Passover In Uzbekistan


April 16, 2004

Jewish communities across Uzbekistan celebrated Passover this year, many of them experiencing the richness and joy of this holiday for the first time in their lives.

Thanks to the organizational efforts of Chief Rabbi of Uzbekistan David Gurevich and active community members, a number of Jewish communities held Passover Seders and delivered matzah to community members and the needy. The Jewish community of Uzbekistan also delivered a ten-ton shipment of humanitarian assistance, including food, clothes and footwear from France, to cities in Uzbekistan and neighboring Tajikistan.

This year, eight Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbinical students from Israel visited Jewish communities in Uzbekistan for the week of Passover. Equipped with everything they needed, the presence of the yeshiva students and the efforts of local leaders enabled Jews of Uzbekistan to celebrate authentic Passover Seders.

Passover celebrations in Uzbekistan were made possible through the sponsorship of the Rohr Family Foundation of New York and Florida, headed by Sami and George Rohr, and the Ohr Avner-Chabad Foundation, headed by FJC President Lev Leviev.

During the week of Passover, police patrols and military troops stepped up security measures in response to the most recent terrorist attacks in the Romitansky District and in Tashkent. Accordingly, security was tightened for all synagogues of Uzbekistan during the week of Passover. Despite the seriousness of the threats, local Jews celebrated the holiday to the fullest, seizing the opportunity to celebrate Passover as it has never been celebrated in their communities.

Tashkent held its main Passover event in the central Beit Menachem synagogue, which could barely seat all those who wished to take part in the public seder on April 5th. Rabbi Gurevich and his wife Malka acquired everything needed for the event, while visiting Rabbinical students Simcha Kolyakov and Shlomo Lambin narrated about the miraculous story of Passover and the Exodus.

Under their leadership, Jews of Tashkent enjoyed a traditional seder, held in accordance with Jewish tradition. By the end of the seder, participants left the premises, having left the door open and a full glass of wine waiting for the prophet Eliyahu. According to the ancient legend, he drops in to every Jewish home where a seder takes place.

Another seder held in the Ohr Avner Chabad Day School left a lasting impression on schoolchildren and their parents. Rabbi David Kolton and his wife Chana taught the participants how to proceed at a seder, while the MC of the event, Mikhail Stepanovsky, explained the meaning of each aspect of the seder. The school choir put on a concert and Beit Rivkah students organized an art exhibit. A Passover seminar completed the series of Passover events held at the Jewish school.

This year, Rabbinical students Volodya Morgenshtern and David Moldavsky arrived in Fergana on April 4th. There, the young men organized and led a public seder for the local Jewish community, enabling everyone to enjoy a kosher and joyous Passover. The event was well-attended, with 48 men and women from different age groups.

Jews of Samarkand celebrated the first evening of Passover at the restaurant Alpomysh. Members of the local Jewish community enjoyed matzah, wine, as well as many different kosher dishes made especially for the holiday. Together with visiting Rabbinical students Benyamin Lodayev and Rachmin Mavashev, community members laid tables with the delicious dishes. Festivities welcomed more than 150 guests, who fully experienced the feeling of being Jewish and appreciation for their freedom thanks to the unique atmosphere created by the yeshiva students.

This year in Buhara, Passover began with the evnening prayers, read by Rabbi Aron Siyanov and cantor Abram Iskhakov, in the city's two synagogues. Community Chairman Soson Priyev and other Jewish leaders have been organizing public Passover celebrations for the past 15 years.

During their visit, Rabbinical students Emmanuil Khanimov and Rachamim Aminov said the Kiddush in the synagogue and led a seder. This presented an unforgettable experience for local college students: "It's great that they have come here on Passover," said Gavriev Khachayev, a local Jewish student. "They made us feel a strong connection with our historical Fatherland." In addition to the Jewish community of Buhara, the seder involved representatives of local authorities. Participants fulfilled the commandment of the four glasses of wine, and enjoyed Passover songs performed by the local Jewish choir.

Source: The Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS

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