Not a joke: A rabbi, a lawyer, and the mayor walk into a bar. Not just any bar, but the open bar at Floral Terrace in Floral Park, NY, where the Bukharian Law Association (BLA) hosted its first annual holiday soirée. The inaugural event took place on Thursday, December 21, 2023. There were live musical performances, a raffle, and a lavish Glatt Kosher buffet. Women dressed to perfection and men sported suits. This was a seriously jubilant occasion for Bukharian Jews.
«We are very, very happy with this historic Bukharian Law Association event, sponsored by my law firm, Jacobs PC,» said BLA founder Leo Jacobs to the Bukharian Times. «About 115 members showed up to the soirée, and with G-d’s grace, so did the mayor who came and gave us a big speech.»
Blessings from Rabbi Babaev
The evening was, in fact, opened by the chief rabbi of Bukharian Jews in the USA and Canada, Rabbi Baruch Babaev. Welcoming New York City Mayor Eric Adams, community leaders, and the organizers of the BLA, he said (in Russian): «It’s great that Jews can gather and discuss issues that are relevant to our community; Today is a historic day in the life of our entire immigration, because this event reflects the enormous social changes that have occurred in it.»
He recalled that the Talmud assigns a special role to fair and objective judging, which is the cornerstone of Judaism. Using the example of King Solomon (when faced with two women who claimed to be the mother of the same baby, he determined the real mother by observing each one’s reaction to the prospect of cutting the baby in half), he revealed the importance of not only using a formal, strictly-within-the-law-based approach to solving problems.
Rav Babaev blessed the BLA and wished the association interesting and important work for the benefit of the community of Bukharian Jews in America.
The Mayor’s Address
Then, Jacobs introduced Mayor Adams, who sauntered through strobe-lights and took the mic.
«Thank you, really. Think about it. When one asks about professions, there are probably two professions that stand out internationally—the medical profession and the legal profession,» said the mayor.
Now for the joke: «You know, a mother celebrates when you come home and say, ‘I’m going to marry a doctor or a lawyer.’ Nobody celebrates if you say you’re going to marry a mayor,» the mayor quipped, eliciting laughter from the audience.
On a more serious note, the mayor continued, «With that title comes so much responsibility. And this association’s first event… [comes at] a time when being an attorney plays such a crucial role, as we are watching what is playing out across the landscape of not only our city, but our entire globe.»
He then urged a deeper engagement to foster moral rectitude: «How do we use the profession not only to become economically sound, but make our country and our globe become morally correct?
«And I’m asking you to really lean into using your profession. Number one, to go out to social media and how it is spreading antisemitism and hate. We need to challenge the social media platforms and the algorithm that they’re using to poison our children and destroy our family.
«Number two: Use your legal profession to look at our college campuses and make sure we challenge how hate is being spread on our college campuses and how we challenge that every day.
«And number three: How do we use your legal profession to fight on behalf of children and their families? The everyday working New Yorker who wants to provide stability for their family is finding [recent legislation] that handcuffs our police and allows those who commit crimes to repeatedly terrorize our city and community.
«We need you now more than ever. I believe this association is so important and that’s why I came in tonight. As soon as I met Leo for the first time, I saw his vision, I saw his focus. I saw his fortitude to see the sleeping giant of this community. This is an important community. You have shown that you believe in family. You believe in faith. You believe in public safety. You believe in education. You believe in the things that I believe in.
«And together we can take back not only our city, but also our country that has been hijacked by those that don’t believe by those foundational things that we believe in. Let’s do it together. Hope you had a great Hanukkah and Happy New Year to you all.»
Attendees clapped and cheered for the mayor, a great friend of the Jewish people in New York.
of Bukharian Pride
Next, in a room brimming with legal prowess, Enessa Mullokandova, Personal Injury Committee Chair of the BLA, delivered an inspiring address, highlighting the unique journey that brought them together.
Mullokandova acknowledged the sacrifices of their parents, who immigrated from the Soviet Union with the hope of providing a brighter future. With pride, she remarked on the collective accomplishment of the community in realizing those aspirations.
«Look around yourselves. It’s a room full of attorneys. Not just regular attorneys. We’re Bukharian attorneys,» Mullokandova exclaimed. «Our parents immigrated from the Soviet Union to give a better future to their kids. And guess what? You all accomplished it. I want to thank our parents and Hashem.» Emphasizing the limitless potential of the community, she declared, «They say sky is the limit. We say sky is just the beginning.»
In a concluding note, Mullokandova invoked a sense of patriotism, and Trumpism, rallying Bukharian lawyers with the words, «Make America Great Again, Bukharian lawyers. Thank you, Leo.»
Bukharian Women’s Committee
Expressing gratitude for the successful event that brought together the community and featured the esteemed presence of the Mayor, Maritanna (Mari) Isakov, acknowledged the challenges of orchestrating such an event in a short span of two weeks, commending the attendees for their support: «Give yourselves a round of applause for coming here and taking the time to show up for what’s important,» she said.
During her address, Isakov emphasized the importance of showcasing commitment to justice and embracing heritage: «And what’s important is showing up for justice and embracing our heritage.» Proudly serving as the Bukharian Women’s Committee Chair, she lauded the intelligence, articulation, and professionalism of the women in the Bukharian law community, noting their historical journey in the legal profession and urging continued advocacy for equality:
«I’m proud and humbled and honored to be the Bukharian Women’s Committee Chair of the Bukharian Law Association. We have the most intelligent, articulate, professional, wonderful women in the Bukharian law community and I’m proud to know them. So, please give a round of applause to all the women lawyers here.
«I think it’s important to note that maybe a hundred years ago, this was not the chosen profession of a Bukharian woman. I think that we’ve come so far and in such a great way, and it’s on us to make sure that the women in our community have justice and know their rights so that they’re not in a position where they can’t help themselves. It’s on us to do that for them,» she said.
An Inspiring Trajectory
Beginning as a WhatsApp group in November 2022, the BLA has now grown to over 150 dues-paying members. The association aims to foster community and cultural engagement, in part through events such as this one, and act as a united force representing the Bukharian community. But this force should not be insular—it should have an outward impact on other organizations, and an impact on the world.
«The greatest thing about this is the shared identity. That is not something Bukharians shy away from. We’re very inspiring in the way we move. If you ask anybody outside of our community, [they can attest that] we are very, very blessed that we have the opportunities that we as a collective have created [over the course of our 20th century exodus] from [the former USSR], and that our shared identity is much more robust and impactful if we do it through this association, and show ourselves as a unit in creating networking events, and having political and cultural influence on the outside world,» said Jacobs.
The next event will serve as a fundraiser to purchase a brick-and-mortar community building for the BLA. Prominent guests such as local state and federal politicians, influential community leaders, CEOs, influencers, and community activists will be invited. The building will be «a place to share ideas and educate Bukharian law students, lawyers, and judges,» said Jacobs, crafting a space where legal minds can thrive—and maybe share a joke or two along the way.