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Yiddish in Kyrgyzstan

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2.7.2010

Hunger in South Kyrgyzstan

About 400,000 Uzbeks, whose livelihoods depend mostly on growing or selling food, fled the violence primo June. But the vast majority have now returned. The Uzbek farmers, returning to Kyrgyzstan after fleeing the wave of ethnic violence, are finding their crops plundered.

A ruined harvest in this poor agricultural country will later result in a food shortage and rising prices which could cause another flare-up of the slaughter that devastated the south of this Central Asian country in June.

The farmers who grow for themselves have missed part of the summer harvest. Many of them have no money, and the refugees who have come back cannot sell their food at market because the markets have been destroyed.

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23.6.2010

The first 12 Kyrgyzstan


Jews arrive in Israel.



Two families and a few individuals (12 people) arrived on June 21, 2010 in Israel.  Because riots are escalating from day to day, more immigrants are expected to follow soon, due to the recent escalation of violence. The immigrants were the first group to arrive since ethnic riots broke out in the country.

Israel does not have an embassy in Kyrgyzstan. The Jewish Agency have prepared an evacuation plan for the 1,200 member community, but most of the Jews in Kyrgyzstan are not willing to leave their country.

19.6.2010

Very little is known about the Jewish presence in the Kyrgyz territory before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Jews began to settle along the Great Silk Road starting in the 4th century C.E. They were traders who dealt in Aramaic. Archeological evidence shows that at the end of the 6th century C.E., Jewish traders from Khazaria traveled through the region. Bukharan Jews populated the Turkistan region, which encompassed the territory that is modern-day Kyrgyzstan. Their history stretches over 2,000 years in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. In the mid 19th century, they took on Sephardic traditions.

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In the mid-19th century, Russia absorbed the region into its vast empire. Ashkenazi Jews settled in the provincial cities of Kyrgyzstan, particularly in Karakol, Bishkek, and Osh. In 1885, only one Jew lived in Karakol, by 1900, there were fifteen and, by 1910 thirty-one resided in the city.

In Osh, Bukharan Jews and Ashkenazic Jews lived in separate communities — Bukharians in the old district and the Ashkenazim in the new, European section along with Russians and Tatars. Bukharians were seen as foreigners and were not as accepted by Kyrgyz society as Ashkenazim were. In 1898, Osh was home to the largest Jewish community in Kyrgyzstan and maintained a separate Jewish cemetery. The majority of Kyrgyz Jews lived in cities after the Russian Empire instituted a policy forbidding Jews to settle in villages. In 1900, the Turkistan regional census stated that 800 Jews lived in Osh and 250 in Bishkek.

Until 1915, Kyrgyzstan had no synagogues. The country’s small Jewish community congregated in the homes of local rabbis for services. For Jewish funerals, officials from the chevra kadisha, funeral association, were brought from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The only Jewish cemetery was located in Osh; in Bishkek, the Jews had their own section of the Muslim cemetery.

As there were no Jewish schools in Kyrgyzstan, some Bukharians sent their children to cheder in Samarkand. Ashkenazi children went to Russian schools and Jewish traditions were maintained through the family.

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The Jewish population of Kyrgyzstan has dropped steadily since World War II. By 1979, the community had diminished to 6,900, with 5,700 living in Bishkek. In 1989, it had shrunk to 5,800. Today, there are approximately 2,500 in the country. Continued immigration to Israel is the main cause of the decrease in the Jewish population, combined with economic problems and military conflicts in the 1990s. From 1989 to 2001, 4,907 Jews made aliyah and, in 1990, just prior to independence, more than 1,000 immigrated to Israel.

On August 31, 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan declared its independence. It has since joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Kyrgyzstan is one of the most progressive of the former Soviet republics and its constitution guarantees equal rights and freedoms to citizens of any religion. A law act protects against national or religious hostility. Islam is the main religion, though the country is officially secular.

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Despite the government’s attempt to separate state and religion, radical Islamic fundamentalist activity has risen, especially after the second intifada in Israel in 2000 and the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States. These extremist organizations such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Hizb ut-Tahrir, backed by other Muslim countries, have now gained the support of some authorities and opposition parties, which has led to terrorist attacks and other military conflicts in the country. In their attempt to make Kyrgyzstan an Islamic fundamentalist nation, the rebels have distributed anti- religious and anti-Semitic propaganda. Anti-Semitism has been met with intense opposition by the general public and the Kyrgyz government. The propaganda has infiltrated the population to some extent, however, especially in the isolated southern areas, where Islamic fundamentalism is more active, in Bishkek and the northern regions.

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In the beginning of 2004, the Kyrgyz Rukh newspaper published an anti-Semitic article by Tursunbay Akunov. It stated, “Western countries and America, under leadership from Jerusalem, give money to create NGOs run by bad-hearted people…” and that they are “conducting a policy aimed at destroying the spiritual values of Moslems, and of Asian Moslems in particular.” The Kyrgyz government and the Word of Kyrgyzstan, a major Kyrgyz newspaper, condemned the article. It is generally thought that as long as the current government remains in power and maintains a certain level of control over the radical Islamic groups, that the situation of the Jews of Kyrgyzstan will remain stable.

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Before the fall of the Soviet Union, Jewish life in Kyrgyzstan remained negligible. After World War II, Ashkenazi and Bukharan communities remained separated. Intermarriage between the two groups was uncommon, and neither group married outside the religion. Ashkenazim generally were better educated, while Bukharians maintained the community tradition of working as bakers, shoemakers, barbers, and butchers. Ashkenazim also tended to be more secular, but in recent years have become more religious.

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Since independence, the Jewish community, concentrated in Bishkek, has rebuilt itself. The Menorah Center in Bishkek, which is supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), is the center of Jewish life. It maintains a Sunday school, an Aish HaTorah education center, a Jewish theater and dance group, and a library. It publishes the Ma’ayan newspaper and organizes Maccabi youth sports activities. The center also provides aid to the community’s elderly.

Bishkek is home to an Ashkenazi synagogue and several small Bukharan services. A new rabbi came to Kyrgyzstan from Israel in 2000 to head the Ashkenazi synagogue. A number of Bukharan prayer houses are scattered around the Ferghana Valley. There are also Jewish communities in the cities of Osh, Karakol, and Dzhalal-Abad.

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בישקעק יידן לינק די פּלוצעמדיק אקטן פון אַנטי-סעמיטיסם צו עטלעכע מענטשן ס עקל צו די געשעפט פּאַרטנערס פון באַקייעוו ס זון, מאַקסים. אין מינדסטער איין פון זיי איז ייִדיש.

אַנטי-סעמיטיק פּאָסטערס האָבן אויפגעשפראצט אַרום דער הויפּטשטאָט, זיי געזאגט. איינער אַפיש אַז באוויזן אַרויס די פּרעזאַדענטשאַל ווייַסן הויז נאָך די נאַכט פון מלחמה סטייטאַד: “דירטי יידן און אַלע יענע ווי מאַקסים באַקייעוו האָבן קיין אָרט אין קירגיזיע.”

קירגיזיע האט שטענדיק געווען גאַסטפרייַנדלעך. בעת סאָוועטן מאָל און אונטער זייַן שפּעטער פירער, עס האט שטענדיק געווען טאָלעראַנט. אזוי וואָס איז געשעעניש רעכט איצט איז זייער אַלאַרמינג.

עס איז געווען דער ערשטער אַקט פון גוואַלד קעגן די מדינה ס קליינטשיק אידישע קהילה, משמעות טריגערד דורך די כאַאָס און גוואַלד אַז אָוסטעד קירגיז פרעזידענט קורמאַנבעק באַקייעוו סטן אַפּריל 7.
די קהילה האט אַפּילד פֿאַר שוץ צו די זעלבסט-פּראָוקליימד רעגירונג געפירט דורך ראָזאַ אָטונבייַעוואַ.

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18.4.2010

Kyrgyzstan’s

Jewish community

18.4.2010

Attackers tried to set the synagogue on fire with Molotov cocktails. One of them did not explode. A vodka bottle filled with flammable liquid that was thrown at the Muslim country’s sole synagogue during violent riots last week.

Bishkek Jews link the sudden acts of anti-Semitism to some people’s aversion to the business partners of Bakiyev’s son, Maxim. At least one of them is Jewish.

Ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan.

Anti-Semitic posters have sprung up around the capital, they said. One poster that appeared outside the presidential White House after the night of fighting stated: “Dirty Jews and all those like Maxim Bakiyev have no place in Kyrgyzstan.”

Kyrgyzstan has always been hospitable. During Soviet times and under its later leaders, it has always been tolerant. So what is happening right now is very alarming.

It was the first act of violence against the country’s tiny Jewish community, apparently triggered by the chaos and violence that ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on April 7.

The community had appealed for protection to the self-proclaimed government led by Roza Otunbayeva.

Roza Otunbayeva.

“On April 8, someone tried to get into the Bishkek synagogue and set it on fire. Unknown individuals disabled the surveillance cameras and threw bottles with explosive liquid into the yard and onto the roof of the synagogue.” (Quoted from a letter to Roza Otunbayeva.)

Kyrgyzians & Usbekians quarrel

בישקעק יידן לינק די פּלוצעמדיק אקטן פון אַנטי-סעמיטיסם צו עטלעכע מענטשן ס עקל צו די געשעפט פּאַרטנערס פון באַקייעוו ס זון, מאַקסים. אין מינדסטער איין פון זיי איז ייִדיש.

אַנטי-סעמיטיק פּאָסטערס האָבן אויפגעשפראצט אַרום דער הויפּטשטאָט, זיי געזאגט. איינער אַפיש אַז באוויזן אַרויס די פּרעזאַדענטשאַל ווייַסן הויז נאָך די נאַכט פון מלחמה סטייטאַד: “דירטי יידן און אַלע יענע ווי מאַקסים באַקייעוו האָבן קיין אָרט אין קירגיזיע.”

קירגיזיע האט שטענדיק געווען גאַסטפרייַנדלעך. בעת סאָוועטן מאָל און אונטער זייַן שפּעטער פירער, עס האט שטענדיק געווען טאָלעראַנט. אזוי וואָס איז געשעעניש רעכט איצט איז זייער אַלאַרמינג.

Market in Bishkek

עס איז געווען דער ערשטער אַקט פון גוואַלד קעגן די מדינה ס קליינטשיק אידישע קהילה, משמעות טריגערד דורך די כאַאָס און גוואַלד אַז אָוסטעד קירגיז פרעזידענט קורמאַנבעק באַקייעוו סטן אַפּריל 7.
די קהילה האט אַפּילד פֿאַר שוץ צו די זעלבסט-פּראָוקליימד רעגירונג געפירט דורך ראָזאַ אָטונבייַעוואַ.

“סטן אַפּריל 8, עמעצער געפרוווט צו באַקומען אין די בישקעק שול און שטעלן אים אויף פֿייַער. אומבאַקאַנט יחידים פאַרקריפּלט די סערוויילאַנס קאַמעראַס און האט לאגלען מיט יקספּלאָוסיוו פליסיק אין דעם הויף און אַנטו די דאַך פון די שול. “(ציטירטער פון אַ בריוו צו ראָזאַ אָטונבייַעוואַ.)

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