Article - Rabbi Shimon Hakham
RABBI SHIMON HAKHAM
THE BUKHARAN COMMUNITY
During the middle of the eighteenth century, the Jews of Bukhara were forced to convert to Islam. In 1793 the "Shadar" (rabbinical messenger) Rabbi Yosef Maman left Safed (Zefat) 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 observance 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 Jews 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 4,000 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) in Jerusalem, 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 Jerusalem's Jaffa Road and donated funds for constructing orphanages and hospitals. Even as late as 1911, the hospitalization expenses of the city's poor were covered by the Bukharan community.
THE BUKHARIM QUARTER IN JERUSALEM
In 1890, seven members of the Bukharan community established the Hovevei Zion movement, which founded the "Rehovot ha-Bukharim" Quarter in central Jerusalem. Eighteen synagogues, a Talmud Torah (religious school), a Beit 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 cow sheds for the production of milk products were built; cotton was planted in the community's fields and the Hebrew high school, which had among its teachers the future president of Israel 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 neighborhood and until 1939, its members ordered 170 books from Jerusalem printers.
The piece de resistance of the Bukharim 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 by the British in 1917, a reception in the "Armon" in honor of General Allenby was organized by Chaim Weizmann and James Rothschild. In the same year, 200 Jewish soldiers serving in the British army attended a Seder (the ceremonial Passover meal) there. In 1921 the founding Convention of the Chief Rabbinate took place at the "Armon", at which Rabbis A. I. 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 (see Etzel - Irgun Tzvai Leumi). Today the "Armon" is noted for its historical and architectural importance.
RABBI SHIMON HAKHAM
One of the founders of the Bukharim Quarter was Rabbi Shimon Hakham, a great-grandson of Rabbi Yosef Maman, the "Shadar" who traveled from Safed to visit the Bukharan Jews. Rabbi Shimon 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 immigrated to Israel with their son and settled in Jerusalem. On his arrival he joined the Hovevei Zion movement. Later he returned to Bukhara to close up his business and while he was there his wife died in Jerusalem. He returned to Jerusalem and devoted himself to the education of his only son, Pinhas. When Pinhas died suddenly at the age of 18 Rabbi Shimon was grief-stricken and dedicated himself to writing and translating. He died in Jerusalem in 1910.
Rabbi Shimon Hakham wrote 32 books and translated part of the Bible into the Judeo-Tajiki dialect. Besides his religious writings he translated the Hebrew novelist Abraham Mapu's book Ahavat Zion. Rabbi Hakham was very active as leader of the community, a Zionist, and an author. He has been described as "one of the greatest figures of the Jewish people in the period of the national revival".
The stamp shows a portrait of Rabbi Shimon Hakham and the "Armon" in Jerusalem's Bukharim Quarter.