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.
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The Bukharian community will mark its 40th anniversary in the United States with a day-long conference in Forest Hills on October 21.

That, after four decades in America, a Sephardic community had to turn to an Ashkenazi beit din to resolve its dispute could be a sign that the Bukharian community is still not self-sufficient, said Alanna Cooper, a cultural anthropologist at Boston University.

Cooper, whose book, “Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism,” will be published later this year, said the community also appears to have failed to cultivate a strong and cohesive leadership comprised of both rabbis and community leaders.

“I get the sense that although there were factions within the community and not everyone was behind the chief rabbi… there was a semblance that they were a united community,” Cooper said. “That’s now been totally fractured and de-centered.”

Cynthia Zalisky, executive director of Queens Jewish Community Council, has noticed something similar. With Yehoshua as chief rabbi the community was “under one banner,” she said, “and now there’s not one rabbi who has come and taken his place in that leadership role.”

Despite the Queens Beit Din’s demand that he leave, Yehoshua is adamant that he is still the community’s chief rabbi.

His son Michael Yehoshua has launched a new, English-language Bukharian newspaper, The Tribune, full of positive stories about his father.

In September, Bakshi-Doron cut the ceremonial ribbon on Yehoshua’s latest venture: a new $2 million synagogue and community center to be based out of a palatial Forest Hills home financed by Yehoshua’s supporters.

Yehoshua said on October 5 that the new center would open for services by Hanukkah. On October 11 he was more vague, saying the building had not yet been purchased and that a second property could become his new headquarters.

For now, he said, he is leading services out of the first floor of his home.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger

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