The Bukharian community in Phoenix, Arizona, is thriving, with hundreds of families settling in the Grand Canyon State over the past two decades. The economy and housing market has grown dramatically during this time, and the Jewish community has benefited greatly.
However, one area that the Bukharian community is still struggling with is providing a full Jewish education for its youth. Starting daily after-school programs along with creating a community yeshivah is a must for the community to truly thrive from a spiritual sense. It is with this in mind that this past Shabbat (June 18-19), Rabbi Baruch Cohen, rav of Ahavat Israel, hosted a special Shabbaton with Rav Ilan Meirov, director of the renowned Chazaq organization.
While Chazaq is known for inspiring thousands of men and women throughout the calendar year via their lectures, their main mission is to provide a Jewish foundation to the thousands of public school students in the New York area. Chazaq has been a pioneer in the field of youth outreach, and they were asked to bring their services to the desert in Phoenix.
The temperature in Arizona for the Shabbat was a scorching 118°F. Yet that didn’t stop over 150 community members, including 70 public school teens, from joining the special Shabbat experience.
The Shabbat program included lavish meals exclusively for the teens, followed by separate classes for teens and parents. The lectures were so engaging that they extended late into the night. In fact, from Friday night through Motza’ei Shabbat, Rabbi Meirov lectured for nearly eight hours and opened up the floor for several intense question-and-answer sessions.
The teens challenged the rabbi on many areas of Jewish law and ideology, and he provided answers to each question, bringing about clarity that they had been lacking. The highlight was on Motza’ei Shabbat when many community members accepted to increase their Torah observance and took their first step by publicly donning a new pair of tzitzit that was graciously sponsored by the Shamsiyev family.
As the weekend came to an end, the community felt a great spiritual elevation and are thirsty for more programming. Rabbi Cohen and Rabbi Meirov spoke of working together to bring about more exciting and educational programs for the youth in Phoenix.