The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Bukharan Jews in Ashkenazi Vienna from the View of Both Sides

Bukharan Jews have a long History in Middle Asia, with contacts far and wide in the Persian-speaking world and beyond. In the 1970ies, a trickle of emigrants started to settle in Vienna. The first group of Bukharan Jews to come to Vienna were people who not long before left Middle Asia via Vienna to Israel. They were disappointed by the situation in Israel and wanted to go back. They wanted to come back through Vienna, but when they applied for visas to come back to the USSR, those were not given, and they found themselves stranded in Vienna, in between Bukhara and Israel. Just like waves of Ashkenazi migrants from the Holocaust, to the Hungarian uprising of 1954 and the Czechoslovak spring of Prague, these people found themselves in a place they did not intend to stay in, on the way to somewhere else. But even though both Ashkenazi and Bukharan came to be in Vienna in similar circumstances, the Ashkenazi community did not welcome them. Bukharan Jews were mostly met by indifference and suspicion by the religious establishments and by the secular authorities. Both did not sympathize with the exotic foreign Jews which were so different in language, looks and custom.

As time went by, the Bukharan community grew both by their rate of birth and by immigration into Vienna following their family ties and the economical opportunities. Today the Bukharan community is a major force in the Viennese Jewish populace. They have considerable political power, and they are present on all levels and aspects of Jewish life in Vienna.

In this paper we will try to describe the relationship between the two groups as they grow alongside and with each other, defining and redefining their own identity.