Ilya Koptiev: When Business Or Mitzvah Is Speaking, Favor Your Decision To Mitzvah

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From the BJL editorial board: In the past issue of The Bukharian Times (# 969), an interview was published with President of the Beth Gavriel  Center, Ilya Koptiev,
conducted by the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Rafael Nektalov. With their kind consent, we invite our readers to familiarize themselves with this material.

Every time, passing by the new building of the Beth Gavriel Synagogue, which has been under construction for many years, or attending meetings of the Samarkand Charitable Foundation, I see how seriously the leaders are working who have set themselves the noblest goal of building a new community center capable of creating all the necessary conditions for the needs of the ever-growing Bukharian Jewish population of the region, where our fellow tribesmen live most closely. Considering the good demographic trend aimed at increasing the number of children in the young families, the need for the early completion of construction work in the creation of the synagogue and community Beth Gavriel Center is clearly understood and accepted.

Recently, Joseph Alishaev sent pictures of the facade and interior of the center under construction to his friends and acquaintances. Frankly, those snapshots impressed me tremendously.

I turned to the president of the Beth Gavriel Community Center, Mr. Ilya Koptiev, with a request to comment on the construction progress.


Rafael Nektalov: Dear Mr. Ilya Koptiev, the construction of a new center has been going on for 15 years and now it becomes obvious that its completion is not far off.

Ilya Koptiev. In fact, all these 15 years we have been working on this unique project that will go down in the history of our community. For the first time, the community center, which is almost being completely reconstructed, not for a minute closed its doors to the congregation of the synagogue and numerous organizations that hold their events here, like prayer services, celebration of festive events, family celebrations: brit-, bar-mitzvahs, commemorations.

R.N. This is actually a unique example. Based on the experience of building our Center for Bukharian Jews, I can confidently say that moving to Binat Chaim changed the route of congregants for many years, and it took time to restore their numbers.

I.K. About 7–8 years ago, we were ready to start the construction work, but the construction of the Center for Bukharian Jews required our solidarity with our oldest organization, Bukharian Jewish Community Center, of which we were all members, with the synagogue where we all grew up, prayed, and celebrated, and bade final farewells to our family members and dear ones. Our first immigration years passed there, there we met our leaders Hanan Benjamini, Rakhmin Borukhov, David Aminov, Gavriel Davydov, Rakhmin Nektalov, and other pioneers of our community life formation, whom we were lucky to see alive.

Glory be to G-d, all this is over, and we see the results of this mitzvah. In addition, the construction of the mikvah was conceived and carried out, which was also a financially difficult project that took many years to fulfil. Any construction of the pool requires compliance with special standards. Improper construction can lead to destruction of a new building. The current mikvah has stood the test of time, and we can safely move on to the next stage – completion of the entire building of the Beth Gavriel Center.

R.N. Tell us what this beautiful, renovated building will house.

I.K. The premises will contain a large, multilevel hall of the Beth Gavriel synagogue, which will be able to accommodate several hundred worshippers, as well as a hall for family celebrations, restaurant, offices for different organizations. It is envisaged to hold four minyans a day, as is the case at present time: in the morning and in the evening, depending on the requests of the worshippers. There is a good chance that their number will increase. I wish there would also be extended day classes, programs for teaching children mathematics, music, and hazanut.

R.N. Have requests been taken into account for sporting events?

I.K. Not yet, but we are thinking about the ways to engage young people in sports. For the time being we will limit ourselves to chess and checkers.

R.N. Ilya, for many years I have known you as one of the most active philanthropists in our community. Thanks to this we have yeshivas, many programs, at one point an excellent magazine was published in the community under the leadership of our respected Veliyam Moiseyevich Kandinov. All these charity events involve investing money. What, in your opinion, is the difference between business and charity? After all, both are associated with investing or raising money.

I.K. That's a good question. Business, like charity, requires constant accumulation of money, material resources, which are always in short supply. But in these cases, the process is governed by two different motivations. Charity requires constant distribution of accumulated funds, which are always scarce. We need to help the yeshiva, needy families, and various public organizations. And the funds accumulated for business are deposited in one place, and they are always in short supply, because they are needed for the development of a new direction in business: money must bring new money. Business doesn't work otherwise.

R.N. And What about charity?..

I.K. Charity is a part of your spiritual essence, and business is a means for material enrichment and existence. Those who participate in charity events and make mitzvahs go down in history. The Torah, our fathers and other ancestors teach us this, proving with all their experience the importance of creating benefits for the people and helping those in need. I hope that after reading these lines many of my friends and associates will think about the ways to help us complete the construction of the Beth Gavriel Center. After all, it is in our people that such a wonderful word has taken root: mitzvodust! I encourage everyone to be a part of this big mitzvah!

R.N. Well said! Thank you. Lately, you Ilya and the vice-president of your Center Simcha Alishaev, and your respective families bade the final farewells to your mothers: the unforgettable Yaffa Koptieva and Mira Alishaeva. Both these women were not only immigrants from the Jewish quarter of Samarkand, who have experienced the most bitter hardships of their time. 30 years ago, having united their efforts, they stood together with their sons at the origins of the Beth Gavriel Center bearing the names of their suddenly departed husbands. The names of these two legendary women have not been forgotten either: they have been assigned to a mikvah that has been functioning at your synagogue for several years.

I.K. Those sad events connected with the passing of our mother and aunt Mira were a strong shock to our families. So many lessons of wisdom my brothers and I have received from these unforgettable mothers! After all, they were both mothers and fathers for us, since we lost our fathers so painfully early.

I really want none of the parents in our community to live in nursing homes, so that each son would worthily carry the banner of his family and constantly take care of his elders. Parents need to be given their due recognition during their lifetime. To my deepest regret, my father-in-law, Meirkhai Mosheev, a man of big heart, who did a lot of good deeds for the development of our ethnos’s culture, recently passed away. May his blessed memory live forever.

R.N. Thank you! Have a nice new year 5781!

I.K. Same to you, as well as to all members of the Center for Bukharian Jews’ Board of Directors, numerous readers of The Bukharian Times, which I have a pleasure of have been reading for 18 years! Happiness, kindness, and a sweet new year to you all! I hope that, by the grace of G-d, we will celebrate the next year 5782 in the new hall of the Beth Gavriel synagogue! I cannot but express my deep gratitude to the large army of our sincere and kind helpers who support the construction not only with their kind words, but also financially. I would also like to wish prosperity and tranquility to the Jews of the whole world, to every family that dreams of fulfilling their good intentions.

R.N. G-d willing!

 - Rafael Nektalov