Huberman Hakham

  • Issue: June 1991
  • Designer: R. (Beckman) Malka
  • Stamp size: 30.8 x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 137
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

The Bukharan Community

During the middle of the 16th century, the Jews of Bukhara were forced to convert to Islam. In 1793 the "Shadar" (Rabbinical Messenger) Rabbi Yosef Maman left Safed on a mission to the Jews of the Middle East and reached Moslem Bukhara in Asia. Rabbi Maman imbued the Bukharan Jews with the love of Zion and instructed them in the observation of Judaism. He also taught them about the "Mitzvot" (divine commandments) of inhabiting and settling the Land of Israel.

From 1868 to World War I, 1,500 out of the 16,000 people living in the Bukhara area emigrated to Jerusalem voluntarily and not as a result of persecution and pogroms. Here they established the Bukharim Quarter. After the Russian Revolution, between 1920 and 1930, some 4000 Bukharan Jews escaped and fled to Israel via Afghanistan and Persia. About 800 of them were killed or died of starvation en route.

In Israel, the Bukharan community was outstanding in the assistance it gave to its members and to the Jewish community in Eretz Israel. In 1905, of the 125 students at the "Talmud Torah" (religious school), 95 were poor children from other communities whose expenses were covered by the Bukharan community. The teacher who had taught there for 20 years received a pension of half his salary from the community funds.

The Bukharan community not only provided for the children of the poor but also for other needy people. They built houses and shops for rent along Jaffa Road and donated funds for constructing orphanages and hospitals. Even as late as 1911, the hospitalisation expenses of the poor were covered by the Bukharan community

The Bukharim Quarter in Jerusalem

In 1890, seven members of the Bukharan community established the "Hovevei Zion", which founded the "Rehovot Ha-Bukharim" Quarter. Eighteen synagogues, a Talmud Torah (religious school), a Belt Midrash (house of study), two Mikvaot (ritual baths) and a market were built in the Quarter and trees and flowers were planted.

Between the years 1905 and 1908, two cowsheds for the production of milk products were built; cotton was planted in the community's fields and the Hebrew High School which numbered among its teachers President (to be) Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and his wife, was established. In 1920, a factory for the weaving of Persian carpets, which employed 80 women, was opened.

From the foundation of the neighbourhood and until 1939, its members ordered 170 books from Jerusalem printers.

The piece de resistance of the Quarter was the "Armon" (the palace) which was built by Isha Haim Hefetz and Elisha Yehudayoff in 1890-1891 using local limestone and Italian marble with Italian-baroque ornaments. The "Armon" hosted many of the leading figures of the time. One of the rooms was reserved for "the Messiah". During World War i, Turkish army headquarters were located there. With the conquest of Jerusalem in 1917 by the British, a reception in honour of General Allenby was organised by Chaim Weizmann and James Rothschild. In the same year, 200 Jewish soldiers serving in the British army attended a "Seder" (the Passover Meal) there. In 1921 the founding Convention of the Chief Rabbinate took place at the "Armon", at which Rabbis Al. Ha-Cohen Kook and Y. Meir were elected. At the end of the British Mandate the "Armon" served as a meeting place for the members of the "Etzel".

Rabbi Shimon Hakham

One of the founders of the Bukharim Quarter was Rabbi Shimon Hakham, a great-grandchild of Rabbi Yosef Maman, the "Shadar" who travelled from Safed to visit the Bukharan Jews. He was born in Bukhara in 1843. His father, a religious scholar and a wealthy man, provided him with a very good education. He became a merchant and, like his father, also encouraged the teaching of religious studies to the poor and he founded a Talmud Torah for the needy.

Rabbi Shimon Hakham and his wife raised a son and a daughter. In 1890 Rabbi Shimon and his wife emigrated to Israel with their son and settled in Jerusalem. On his arrival he joined the "Hovevel Zion". Later he returned to Bukhara to wind up his business and whilst he was there his wife died in Jerusalem. He returned to Jerusalem and devoted himself to the education of his only son, Pinchas. When Pinchas died suddenly at the age of eighteen Rabbi Shimon was grief-stricken and dedicated himself to writing and translating. He wrote 32 books and translated part of the Bible into the Judeo-Tajiki dialect. Besides his religious writings he translated Mapu's book "Ahavat Zion". Rabbi Hakham was very active as leader of the community, as a Zionist and as an author. He has truly been described as "one of the greatest figures of the Jewish people in the period of the national revival".

His granddaughter, the poetess Shulamit Tilayoff lives in Tel Aviv.

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Rabbi Shimon Hakham