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Not far off is the day when we will celebrate together a happy moment of the completion of our new synagogue building construction and the upcoming housewarming. Your merit in this great cause, aimed first of all at the future of our beloved children, grandchildren and great‑grandchildren, is indisputable and causes feelings of great gratitude.

At the same time, the pace of this final process is not as rosy as one would like. This interview is supposed to remove some questions and bring more clarity to a number of others. To this end, the BJL newspaper invited the Community President Ilya Koptiev, Vice-President Simcha Alishaev, Chief Rabbi Immanuel Shimonov, as well as members of the activist group, who are well aware of the situation: Miki Aronbaev, Semyon Gerov, Benyamin Sadykov, Rakhmin Pleshtiev and Simcha Mushayev, to an open conversation.

  1. Ilya Koptiev: “First of all I want to emphasize that there are more than forty Bukharian Jewish synagogues in New York today, the number of which continues to grow steadily. This is despite the fact that our ethnic group does not exceed only 60 thousand people in the city. What are the reasons for such a high interest and attention of our fellow tribesmen to the creation of new synagogues? The main reason is that we are trying to invest in the main goal and meaning of our whole life: in the hearts of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in order not to lose touch with them and that eternal spiritual closeness that accompanied and characterized Bukharian people throughout many centuries.

“We live in a very disturbing time, when not only many universal human values are being lost, but also national ones, including religious ones, old family concepts are being lost, which does not bypass our community. First of all, to protect our children and grandchildren from this misfortune, not to lose the invaluable family warmth in which each of us daily draws special vital energy—are the main tasks of the Beth Gavriel Center.

“Today, the successful solution of this task largely depends on the completion of the construction of our new synagogue. I am talking about this in connection with the fact that their number in New York is growing literally before our eyes. Very often people come to our Center with a request to support their charitable projects, and not a single one of them leaves us unsatisfied. I would like to hope that the Bukharian community of New York will respond with the same attention to a similar request of Beth Gavriel.”

V.K.: “Heartfelt gratitude to you, Mr. President, for the clarity of thought in terms of the tasks now facing our synagogue, as well as all of the others. Mr. Alishaev, please join our conversation.”

  1. Simcha Alishaev: “I am surprised by the mood of some people who believe that the burden of financial costs associated with the development of the Beth Gavriel Center, in particular, those related to the construction of the new synagogue building, should fall on the shoulders of those whose names our community bears. A few words about the history of this issue.

“More than 25 years ago, two families, the Alishaevs and the Koptievs, at the request of their mothers (blessed be their memory!) at first proudly took upon themselves the right to rent the building of the present synagogue for Shabbat prayers, which we later bought out and, having received the name of our late fathers (blessed be their memory!), became the property of the community. If everything remained the same (the one old building), it would fully pay for itself during operation, and financial issues would hardly arise.

“But life demanded to move forward, since the main responsibility for the future of our children fell on us, especially since Western civilization has entered a very difficult stage in its development, which cannot bypass our ethnic group. Therefore, the next step was the opening of a yeshiva. More than 20 years ago, it accepted the first 30 students, whose number today exceeds 600. For this purpose, we bought a special building, the address of which is well known. However, now the capacity of this place has ceased to satisfy the growing demands of the community, and we have been forced to solve the problem of a new building, which has already been identified and in the near future will receive our children in one of the well-groomed areas of Queens. This building can accommodate 1600 students. In addition, our yeshiva Sha’arei Zion Ohel Bracha has now become a high school, where children, including girls and boys study from preschool to 12th grade, study. By the way, the annual budget of the yeshiva, with more than a hundred teachers, is now about eight million dollars.

“In the same period, a beautiful mikvah was built, which became the pride of the Beth Gavriel community and a landmark for the Jewish people. In addition, the annual budget of our Center is at least 1.2 million dollars. All financial documents are open to those who wish to be convinced of their indisputable solvency.

“Today we cannot but express our sincere gratitude to our wonderful people, to all congregants, who throughout all these years have contributed in every possible way to the development of these charitable programs. Ahead is a very important step, designed to complete the finishing work in the new building of the synagogue. This day is not far off.

“Sometimes I am approached by some people who put, as they say, ‘a tricky question’: ‘Everything is fine, but the day may come and you or your children would want to sell the Beth Gavriel complex, built both with our help and with our money. It won't be fair; it won't be right.’

“I answer that the loss of the Beth Gavriel buildings by our community could only happen in one case—if America, G-d forbid, disappears from the face of the earth, which is unlikely in the foreseeable future. In all other cases, the sale of noncommercial public property to other owners is practically impossible, according to the legislation in force in the country. And even in five hundred years, normal people could not have intentions of this kind.

The Beth Gavriel synagogue is in fact one of the most significant values of our entire community and today it is almost impossible for the two families who have invested a lot of money in its prosperity to overcome its financial burden. Such a capacious project is only within the power of the entire community. I hope that everyone who hears my words is hardly able to doubt their sincerity.”

V.K.: “Rav Immanuel Shimonov joins the conversation and will bring more clarity to this issue. Please, Mr Rabbi.”

  1. Imanuel Shimonov: “Imagine the boundless scale of those versatile forms and methods of religious education of our congregants and satisfaction of their spiritual needs, which take place in the Beth Gavriel Center. Firstly, five minyans operate on a rotating schedule from early morning until late at night, providing convenience for the congregants at different times of the day.

“In addition, there are four kollels, some of whose students, mostly ones who have families, receive scholarships from the Center's fund. Particularly noteworthy is the developed system of a wide variety of educational programs that are of great interest among the audience, as well as the systematic invitations of famous religious figures for public speeches.

“During the years of our Center's existence, many young people found their family happiness within its walls, created strong marriages, had children, when the second and even third generations became congregants of our warm home. We are always ready to provide qualified assistance to those families where there are moments of misunderstanding, to hold chuppahs, brits, prepare children for bar mitzvahs, etc. In other words, the rabbis of our Center are always close to their congregants, both in the days of joy and, G-d forbid, sadness. This is the secret of the fact that the walls of the Center are actually filled with people seven days a week, not counting the short night break, because they always find answers to their questions here. Such an atmosphere, aimed at a person, their aspirations, especially in our turbulent age, is worth a lot and, as a result, is highly valued.”

V.K.: “Heartfelt gratitude to you, dear Mr. Rabbi, for your speech, which, on the basis of facts, demonstrated the busy everyday life of our Center. If, at the same time, we recall the completely unusual, elated atmosphere of the holidays, then the picture will become even more impressive: after all, there isn’t room to swing a cat during such celebrations. The floor has Rakhmin Pleshtiev, our dear friend, a person who provides one of the very important aspects of the Center’s life.”

  1. Rakhmin Pleshtiev: “For many years I have to prepare young men approaching their thirteenth birthday for the bar mitzvah rite. First of all, honor and praise to those parents who are trying in every possible way to instill in their growing children love and respect for Jewish traditions, seeing this as the most reliable means for their future worthy adult life in our troubled age. In this regard, I want to express my gratitude to the Beth Gavriel Center, where this event is considered as a very important moral step in the upbringing of adolescents who become men and all the responsibility that falls on them. From these details, when the synagogue and the family work together, there are sprouts of integrity, which are sometimes so lacking in our complex world.”

V.K.: “You, dear Rakhmin, definitely hit the mark. Thank you. Benyamin Sadykov, a professional builder, one of the leaders, who is now finishing the synagogue building, asks for the floor.”

  1. Benyamin Sadykov: “By the nature of my activity, I have to search for materials for finishing work, many of which are now in the category of severely scarce and have risen in price many-fold. I mean, construction today is not only incredibly expensive, but also nervous, very stressful work, associated with a lot of unexpected obstacles.

“Such a problem can only be overcome by collective efforts, especially since we are talking about an object of a special nature, intended to last not only for centuries, but also for the everyday peace of mind of people, when the walls attract them, giving hope for the future. Your community enjoys well-deserved authority among the Bukharian ethnic group not only in America, but also far beyond its borders. There is no doubt that the commissioning of the new synagogue building is very close: one more common effort—and the objective will be successfully accomplished.”

V.K.: “Dear Benyamin, thank you for your good wishes and warm words addressed to our community. The floor is over to Semyon Gerov, a veteran of our community, who has been living in its interests for many years.”

  1. Semyon Gerov: “We have no other choice. We must work together and bring the matter to its logical end. As for the probability of selling the building, this option is close to zero, because, thank G-d, America is in good health, which means that we, and our children, and our great-great-great-grandchildren will do the same thing precisely in Beth Gavriel. We wish good luck to all those who are directly involved in finishing work today and express our sincere gratitude to them for their noble deeds.”

V.K.: “Heartfelt gratitude to you, Mr. Gerov, for your sincerity and the good deeds that you constantly render to our community. A word from the gabbai of the synagogue, Mr. Miki Aronbaev.”

  1. Miki Aronbaev: “Every week on Saturdays I have to determine the addressee of the next Barakha, which, according to Sephardic traditions, has a certain monetary expression. Without detaining your attention, I will emphasize the following: the money that comes to the budget of the synagogue from our minyan and three other youth ones, at best, covers the annual expenses of the main synagogue. If we add to this the costs of the ever‑expanding yeshiva, then the big question cannot but arise: how and where to find additional funding in order to confidently make ends meet. Thank G-d that in our wonderful community there are many remarkable people who contribute tirelessly to solving these very difficult issues that directly affect the Jewish heart and children's souls.”

V.K.: “Thank you very much, dear Miki, for your wonderful ‘work’ on Saturdays, and for the cast-iron logic with which you spoke. The floor has one of the leaders of the youth minyan, Simcha Mushayev.”

  1. Simkha Mushayev: “I want to stress with full responsibility that the youth wing of our community is perfectly aware of the colossal significance of everything that is currently happening within the walls of the Beth Gavriel Center. We are ready in every possible way to contribute not only to the speedy completion of the finishing work in the new synagogue building, but also to the expansion of the material resources of the yeshiva, since we are talking about the most important thing: to be or not to be to the future for our Bukharian ethnic group, our children, our families, because the current world is increasingly complex and poses a number of very difficult conditions, the adaptation to which requires us to work together. Only with a united will can we achieve a solution to the problems facing our Center.”

V.K.: “Dear friends, thank you very much for your understanding, openness, and sincerity. Together we will indeed overcome all obstacles and difficulties.”