Car­a­van of Hope: A Bukha­ran Wom­an’s Jour­ney to Freedom

  • Review
By – January 8, 2024

In 2017, Zina Abra­ham attend­ed a Chabad women’s study group in Flori­da. She was asked where she was orig­i­nal­ly from. Her answer sparked much inter­est: she was born in a Russ­ian prison in 1933.

Authored by her daugh­ter, Dahlia Abra­ham-Klein, Car­a­van of Hope is an incred­i­ble sto­ry of dis­place­ments, immi­gra­tions, and per­se­ver­ance. In addi­tion to recount­ing Zina’s life, Abra­ham-Klein describes the his­to­ry and cul­ture of Bukha­ran Jews — the ances­tors of Jews who lived in the Cen­tral Asian Emi­rate of Bukhara, which is now pri­mar­i­ly Uzbek­istan. They spoke Bukha­ran, a dialect of the Tajik lan­guage and a form of Per­sian. Long per­se­cut­ed and dis­crim­i­nat­ed against in their iso­lat­ed com­mu­ni­ties, Bukha­ran Jews lived pre­car­i­ous lives that depend­ed on the whims of var­i­ous rulers, polit­i­cal forces, and ever-chang­ing edicts and laws.

Zina’s father, Hasid Shamash, was a suc­cess­ful mer­chant who plied the ancient Asian car­a­van trade routes and was forced to run from the author­i­ties for hav­ing dia­monds in his pos­ses­sion. His preg­nant wife, Dora, was put in prison when she wouldn’t give up Hasid’s where­abouts. Dora was even­tu­al­ly freed — but only six months after her daugh­ter Zina was born. They then began a per­ilous jour­ney of escape and exile through Rus­sia, Afghanistan, Pak­istan, India, and Israel before they final­ly set­tled in the US. Dora was a mod­ern thinker who, unlike most Bukha­ran women, had expe­ri­ence work­ing out­side the home and learned to sur­vive and adapt to new con­di­tions and sur­round­ings. She strove to hold onto her deep Bukha­ran and Jew­ish roots as she brought up her grow­ing family.

Car­a­van of Hope is full of rich cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal details. Abra­ham-Klein writes at length about the sig­nif­i­cance of her ances­tors’ tra­di­tions, cus­toms, foods, and dress. Although tra­di­tion­al women’s roles and strict adher­ence to Jew­ish law were high­ly val­ued, Dora — who was often alone due to her husband’s busi­ness trav­els — made sure to instill sur­vival skills, busi­ness acu­men, and an appre­ci­a­tion for high­er edu­ca­tion in her daugh­ters and son.

Zina mar­ried her hus­band, Bukha­ran Yehu­da Abra­ham, in Israel, but moved with him to India for the sake of his busi­ness. In the 1950s, Zina, Yehu­da, and their fam­i­ly immi­grat­ed to Rego Park, New York seek­ing reli­gious, edu­ca­tion­al, and finan­cial free­doms. Soon, Yehuda’s fam­i­ly busi­ness was thriv­ing, even expand­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly. They moved to a new home, became active in the Sephardic com­mu­ni­ty, built a new Sephardic tem­ple, and engaged in world­wide phil­an­thropy work. Untold num­bers of Bukha­ran Jews passed through the Abraham’s Queens home, where Zina and Yehu­da gra­cious­ly pro­vid­ed food, cloth­ing, mon­ey, advice, employ­ment, and suc­cor. They became com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and the recip­i­ents of numer­ous awards and accolades.

This sweep­ing account of Zina Abraham’s life con­tains a map of Cen­tral Asia, sim­ple-to-fol­low trans­la­tions, a suc­cinct time­line (1906 – 2017), and pages of Zina’s extend­ed family’s pho­tos — all of which enhance the read­ing expe­ri­ence and reflect the his­to­ry of many Jews. Abra­ham-Klein writes from a place of love and respect for her fam­i­ly, chron­i­cling their sto­ry of sur­vival, com­mit­ment, and unre­lent­ing hope.

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

Discussion Questions