Bukharan Jews - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. Before the beginning of the twentieth century, Bukharan Jewish males were the heads of their patrilineal extended families. The father regulated household expenditures and dominated his sons and their families. Each married couple had separate quarters, but everyone ate from a common kitchen. In the twentieth century a process of separation of married sons from the common household began, leading to the now-predominant pattern of separate nuclear families.

Bukharan Jewish kinship terminology was highly developed. Earlier, Bukharan Jews, as was the case with Jews in general, practiced levirate marriage as well as a ritual ceremony for its refusal, called halitso. Before the Sovietization of Central Asia the overwhelminging majority of marriages were monogamous, though there were instances of men having two wives; usually these were rich men or men whose first wives were barren.

Marriage. Bukharan Jews nearly always marry other Bukharan Jews. The parents of the groom send a matchmaker to the parents of the bride. When both sides have agreed to the marriage a betrothal takes place ( shirinhuri), and later, the marriage ceremony ( kidush). In the old days, children were sometimes betrothed while still in the cradle. Formerly, after a betrothal, a kudobini ceremony (meeting of the parents of the bride and groom) was also performed, as was the rubinoti (viewing of the bride's face), at which time the first meeting of groom and bride occurred. On the Saturday before the wedding there was an inspection of the bride's dowry and a party for the bride. The family of the groom paid a bride-price ( kalin ) for the bride, but the dowry usually was larger. On Sunday the bride was taken to the baths, and on Monday the women celebrated the painting of the bride's hands with henna. On Tuesday the Hebrew marriage contract ( ktubo ) was drawn up. The marriage ceremony, performed by a rabbi, took place on Wednesday under a canopy (hupo), followed by a wedding feast ( tuy). Divorce was permitted among Bukharan Jews, and a law existed to regulate marriages of widows.

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