Circumcision Ceremony, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 1993
Circumcision Ceremony, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 1993Click to Enlarge
These Bhukharan women have gathered together to perform a special ceremony for the newborn baby boy you see in the middle of the picture. This is how the photographer, Zion Ozeri, describes it: “It’s a custom—and I didn’t find it in any other community around the world, just there. It is right before a circumcision. You see the baby’s feet protrude here, and this one with the kettle, she’s actually pouring water on this matriarch who’s seated. The water first washes the baby’s feet and then her hands, and she makes a bracha [blessing]. And then they take the baby to be circumcised. What I like about it is that it’s women actually participating in this tradition—that they’re not just spectators, but they’re also participants.”
Although Jewish boys everywhere are circumcised when they’re eight days old, this hand- and footwashing custom is unique to the Jewish community of Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Jews have lived in Central Asia for centuries and have developed many distinctive traditions. Although some Jews still live in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, many have moved to Israel or to Queens, New York, where there are now large communities of Central Asian Jews.
וַיּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-אַבְרָהָם, וְאַתָּה אֶת-בְּרִיתִי תִשְׁמֹר-אַתָּה וְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ, לְדֹרֹתָם. זאֹת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְרוּ, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, אַחֲרֶיךָ: הִמּוֹל לָכֶם, כָּל-זָכָר.
God said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.
– Genesis (Bereshit) 17:9-10
God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.
– Yiddish saying