While the speeches extolling the deceased begin in Bukhori, also called Judeo-Persian (Farsi mixed with Hebrew, Aramaic, Uzbek and Tajik), which is the native tongue of the Bukharian Jews, the guests sip and munch.
Course after course is served: fried carp dipped in garliccilantro sauce; round meat pies (samboosak); dumlama, a wheel of baked cabbage, tomato, meat and pepper; and plov, rice spiced with cumin and crowned with julienned carrots, chick peas and meat.
The scene is repeated all through the year - with some variations - at two dozen or so restaurants that have sprung up to accommodate the thousands of Bukharian Jews who have settled in Queens since the early 1970s.
Bukharian Jews are thriving here and elsewhere in the United States, modernizing yet trying to stay true to their heritage.
There are now an estimated 50,000 Bukharian Jews in New York City with practically all of them living in Queens.
(This makes Queens the second largest Bukharian Jewish community in the world; Israel is the first.) It is thought that only about 100 remain in Bukhara, the city in Uzbekhistan that was once the epicenter of their world.
This is Shalom from the Silk Road, the story of the Bukharians.
SINGINGReader: Zedekiah was the King of Judah and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.
We had a military curfew, soldiers every 10 meters.Friends and relatives have come to the Bukharian restaurant to honor the memory of prominent Jewish writer Lev Kandinov on the one-month anniversary of his death.Candles stand ready to be lit below his portrait, and long, rectangular tables are heaped with food: carrot, beet and mushroom salads; dishes of raisins, pickles and caraway wafers; non, a bialy-shaped bread topped with black sesame seeds; noni toqhi, matza-like in its flatness but baked into a curve against the dome of a tandoor; and bottles of seltzer, vodka and pots of green tea.Although Abayev admits to feeling tempted to move away from his parents’ watchful eyes, “I really can’t do that,” he says. You may find a job and girlfriend but you won’t have a family connection.You won’t have bachsh,” a traditional Bukharian dish, on Friday night.But Abayev has a different mind-set about family than most of his coworkers.