The true meaning of community bloomed “Bukharian style” Aug. 19 with the official dedication of Beth Itzhak Synagogue in Norcross. Two hundred local and distinguished out-of-town guests came to fête founder and leader Anatoliy Iskhakov and admire the beautiful, newly redecorated building.
True to Bukharian form, I was promised two things: back-to-back speeches; and an overabundance of elaborate food. Both rang true. Mostly in Russian, non-stop toasts filled both levels as I was seated in the top balcony with the women overlooking the sanctuary set up with white fabric and gold bow-backed chairs. In any language the pride, joy, and thanks to Iskhakov for his leadership permeated. Grey Goose, Jack Daniels and cabernet contributed to the ebullience.
Served family style, the first course was a variety of smoked fish: nova, mackerel, herring and a melt-in-your-mouth butterfish. The salads were spiced shredded carrots, pea-laced potato salad, stuffed mini peppers, marinated dill tomatoes and cucumbers, and a grilled eggplant-onion combination. The staff cleared all that was out and, violà, replaced with platters of garlic fingerling potatoes and planks of “just right” salmon. Next was a dramatic variety of flaming Bukharian samsa pastries: pumpkin, onion, and chopped beef. The final course was fire-cooked pilaf with meat, garlic, and carrots. Refreshing fruit platters topped it off.
The chief Bukharian rabbi from New York, Itzhak Yehoshua, who led the earlier Ma’ariv service, and his wife, Batia, joined well-wishers from Florida to Canada. Iskhakov’s daughter, Lilly, a medical research scientist, came from Jerusalem with her daughter Shandel. “I just had to come to this dedication since I well remember when the shul first started in 1998 in the basement of a house. Tonight, we see a melting pot of Moroccan, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews celebrating in this fabulous structure,” Lilly said.
Anatoliy’s brother-in-law, Efraim Kusayev, a local private investigator, has been serving as the synagogue’s president for the past four years. “About 200 families constitute our membership, 40 of which are in the immediate area. I am flying high with happiness at the culmination of this great event, watching it all come together!”