Bukharian Rabbi Fights To Keep Post

Itzhak Yehoshua Confidently Battles Dizzying Array of Charges

Sukkah Star: Itzhak Yehoshua refuses to step down as Bukharian chief rabbi, despite being accused of a dizzying string of misdeeds.
paul berger
Sukkah Star: Itzhak Yehoshua refuses to step down as Bukharian chief rabbi, despite being accused of a dizzying string of misdeeds.

By Paul Berger

Published October 22, 2012, issue of October 26, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

For 25 years, Itzhak Yehoshua has been the spiritual face of Bukharian Jewry, fêted by politicians and foreign dignitaries as the Bukharian chief rabbi.

Yehoshua continues to receive greetings and awards from elected officials. But among Bukharians today, in their diaspora capital of Queens in New York City, he is better known as an embarrassment — a great man felled by allegations of lax conversion and kashrut standards, bribery and forgery, and of making false claims in the name of Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.

Last April, the community’s Bet Efraim Central Synagogue informed Yehoshua his contract would not be renewed and he was subsequently ousted from the Bukharian Jewish Congress.

A ruling by five Ashkenazi rabbis of the Queens Beit Din, or rabbinical court, a few months earlier found that Yehoshua had violated laws related to conversions. This July, the same beit din issued a second ruling, distributed among the Bukharian community in a 12-page booklet printed in English and in Russian, cataloging the “tremendous lies and fabrications” Yehoshua is alleged to have committed in what the rabbis portrayed as an elaborate and “cunning” attempt to clear his name.

The second ruling, which took up six pages in the July 27 edition of The Bukharian Times, a community newspaper, included allegations that Yehoshua’s accomplices forged a letter from leading Bukharian rabbis to discredit the Queens Beit Din. The beit din also said that Yehoshua falsely claimed the support of Amar, and to prove it, the beit din printed an excerpt of a letter from Amar, calling Yehoshua’s actions “extremely unfortunate.”

The beit din rabbis concluded by warning that if Yehoshua does not cease practicing as a rabbi in Queens, it will “pronounce an official cherem,” excommunicating him from the very community that he helped build.

One recent Friday morning during Sukkot, Yehoshua seemed unruffled by the tumult of the past two years, calmly answering calls on his iPhone from followers with domestic and spiritual quandaries while guiding his Lexus past the well-manicured lawns of Forest Hills.

Yehoshua parked outside his home and stepped out of his car, dressed in a royal blue kaftan, or joma, thickly embroidered in gold, and a black lambs wool hat, or telpak. He strode across the road and retreated to the sun-dappled quiet of a richly decorated sukkah draped in Central Asian rugs depicting Sephardic chief rabbis and scenes from the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Yehoshua, who still claims the mantle of Bukharian chief rabbi, shrugged off the recent tumult as the result of a flourishing community that, as it grows larger and stronger, inevitably bubbles with friction and power struggles.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.