeli billionaire and émigré from the former Soviet Union, Lev Leviev, and Chabad of Arizona. Both organizations stepped in to purchase the Phoenix property and renew the Bukharian community that had belonged to the Bukharian Jewish Congress for more than a decade.

Rabbi Emanuel Shimonov is the center’s new spiritual leader. Originally from Calgary, Canada, Shimonov has studied all over the globe, and he led services for the community during the recent High Holidays.

“This Chabad center is here to help the Bukharian youth,” Shimonov told Jewish News.

The center is now hosting programs for young adults every Wednesday and plans to start a weekly program for teens.

“Our goal is to work with the younger generation of Bukharians,” Shimonov said.

“I am really happy that this is happening,” Zadikov said. “We already spoke with people who left and are now coming back.”

In the early 1990s, a few Jewish Bukharian families moved to Phoenix from New York in search of affordable housing and a warmer climate. Today, Phoenix has the largest Bukharian Jewish community in North America outside of New York.

In 1989, just before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the majority of the world’s Bukharian Jews — around 50,000 — lived in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the majority of Bukharian Jews immigrated en masse to the United States and Israel. Today, less than 200 Bukharian Jews remain in the region and the three largest Bukharian Jewish communities in the world are in Israel, New York and Phoenix, according to cultural anthropologist Alanna Cooper, Ph.D., the Abba Hillel Silver Chair in Jewish Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and author of “Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism.”

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