The author argues that the spiritual condition of Bukharan Jews on the eve of the renowned rabbi-educator Yossef Maman’s move to Bukhara in 1793 was not as catastrophic as it uses to be considered. As a proof of his statement, G. Fuzailoff provides the titles of religious books printed in Europe and present in private libraries of Bukharan Jews, as well as the titles of six books copied in Bukhara in the eighteenth century, and the reproduction of an unpublished ktuba (marriage contract) established in Bukhara in 1791. The same author continues his reflection in another article of the same volume (“Haẖinukh vehamatsav haruẖani shel Yeẖudey Bukharah bein hashanim tkn’’g – tr’’p, 1793-1920 [Education and the Spiritual Condition of the Jews of Bukhara between 1793 and 1920],” 48-87): After evoking Yossef Maman’s activity in Bukhara between 1793 and 1822, G. Fuzailoff describes Jewish education in both Central Asia and Jerusalem at the turn of the twentieth century.
The other articles of this exceptionally rich volume deal with the history of the Jewish populations of Central Asia under Tsarist rule. Menashe Harel (“Hittiashvut Yeẖudey Bukharah belev drakhey ẖameshyi vezikkatam laErets-Yiśraʼel [The Settlement of Bukharan Jews at the Heart of the Silk Road and Their Connection with Eretz Israel],” 13-47) describes the different paths of the silk routes between China and the Roman Empire, before listing facts attesting of ancient Jewish presence in China and Central Asia. After briefly dealing with the trade activity of Radanit merchants, the author studies religious education among Bukharan Jews, the latter’s relations with Zionism, their establishment of their own quarter in Jerusalem, and their subsequent contribution to the city’s development. Having examined the administrative system of Turkestan province and management’ structure of villages and native parts of cities, Albert Kaganovitch (“Hamemshal harusi vehaẖaim hakehilatiim – datiim shel Yeẖudey Bukharah [The Russian Government and Community-Religious Life of the Bukharan Jews],” 88-111), using archival sources, assesses the specificity of the control exerted by the Russian administration over Bukharan Jewish quarters. He tackles in particular the functions of the kalantars (elders), spiritual and state rabbis, and the relation to them by Russian authorities, and dwells on Russia’s attitude to issues like polygamy or the opening of synagogues. Yehoshua Ben Zion (“Anisut vehamarot dat bekerev Yeẖudey Afganistan [Conversions and Forced Conversions amongst Afghan Jews],” 112-22), touching the well-known history of the conversion to Islam of the Jews of Mashhad in 1839, the migration of a part of them to Herat and their subsequent return to Judaism, examines in detail the situation in 1857-8, a short period of Iranian domination over Herat. Y. Ben Zion evokes the anti-Jewish pogrom and the transfer back of Jewish émigrés to Mashhad — during which died, according to the author, from three to four hundred Jews, before British pressure forced Iran to withdraw from Herat. The article ends up with considerations on the activity of Christian missionaries among the Jews of Afghanistan, and on conversions to Islam from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s. Benjamin Ben David (“Agudot sa’d shel Yehudim Ashkenazim beTurkestan harusit -haiaẖas alihen shel hashilton harusi veshel veshel Yeẖudey Bukharah [Welfare Associations of Ashkenazi Jews in Russian Turkestan: The Attitude towards them of the Russian Government and of the Jews of Bukhara],” 123-36) publishes four documents from the Central State Archive of Uzbekistan translated from Russian to Hebrew. These documents report about attempt of Ashkenazi Jews to create in Tashkent and Kokand charitable organisations on the eve of WWI, and the reaction of Russian authorities. The article notably provides comparison of the respective economic situation of Ashkenazi and Bukharan Jews in Russian Turkistan, and data on mutual relations between the two communities. The contribution by Yeffim Yekkubov (“Hatsar Peter haRishon veyediyeot al Yeẖudey Bukharah bemeah ha-18 [Tsar Peter I and Knowledge about the Jews of Bukhara in the Eighteenth Century],” 137-42) covers the history of the embassy led by Benevini, an Italian on service of Peter the Great, who was sent to Bukhara in 1717. The author provides fragments from Benevini’s data the Jews of the Emirate of Bukhara, notably on their engagement in dyeing of fabrics, in particular of silk with qirmiz (cochineal), comparing them with later information on dyeing activity in Bukhara.