Ferghana’s Jews

by Nathan Hamm on 1/2/2007 · 5 comments

JTA recently published an interesting story on the Jews of the Ferghana Valley. The report says that the biggest concerns for the community are not to do with Islamic fundamentalism or antisemitism, but rather with economic issues.

It would seem though that these other issues, particularly Islamism, are of concern to the community because, as with Bukharan Jews, Ferghana’s Jews view Karimov as a protector. And the Israeli Embassy certainly is concerned as well.

During the Andizhan events last year, the Israeli Embassy in Tashkent prompted Jewish leaders in the Fergana Valley to compile lists of community members “in case there will be a need to airlift people to Israel.”

Since then, Abdurakhmanov keeps the list handy — several handwritten pages in a college notebook with names, addresses and phone numbers. One copy is kept in his office, another at home.

Semyon Abdurahmanov’s list shows how the community has changed rapidly. He claims there are 800 Jews in Ferghana, but his list only has 113 names, presumably because they are the only ones active in the community. Most are elderly and only 23 have full-time employment. He said that it was not too long ago that Jews were prominent in the city’s economy

Abdurakhmanov and his son committed to staying put and keeping the community going. They have started businesses that feed revenue back to the Jewish Center. Though the community has drastically shrunk, both say that there are many young Jews eager to congregate. And they plan to build a larger center to attract them.

In many ways, this story reminds me of the talk I had with the rabbi in Bukhara. At the time, spring of 2001, most of his own children, much like many of the Jews in Bukhara, had left for Israel and the United States. And as much as he wanted to stay behind, and as beautiful as the synagogue that had been restored with funds sent back from departed community members was, he seemed somewhat resigned to the fact that the pressure to leave was great and that the community would eventually disappear.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Laurence January 2, 2007 at 3:34 pm

Nathan, Thank you for this interesting post…

Ataman Rakin January 3, 2007 at 1:34 am

Yes thanks for that Nathan.

At last an intelligent point on the matter: “Abdurakhmanov (…) said local Jews have no specifically “Jewish” problems and that the most important issue facing both Jews and non-Jews in the country isn’t radical Islam but the poor economic situation.”

BTW I don’t see why ‘more Islam’ should be bad for the Jews –one of the Alh al-Kitap (people of the book)–
in Ferghana and elsewhere:

“Those who believe, those who are Jews, Christians, and Sabaeans, all who believe in God and the Last Day and act rightly will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Qur’an, 2:62)”


Besides, in Uzbekistan there is little emotional affinity with what is happening in Palestine and South Lebanon.

This being said, this “I don’t mind it, but some Muslims there have a different view. They think Jews are evil.” is true as well (that the mindest exists that is–not that Jews are evil). IMO, certain members and leaders of ethnic minorities (Koreans and Russians in particular, also Jews) have openly advocated and compromised themselves with the Karimov regime: some because they were compelled to; others out of sheer opportunism; others because they know no better.

Problem is, the day that the regime is overthrown and that the mutilated corpses of the karimovites are dragged through the streets of Tashkent, Kokand and other places, it can backlash against them (as it has done against the Bahai in Iran after the Shah’s overthrow, for instance).

Ataman Rakin January 3, 2007 at 2:20 am

(… continued since there seemd to be some technical difficulties posting this…)

“The regime — notorious in the West for allegedly abusing human rights and trampling Muslim activists — is seen by local Jews as the best guarantor of their safety.”

Which stresses the point. This can –and will– seriously backlash against Uzbekistan’s Jews in the future. BTW, most interesting in that respect were these rumors that popped after the Andijan events that members of an Israëli commando unit had participated in the massacre.

Nathan January 3, 2007 at 2:23 pm

I’m not so sure that there would be any special backlash against Uzbekistan’s Jews over this as there are plenty of nominally Muslim Uzbeks who believe the exact same thing.

AZJON January 24, 2007 at 5:20 am

In the former USSR It’s not just “muslims” who think that Jews are evil. A lot of Russians think the same way. I remember waiting for my train in Tuapse in 1998 and listening to two Russin old ladies blaming all of their problems on Jews. They went as far as calling Chernomirdin ” f..ing Jew” as well. In another words if something is wrong in Russia “it’s jews or chechens fault”. Unfortunatly hating jews or anyone who is little different is a widespread problem in CIS countries.

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