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Uzbekistan Matzoh Making Unmasked

Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Ari Greenspan

Like other kehillos, Bukharan Jews had their own distinct ways of making matzos. Six weeks before Pesach, Ari and Ari set off for Uzbekistan to find out if the age-old secret had survived almost a century of Soviet rule — and if, of course, it was still possible to have a taste.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

uzbekistan“In every generation and generation they arise to destroy us and Hashem saves us from their hands.” Although it was not yet Pesach, we were reminded of those words from the Haggadah before we set off for central Asia and a halachic adventure inUzbekistan. A few days earlier an attack on the Israeli embassy in India heightened security concerns across the Jewish world; in this region that is uncomfortably close to Iran and Afghanistan those concerns were especially high, particularly among the Israeli diplomatic corps.

However, our welcome to the country set the tone for the entire trip. We were greeted at the airport by our friend, the Israeli ambassador to Uzbekistan, who had come personally to pick us up. This was to be our experience throughout our stay — in every town the local Jews went above and beyond simple hachnassas orchim in their warmth and hospitality.

But why go to Uzbekistan? This backwards country has been home to the community known as Bukharan Jews for many centuries, but as with so many out-of-the-way kehillos many of its traditions are in danger of being forgotten. If we could not uncover and record all of those traditions there was at least one that we couldn’t pass over. That, of course, was the secret of their matzoh baking. 


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