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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Bukharian Quarter, Jerusalem©

Just a short walk from Geulah, one will find a different world. The Bukharian Markets little enclave of stores are reminiscent of a bygone age, of Constantinople and of Eastern culture. You may feel like youre in Istanbul. However, at Minchah/Maariv time, when all the stalls are left unattended as the men rush off to daven, you will surely be convinced otherwise.

The Bukharian quarter (Shechunat Habucharim in Hebrew) is a neighborhood in the center of Jerusalem. Many of the residents today are chareidi Jews. The district borders on Tel Arza on the west, Maalot Dafna/Arzei Habira on the north, Beis Yisrael on the east, and Geulah on the south.

The Jews of Bukhara

Who were the Bukharian Jews who set up this quarter? Most of us know of Bukharian Jews from the large aliyah of 1970s that brought them out of Asiatic Russia, even before the Iron Curtain dissolved. These Jews were among the first to be released from the Soviet Union and given the right to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. They used to dress very colorfully, and many settled in Neve Yaakov.

Being Russian Jews from eastern Russia, who had lived in Muslim countries, their culture and minhagim fit the Sephardic mold. The book Go, My Son, by the yeshivah student Chaim Shapiro, gives us a taste of Central Asiatic Russia, as he describes his survivalthrough an adventure-filled odyssey in some of those lands, during World War II.

Bukhara, the name of a main town in Uzbekistan, was not a capital city. Two other towns Tashkent and Samarkand alternated in this role during different periods. Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan are lands bordering Uzbekistan. They are in the Caucasus region, and sometimes Bukharian Jews are referred to as Kavkaz Jews.

Some ancient texts state that during the reign of Dovid Hamelech some Israelite traders traveled to Central Asia and began to dwell in Bukhara. According to local tradition, there is a claim that the Bukharian Jews are part of the ten exiled tribes, specifically Naftali and Yissachar. Others claim that more than1,900 years ago, in the days of a cruel Persian monarch, some Jews from Bavel fleeing Persian persecution went north, reaching, and then settling in Bukhara. (This makes them from the tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin).

In Talmud Bavli (Avodah Zarah 31b) Rashi recounts that at the beginning of the 4th century C.E.
Rabbi Shmuel bar Bisna, a member of the academy at Pumpedisa, traveled to Central Asia, where he encountered Jews who offered him wine. Other accounts bring Jews to Uzbekistan as merchants on the Silk Road, in the 7th century. Jews of the Spanish Exile also joined the Central Asian Jewish community. By all accounts, Jews in Bukhara have a long history.

There is a scroll in the National Library of Leningrad that bears witness to the fact that some
Bukharian Jews trace their roots to Ezra Hasofer. In the 1st millennium B.C.E., Iranian nomads established irrigation systems along the rivers of Central Asia and built the towns of Bukhara and Samarkand. As the Silk Road passed by these locales, these former nomads became extremely wealthy, and Islam started to spread. Under the Arab Abbasid Caliphate, the 8th and 9th centuries were a golden age of learning and culture. The Jews of the area were treated well in this epoch.

In the 12th century, Genghis Khan and his Mongolian hoards reached the region and caused
wanton destruction for the sake of destruction. The Jewish communities of Bukhara were almost obliterated at this stage.

In about 1369, Timur (Tamerlane) mounted the throne at Samarkand, as the officially proclaimed sovereign. Timur, a Muslim Turk of the Barlas Turko- Mongol tribe and a relative of Genghis Khan, is considered the father of the Uzbek people. Under his rule, culture began to flourish.
He brought Jews from Persia to boost his trade. Jewish weavers and dyers contributed greatly to his effort to rebuild the region and reinstitute the abandoned Silk Road.

At this time, many degrading and restrictive decrees were enacted against the Jews. Jewish gates and shops had to be built lower than those of the Muslims. Jews were forbidden from living outside the Jewish quarter. Jews had to wear a black cap and a cord belt, and accounts by Jewish witnesses in court were not valid vis-a-vis Muslims. Jews, to all effects and purposes, were lower-class citizens. However, despite the decrees, this period was still considered relatively as one of relief.

About 70 years later the jhahllah (meaning mixed mogul dog in Uzbek) period began. Jews were forced either to leave or become Muslim. (Jhahlah in Uzbek also means neither here nor there. In essence, Jews said we are not Jewish and not Muslim).

Not much is known of what happened in these lands after this point.

In 1793, Rabbi Yosef Maman the Shadar (Rabbinic messenger of the Sephardic community)
left Eretz Yisrael and went on a mission to collect funds for the yeshivos of the Holy Land. On reaching Bukhara he was shocked to find that Jews were lacking in their observance of basic religious customs and Jewish law. Rabbi Maman decided to remain in Bukhara and devote himself to re-educating and reviving the Jewish populations observance and faith in Judaism. He set up a network of Tamudei Torah. He also imbued the Bukharian Jews with the love of Tzion and Yerushalayim, instructing them about the mitzvah of inhabiting and settling Eretz Yisrael.

The Bukharian Jews in Eretz Yisrael

Between 1820 and 1860 many Bukharian Jews ascended to Jerusalem for a visit. Even though the trip took about four to six months, they did not remain in Eretz Yisrael, but returned to Bukhara.

The second wave of immigration (c.1868 until c.1890) brought (among others) some 500 Bukharian Jews to Jerusalem, who stayed. It is also noted that at this time the Russians (not yet the Bolsheviks) were instating their rule in the Caucasus region, and many people may have left permanently because of them.

The prime period of Bukharian settlement in Jerusalem was after the Bukharian quarter was established (18911914) even though during this period there were still many who returned back east. Travel time had shortened considerably because of the newly installed steam-engine train in 1891. Some sent their children to learn in Eretz Yisrael. There were now 1,500 Bukharian Jews in Jerusalem. In 1918, when the Bolsheviks rose to power and confiscated the property of their citizens, there was a great wave of aliyah from Bukhara of poverty-stricken people. This changed the whole makeup of the Quarter.

In 1890, members of the Bukharian community formed the Chovevei Tzion Association of the communities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent. In 1891, Kerem Jazel (Gzal) was purchased northwest of the Old City. Later that year, the cornerstone of the Bukharian site was laid. Building was started from the side adjacent to Beis Yisrael and Meah Shearim because, even though they felt it would be too restricting to actually live in these colonies (as they were called in those days), they did want to be spiritually influenced by them. They also felt they had a different lifestyle and culture from the people living in these areas and they wanted to preserve their own way of life.

They named their quarter Rechovot Habucharim in reference to the third well Yizchak Avinu dug (Toldos 26:22), in the hope that the continuation of the verse would be fulfilled in them: for now Hashem has granted us ample space, and we can be fruitful in the Land.

Contrary to the building style of the time, the Bukharian quarter was built luxuriously and lavishly.
Conrad Schick, the architect of Meah Shearim, designed the neighborhood. The homes were large and beautiful not only by Jerusalem standards of that period but also in comparison with the homes of foreign consuls and dignitaries residing in the city. The charter of the district stated that the new quarter would be built in the style of Europes major cities. Homeowners were given the opportunity to design their home as they wished, provided that construction was in stone. At the time, this neighborhood was considered elite and very fashionable. Until today, even though
many of the original buildings have been demolished, there still exist spacious manors with large courtyards.

The locale was very well planned, with care taken that the streets be parallel and straight. The streets are broad; in fact, they are three times wider than other streets in Jerusalem of that era. As for the spacious sidewalks, room was allocated there for trees to be planted.

Most of the mansions were built as individual family homes. Many property owners intended to return to Bukhara and therefore constructed the imposing structures and donated them to hekdesh (eternal endowment) for the poor Jews of Jerusalem or for synagogues, until the coming of the Goel Tzedek. On many walls, stone placards proclaim this fact, together with the name of the owners and year of construction.

These edifices can never be sold, even to a yeshivah. Passing through the Bukharian quarter at night, one can see many darkened windows. These are hekdesh buildings that cannot be used for any purpose and are therefore abandoned and neglected. Unfortunately, many have turned into hovels.

The walls of the buildings are very thick, and therefore very strong, allowing for the extra floors that have sprouted up on them during the last few years. In each courtyard one can find water holes (now covered and sealed), as in all the older neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

There were takanos in the charter of the suburb that gardens should be planted. Therefore, one finds various types of fruit trees: loquats, rimonim and esrogim, among others. There are flowers such as roses and geraniums, and herbs for havdalah louisa, mint and so on. Many plots contain aravos. The Bukharians were used to planting vegetation in gardens, and they continued this practice in Jerusalem, too.

On Rechov Yechezkel and other places eucalyptus trees were planted, many of which can still be seen nowadays. A whole grove of eucalyptus was planted at the bottom part of what is now Gan Hazahov. These were cut down by the Turks
during World War I. They only left three trees, all of which remain to this day.

A total of 200 houses were built in the quarter. Between the 1905 and 1908 a dairy was opened and cotton fields were planted in the communitys fields on the outskirts of the neighborhood.

Beit Shlomo Moussaieff on Rechov Adoniyahu Hakohen 1, corner of Rechov Yoel, was the first home built in the neighborhood (1894). This site is a symbol of renewal and continuation, marking the start of the Bukharian quarter, and of the peoples new life in the Holy Land. The first child born in the neighborhood first saw the light of day in this house. At the childs bris, Rav Shlomo Moussaieff (18521922) called his new son Rehavia. His also named his home Rehavia, in the hope the whole area would continue to expand and grow.

It is claimed that a large stone found in the wall of this house comes from the Beis Hamikdash, and is in secondary use here. It is the first stone three rows up at the corner building on Rechov Yoel, as one turns in from Rechov Adoniyahu Hakohen. It seems to be a boulder from the Hasmonean period. The stone is an even gazit (hewn stone), the same type of stone that was found under the wall of the Temple Mount. It is difficult to tell if this actual stone was used in the Beis Hamikdash itself or if it was just part of the surroundings.

Today Beit Moussaieff is a well-known shul. The building comprises eight batei knesset, which are in continuous use. Over time, more and more rooms were added in which shiurim are given. Called the shtieblach of Bukharim, it has one minyan after another. In former years, old women would sit on the sidewalks on either side of the road and answered every Amen and yehei Shmei rabah.

The collection of rare sefarim (among them those of Harav Chaim Vital and Rambam) that belonged to Rav Moussaieff is currently housed at the Bar Ilan University library.

In Chukat Olam, the siddur which Rav Shlomo Moussaieff authored, he described his motivation for moving to Jerusalem.
I, Shlomo Moussaieff, am a native of Bukhara. My spirit moved me to leave the land of my birth, in which I grew up, and to ascend to the Holy Land, the land in which our ancestors dwelled in happiness, the land whose memory passes before us ten times each day in our prayers ... We do not have any festive occasion without a mention of Jerusalem. ... There is no doubt that I am required to thank G-d for all the good He has done for me. He has brought me across the sea three times. He has kept me alive, and has brought me to the place of my desire for good life and peace to see the pleasantness of G-d and to visit His sanctuary.
If the Bais Hamikdash were standing, I would bring a Todah (sacrifice of thanksgiving). Now, because of our sins, there is no Bais Hamikdash and no kohen to bring the sacrifice. Therefore I had the idea to help the many and publish this siddur for the weekdays, Shabbos and chagim. Tefillah is a substitute for korbanos. Prayer to G-d is what connects
Yisrael to their Father in Heaven, although the Israelite nation has been vanquished in exile for more than eighteen hundred years.

On his deathbed, in his oral will, Rav Moussaieff stipulated that only those of his sons who lived in the Eretz Yisrael would receive his inheritance. Much of his property in the Bukharian quarter was declared hekdesh, i.e.,could not be sold in perpetuity. Until this day, proceeds from rentals of his property are received by the direct male descendants of Moussaieff who live in Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Moussaieff died in 1922 at the age of 70. He and several of his sons are buried on Har Hazeisim in Jerusalem.

To be noted is the generosity of the Bukharian community in assisting its own members as well as the rest  of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel. In 1905, the tuition expenses of 95 children from poor homes, from other communities, were covered by the Bukharian community. They also took care of other needy people: building houses and shops for rent along Jaffa Road and donating funds for constructing orphanages and hospitals. Many times the hospitalization expenses of the poor were covered by the Bukharian community.

The Armon
The Armon (palace), also known as Beit Yehudayoff/Hefetz is located at 19 Rechov Ezra. It was built in Renaissance style by ElishaYehudayoff and his son-in-law, Yisrael Chaim Hefetz. The three-storied Armon took 13 years to erect. Using Beit Lechem limestone and Italian marble, with Italian-baroque engraved with Jewis motifs, they intended the magnificent 55-meterlong by 20-meter-wide construction to be the residence for Moshiach, whose imminent arrival they were expecting.

The intricate carvings on the stones were to enhance the beauty of the building, as were the decorative rail bars. The ceilings are high and the opulence overwhelming in all its hallways and each of its 30 gigantic rooms. There was a mikveh in the basement. A bakery was also located in the house. The sukkah porch had a moveable roof worked by a pulley and wheels. (This was very advanced for the early part of the 20th century!) Each part of the structure was invested in to make it fitting to be called the Armon.

During World War I the Yehudayoffs were banished from the Land and the Turkish army headquarters were located in the building. There was also an underground cell in the building in order to give over information to the British to get rid of the Turks.

With the conquest of Jerusalem by the British in 1917, a reception organized by Chaim Weizmann was held in the Armon in honor of General Allenby. That same year, hundreds of Jewish soldiers serving in the British army attended a Pesach Seder there. The tables were covered in flowers, and a ring onwhich was engraved Im eshkocheich, Yerushalayim
was given to each soldier.

At a later event Herbert Samuel, the British High Commissioner (who was Jewish), was hosted in the large sukkah. In 1921 the founding convention of the Chief Rabbinate, at which Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook (18651935) was elected, took place at the Armon.

A great variety of schools also were housed at different times in the edifice. The Armon was one of the first places the Zion Blumental Orphanage occupied, until it moved to its present location on Hoshea Street

Chana Spizer ran the first school for girls here. Her son-in-law was David, a founder of the Etzel (Irgun Tzvai Leumi) during the Mandate period. He carved in the wall of the dwelling the words, Hachutzah imperialism (Imperialism out). In the basement of the building, the underground Etzel held secret meetings and kept a slike (cache of arms).

The next school to inhabit the place was Moriah, for boys in the area. After this, the house was split between Beit Yaakov Karo and the Chabad Beit Chana. Today, Ohr Batyah learns on one side of the building and Bnos Rochel on the other. There is also a pedagogue center here.

Beit Davidoff

Beit Davidoff is located on Rechov Habukharim (also known as Rechov David). Yosef Davidoff lived in Samarkand and was a very successful textile merchant. For some unknown reason the ruler hated him and did everything in his power to make Yosef Davidoffs life miserable. This goy wove a libel against him that could have resulted in Yosefs death. Davidoff engaged Oscar Gruzenberg, the famous Moscow lawyer who also defended Mendel Beilis, to defend himself.

On being acquitted, Yosef Davidoff decided that enough was enough. He was not taking any more chances and made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. Here he built Beit Davidoff, an exact replica of an opulent villa still standing in Samarkand.

The building is basically built in Italian Renaissance style, with beautiful features from many different architectural periods. (The Bukharim liked very lavish things, and would therefore take different beautiful features and bring them together in one structure.)

Looking closely at the building, one can see many  asymmetrical features (e.g., the seven windows on the front wall are in diverse sizes, and the spaces between them are not the same). This was intentional to show that there is no perfect building. The only perfect building will be the Third Temple. Protruding from the centre of the roof is a higher hump section, where sunlight streaming into thewindows of this section allowed it to be used as a silversmith workshop.

After the Davidoffs left, the Sochnut Hayehudit (Jewish Agency) took the place for themselves. The people from the second aliyah came and lived here as if in a kibbutz. This was the place where the secular Gymnasia Haivri (high school) was first established. Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi, who became president of Israel, taught there, as did his wife. When the school eventually moved to Rechavia, a vocational boys school for children of the area was established in Beit Davidoff. In the 1980s, the South African Zionist Federation took over the building.

The Bukharian quarters poverty touched the hearts of members of the South African community and they wanted to improve the district. Not understanding the needs of the place, they thought to build a swimming pool. The neighbourhoods vaad objected, though, so the South Africans opened two factories in the area to provide a livelihood for many of its residents and to alleviate some of the financial hardship. They also paid to renovate many homes. They provided a cheap dental clinic, which they opened in Beit Davidoff.

A workshop was also opened in the building which employed women to make colourful embroidered Bukharian kippot and other articles of handmade embroidery. It was given the name Kuzari, after the Khazars, a group of nomadic Turks who in the 7th-10th centuries converted to Judaism. The workshop was in Beit Davidoff. Most of the staff at the workshop were elderly women, whose nimble fingers belied their age. They skillfully stitched vibrant, multicoloured designs and stylish embroidered cultural objects and Judaica that was sold all over Israel. When Beit Davidoff was sold, the shop moved a few times, until it was closed about three years ago.

At a later date, parts of the Beit Davidoff were bought by a Satmar chassid from the U.S., who opened chessed programs in the location. Today he donates the place for different purposes. A matnas (community center) is now found here. There is a hall where simchos can be held. The building has been restored, and its facade cleaned, which made the triangular engraved stars of David on the windows prominent. Going into the building, one sees beautiful doors and intricate decorations on the high ceilings and at the top of the walls.

Mendel Kohen

Nowadays, Mendel Kohens lavish house is hidden behind greenery, on the quiet Yissa Brachah St. But once upon a time, in front of it were rows of olive trees reaching until Rechov Ezra. Mendel Kohen worked with olive wood. Today his factory still exists on Rechov Yosef Ziv, and is well worth a visit. He wrote a book, in which he tells how he was commissioned to furnish the palace of King Abdullah I of Jordan, the great-grandfather of the present king.

When the Tchebin Yeshivah was build on Rechov Chana, Mendel Kohen wanted very much to build the aron kodesh that was to be made of olive wood on a wall of marble of a similar shade to the wood. The Tchebiner Rav, however, refused to allow him to construct the aron as Mr. Kohen did not keep Shabbos and the Tchebin Yeshivah was built al taharas hakodesh; donations for building the yeshivah were accepted only if the donor kept Shabbos.

As Mendel Kohens heart was set on erecting the aron, he promised he would start observing
Shabbos. And indeed, he became completely shomer Shabbos. He passed away shortly after the aron was completed. His home was bought by an American family.

From Bukhara to Jerusalem
From the late 19th century until World War I, the Jewish neighbourhood in the Bukharian quarter was one of the most affluent sections of the city, populated mainly by Bukharian Jewish merchants who were supported primarily by various trading activities in cotton, gemstones and tea. Everyone marvelled at the beauty of this luxurious Jewish neighbourhood.

In 1914 during World War I, the ruling Turks suspected them of being enemies of state, because of their Russian origins, and expelled all the men from the country. Their families were left to fend for themselves, and about 700 women and children starved to death in this area during the war period.

The Turkish army occupied several buildings in the Jewish neighborhood during World War I, and cut down most of the tall trees. The neighbourhood fell into decline after World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, as overseas sources of income were cut off.

Relocation to Jerusalem
The Jewish residents were left with just their Jerusalem homes and were forced to subdivide them and rent out rooms to bring in income. The Revolution also brought an inundation of poor Russian Jewish refugees to the quarter. Between 1920 and 1930, some 4,000 Bukharian Jews escaped and fled to Eretz Yisrael via Persia. About 800 of them were killed or died of starvation en route. The survivors came to live in the Bukharian quarter in Jerusalem.

Later, Jews from Persia moved in, and overcrowding became rife. So, from being praised as one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods of city, the Bukharian quarter soon earned the reputation of being the poorest neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

In 1920, a factory for weaving Persian carpets opened, providing employment for 80 women.

Social structures in the Bukharian quarter fluctuated as its original inhabitants started moving away. Over the years, many different population groups have lived in the area. It was a favourite place for people of the second aliyah; during this period maskilim and chilonim resided as a group, in kibbutz fashion, in Beit Davidaieff. When Beit Hakerem and other similar suburbs were built, they left the Bukharian quarter and moved there.

The Hebrew University on Har Hatzofim was opened in 1925 and many of the professors lived in the Bukharian quarter. Professor Klein, who was a frum person, even had a shul in his house.

Batei Knesses in the Neighborhood

There are shuls and yeshivos literally all over the Bukharian quarter.
Some of the Persian Jews who settled in the Bukharian section were anusim (forced converts to Islam). On Rechov Adonyahu is a beis knesses that was built by Hajj Adonyahu ben Aaron Hakohen, a hajj being one who has made a trip to Mecca. (Entering the courtyard of this building, one encounters a lovely garden.)

In 1746, the reigning king of the Persian Empire decided to bring 40 Jewish families to his new capital city Mashhad (Mashad). Almost a hundred years later, in 1839/40, the whole town of more than 200 families was forced to convert or be killed, in the wake of a blood libel. Known as anusei Mashhad, they showed themselves to have accepted Islam, to the extent that they made pilgrimages to Mecca. However, they led a double life, for in secret they kept Yiddishkeit.

Only in 1925, when the Shah assumed power, were these New Moslems allowed to return to their original faith. Adonyahu Hakohen himself fled from Mashhad and came to the Holy Land long before this, in 1900.

Hajj Yecheskail ben Yaacov Halevy was also makdish the home he built. It is located on Rechov
Adonyahu Hakohen, to the side of the Yazdi shul. On the stones, above the windows, he engraved his name and the hakdashah. He had once been Ahmed Ismayim, one of anusei Mashhad, and had travelled to Jerusalem twice and once to Mecca, receiving the title Hajj. On his fourth trip (c. 1915) when he was 70 years old, he came up yet again to Jerusalem, pretending this was just a stop on his way to Mecca, although he had no intention of actually going there. He then settled permanently in Jerusalem and built the house, which today is used as a shul and beis medrash.

The Yazdim, of Yazd, in Iran, lived in such dire poverty that even onions were hard to come by for them. Yet they kept Torah to the nth degree and there were many great talmidei chachamim among them. The Yazdi shul, which they built after they came on aliyah, was once full of Persian carpets. The womens gallery is especially large and wide. Until it was moved to Har Nof, for many years the satellite live shiur of Harav Ovadia Yosef was broadcast to the whole world from HaYazdim.

The Baba Tama synagogue, built in 1895, was the subject of a stamp for the 100th year since the founding of the Bukharian quarter. It is located at 4 Rechov David, corner of Yechezkel St.
Although baba is a gate in Aramaic, in this instance it means saba, grandfather. It was dedicated to David Tama from Bukhara, who donated funds to build this synagogue. It is said that
Rechov David (also known as Rechov HaBukharim) is also named for him.

For a long time, Baba Tamah was undergoing renovations. One can still see many of the numbers that were written by the Israeli Antiquities Society on each stone so that it could be returned to its former place after restoration.

At the entrance to the side of Baba Tamah is an endowment courtyard that is reminiscent of Meah Shearim. The beautiful, vibrant-colored windows of the beis knesses, echoing the designs of Bukharian carpets, can be seen in the courtyard. .

Hekdesh Housing

After World War I, a wave of Bukharian Jews swamped Jerusalem (see above) and all the large homes were divided into rooms, where each family received just one room. Yet, there was still not enough space.

Rav Shlomo Moussaieff bought the Baba Tama courtyard and built homes in it, making them hekdesh. He set up a vaad to rent out the homes to his Bukharian brethren, gratis. However, the
Bukharans are a very proud people, and wanted to feel self-sufficient. So, Rav Shlomo Mosayoff collected money, which he gave the gabbai of Baba Tama to distribute secretly among them. In this way, they would have money to pay Rav Moussaieff for their homes and would not feel like paupers.

One reason for the initiative was in order to keep the community together in one place, so they would not lose their spiritual roots.

The beautiful Isacaryoff shul in the Bukharian Quarter, located on Rechov David, has paintings of
all the Shevatim on its walls. In the womens section is a representation of the shivas haminim. There is a photograph of this synagogue that was taken in the early 1900s, where it is seen as a desolate building in the middle of nowhere. The mekubalim of the Old City used to come here to be in solitude. [Note: yoff in Bukharian means son of.]

In Beit Knesset Tzufayoff Katz, (named for David and Shlomo Tzufayoff Katz) is Kollel Shem where Harav Shmuel Auerbach learned before he founded Maalos HaTorah. Shem is the acronym of Rav Shlomo Mosaiyoff and it is found on Rechov Mosaiyoff.

On Rechov Yechezkel 35 is Beit Menachem, a shul named for Olim from Shushan HaBirah, that was set up by Persian Jews.

Harav Yitzchak Kaduri, ztl, lived on Rechov Yisroel Aaron Fishel and built his yeshivah for
mekubalim in the Bucharian Quarter.

Machon Harry Fischel

Machon Harry Fischel (the Harry Fischel Institute for Research in Jewish Law) is located in
the Bukharian section. Harry Fischel, a pioneer of Jewish philanthropy, originally planned a network of Talmudic institutes, with branches in Israel, Eastern Europe and New York. He even purchased real estate in a prime location in New York, intending to use the annual rental income to finance these institutions.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression wiped out the huge fortune invested in this property. In 1931, realizing how fleeting material possessions are in this world, Harry Fischel took whatever money he had left (which had been earmarked for his old age) and invested it in creating a makom Torah in Jerusalem to carry his name and serve as an eternal remembrance for him.
The prime Machon program is the Dayanus Kollel, one of the first and most prestigious of its kind, where handpicked avreichim learn Choshen Mishpat and Even Haezer in depth, qualifying them to become Dayanim.

The Machon was also a pioneer in the area of Torah publications. In the mid-1930s, the Machon spearheaded the field of publishing advanced works produced by its scholars, at a time when, such publications were almost nonexistent especially in Israel. The research and publication department of the Machon continues this tradition until today, producing advanced sefarim on halachah and Rishonim.

Moreover, the Machon houses the beautiful and historic Harry Fischel shul, in which minyanim take place regularly. Prominent talmidei chachamim deliver special shiurim every leil Shabbos, attracting large numbers. In addition, the Machon supports public study programs; in the morning it hosts a kollel baalei batim for retirees from all over the city and in the evening for lay people from the nearby neighborhoods.

The Machon also has a bookbindery, which creates employment for elderly as well as mildly disabled individuals, and provides binding needs for the private sector and public libraries.

Eighty years after its founding, the Machon continues to flourish as a direct, lasting result of the beneficence and foresight of Harry Fischel, ztl.

A Neighborhood With Spirit

The stores in the Bukharian market include Dagei Moshe (Moshes fish shop), and the famous
Tavlinei Chanania (Chananias spice store) containing an unimaginable array of spices, coffees and seeds, all under the Badatz hechsher. The bakery makes pitot by a modern method. In previous years, the former owner used an oven like those used in hand-matzah baking, and poles to extract the pitot from the oven.

Around the corner, on Rechov Yechezkel, Pitzuchei Mizrachi sells a wide range of nuts, cracking-seeds and dried fruit. Before Tu biShvat, when there are streams of customers, separate doors are opened for men on one side and women on the other.

 Next to it, we find Naki, who fixes all types of silver utensils. Mr. Naki insists that customers say,
Beyomo titen secharo before paying, whereby they fulfill the mitzvah in the Torah of paying workers on the day they complete their work.

The senior citizens home located in Bukharim is the only place in the world that the old-age home is separated into two, one part being for men and one for women.

Streets With Meaning

The map of Mandatory Jerusalem shows that the streets of Bukharim were named for the Ushpizin. Rechov David is today officially referred to as Rechov Habukharim. A few homes in the street still bear the original name. After the formation of the state, the street-naming committee gave many of the streets in the area names that coincided with their Bukharian origin, even though by this time most of the Bukharians were no longer living here.

The air of Yerushalayim makes one wise; just walking in the streets increases ones knowledge. In the Tanach, Ezra and Nechemia are in reality one sefer. In the Rechov Ezra and Rechov Nechemia located in Bucharim, the two streets merge into one, symbolizing this fact. Once upon a time, there was a little hill, with croaking frogs, to show where one street ended and the other began, but that hump has long vanished since the building of a ramp which leads to the Har Tzvi shul and Geulah. Today, as you walk along Rechov Ezra/Nechemia, there is no clear way to discern where one street changes into the other.

Finished but not complete

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