History: The Literature of Bukharan Jewry

Because until the beginning of the 16th century the Jews of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia constituted one community, they had a common literature, which was created in their common literary language—the classical Judeo-Persian. In the early 16th century the poet Khaja Bukhari composed a poem about Daniel, "Daniel-nama." In the 17th century the poet Elisha b. Samuel Raghib wrote a verse and prose work entitled Ben ha-Melekh ve-ha-Zufi ("The Prince and the Sufi") about the same subject which in Hebrew literature is treated in Abraham ibn Hasdai's Ben ha-Melekh ve-ha-Nazir ("The Prince and the Hermit"). In the 18th century the poet Joseph b. Isaac Bukhari wrote a poem "Antiochus nama" about the Maccabees and a poem "Haft Biradarau" ("Seven Brothers") about Hannah and her seven sons (following a poem on the same subject by a Judeo-Persian poet, Imrani, who lived at the end of the 15th–—beginning of the 16th century).

At the beginning of the 19th century the poet Ibrahim ibn Abi-l-Khayr dedicated a poem in memory of his contemporary Khuidadcha (Khudaidad) who had been executed for refusing to convert to Islam. R. Simeon Hakham (1843–1910), who came to Jerusalem in 1890, laid the foundation for the Erez Israel literary school of Bukharan Jewish literati, which engaged primarily in translations. His greatest achievements were the translation into Judeo-Tajik of the Bible and of Abraham Mapu's Ahavat Ziyyon, popular with generations of Bukharan Jews. Members of the school of R. Simeon Hakham also translated Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and Abraham Friedberg's Zikhronot le-Veit David.

The Judeo-Bukharan literature created during the Soviet period follows the path of Soviet literature in general. From an artistic point of view its most important creations are the prose works (whose most prominent representatives are J. Hayyimov, N. Fuzailov, M. Yitshaqbayev, B. Qalandrov, G. Samandarov). Drama, written for the most part for performance by amateur troupes, is influenced by contemporary Uzbek plays (the foremost dramatists are J. Hayyimov, and M. Amonov), while poetry is influenced by the Tajik literature, which in terms of language is very close to the Judeo-Bukharan literature. Prominent from the artistic standpoint are the poems of Muhib (Mordechai Bachayev) and Y. Kurayov.

As has been stated, Judeo-Bukharan literature ceased in 1940; from that time to the present day no work has been issued in this language in the Soviet Union.