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While pushing forward with long-planned initiatives like the legislative breakfast, Bukharian community leaders made clear in their comments that they remain shell-shocked by the conviction of a Bukharian woman for the murder of her own husband.
And the community as a whole is now engaged in serious soul searching, about the larger implications of a shattering event that has ripped a hole in the heart of the community and exposed deep fault lines between traditionalists and modernists.
These leaders would like to see a return to conditions under which the community lived in Uzbekistan before emigrating to New York and to Israel en masse after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
It was a time and place where husbands were unquestioned masters of their households and community members usually took inter-family disputes to their rabbis for arbitration and resolution, while shunning the secular courts of the Soviet state.
Yet while Bukharian leaders agreed that the Borukhova case is symptomatic of very real tensions in their community, especially between husbands and wives, opinion is split about the causes of the problem and how to address it.
Traditionalists, who include the community’s top rabbinic and organizational leaders, contend that exposure to American concepts of sexual equality — and a legal system in which divorce courts tend to favor female claimants over males — has led some unscrupulous Bukharian women to try to fleece their ex-husbands by making exaggerated or false charges against them, including physical abuse and even pedophilia.
Eventually he was proven to be innocent of all the charges and divorced the woman, but he suffered greatly in the process.” Noting that articles in The Jewish Week and New York Times in the early 2000’s highlighted alleged cases of domestic violence in the Bukharian community, Nektalov said, “The American press wants to protect our women against so-called abuse, and some women have taken advantage of that.
A close friend of mine was charged three times by his second wife with physical abuse and each time was taken into custody by police.As far as we are aware, there has never before been a case of a wife killing her husband in the entire history of Bukharian Jews.” Seated on the dais at the reception hall after the visiting dignitaries left, Kandov, an amiable 60-year-old, who is co-owner of a Queens-based limousine company, remarked sadly, “In the old days before our emigration, family issues, including questions of divorce, were decided quietly within the community.Yet here in America, some of our women have learned how to manipulate the legal system for personal gain.Some want independence and others see the chance for big money.We are very grateful to America for giving us freedom, but some of us clearly haven’t understood the proper meaning of that freedom.” The community’s chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yehoshua, a friendly and approachable figure with a long gray beard, who was clad in a caftan and traditional Bukharian gold embroidered robe, explained, “Several of our community’s rabbis, including myself, tried to mediate between [Borukhova and Malakov].