Friday, October 5, 2007

Bukharian Jews celebrate Sukkot at Queens Gymnasia in Elmhurst

Wedged in a quiet alley, workers constructed a wooden frame with a latticed roof that stretched across back of the building.

In celebration of Sukkot, the seven-day Jewish festival that ended earlier this week, generations of Jews have built these temporary huts in backyards, or on porches. Like their ancestors who wandered the desert for 40 years in search of the Promised Land, they gather to eat, entertain and even sleep in these temporary dwellings.

It was no different this year at the Queens Gymnasia (a Russian term for secondary school) where Jewish students decorated the three-sided sukkah to honor Jewish identity, history and tradition.

The Queens Gymnasia in Elmhurst is a private, Orthodox school steeped in the Bukharian (Central Asian) Jewish culture. The school was founded in 2002 by Lev Leviev as a tuition-free, alternative to public school to address concerns of assimilation in New York and subsequent dilution of the Bukharian Jewish culture and traditions.

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