By Erin Levi

As I walked through the granite façade into the opulent marble hall of Surrogate’s Court, serenaded by a small orchestra and watching female goddesses floating around in sleek ikat dresses, I felt I had entered the world of «Bridgerton,» but set along the Silk Road.
Long white tables were set with beautiful Islamic-style lamps, which exuded a warm glow, and featured plentiful hors oeuvres, from nuts and dates to fried fish and fresh fruits (which we had to resist until sundown at 7:15pm, relatable for observant Jews.) The room could easily accommodate 500 people. Not to mention, each seat had a gift—a personal prayer rug and prayer beads, as well as a box of chocolate covered dates.
Mesmerized and gobsmacked, I wondered, are all Ramadan Iftar dinners like this?
This iftar dinner was a special one, organized by the nascent Silk Road Foundation. And my reaction was kind of the point. Founded in 2022 by Uzbekistan native Talib Mansurov, the Silk Road Foundation aims to both assist immigrants from Central Asia and uplift Central Asia’s image in America. Mansurov himself is an immigrant, having arrived from Samarkand to New York 18 years ago. He realized sharing his own experience could greatly benefit them, facilitating a quicker integration and progress.
«After discussing this idea with friends, they were enthusiastic, leading us to open the foundation to provide support in various areas, including immigration assistance such as document translation and notarization, services for which they’re typically charged $50-75 per document. Additionally, we offer guidance in English language lessons,» Mansurov told the Bukharian Times.
«In addition to our core services, we organize iftar events to introduce New Yorkers to the rich culture and cuisine of Uzbekistan. Prior to these events, Uzbekistan was often mistakenly associated with Afghanistan and Pakistan in New York. However, Uzbek culture and mentality are distinct. Our aim is to elevate Uzbekistan’s culture and showcase our unique identity to the people of NYC.»
It’s working.
At this second annual iftar, a number of high-level city officials attended and spoke—most of whom were Muslim themselves: Jumaane D. Williams, NYC Public Advocate; Kashif Hussain, NYC Deputy Public Advocate; Zohran K. Mamdani, New York State Assembly Member District 36; Khaleel M. Anderson, New York State
Assembly Member District 31; Rita Joseph, New York City Council Member District 40; Alexa Avilés, New York City Council Member District 38 (a rare female Muslim Latinx in public office); and Yusef Salaam, New York City Council Member District 9.
There was also a spoken word performance by Najah Abdul-Qawiyy, representing Muslim Sisters of Staten Island.
Awards were given out by the lovely ladies in Ikat dresses to businesses like Tashkent Supermarket, which now has six locations across the city, and Gosht, a chain restaurant from Uzbekistan which opened its first outpost in the US. Why them?

«They’re successful businesses and we want to show New York City that Uzbekistanis are successful business- and family-oriented people,» said Mansurov.
Umid Ismatullaev, Chairman of the Board of the «Uzbek Society of America,» was also presented with a certificate of honor. «In recognition of our humble work with our fellow compatriots living in the United States to help preserve our national identity, as well as our dedication to serving the diverse communities of New York City, I was presented with a Ramadan Certificate of Honor. This award will inspire and motivate us to work even harder for the benefit of our countrymen,» he said.
It was a diverse crowd, including a row of Bukharian Jews and their honored guests, such as myself and journalist Melik Kaylan.
Every time there was a call for ceasefire in Gaza, the room clapped. We looked down at our hands. Only Jumaane D. Williams expressed the demand that hostages must be released. Supporters of Israel are in the minority, and we could feel it.
During the speeches, I received a text from an Uzbek diplomat I met in 2021 ahead of my trip to Tashkent for the Central & South Asia conference.
«Hello,» he wrote. I replied, «Happy Ramadan, Oybek! I’m at the Silk Road Foundation’s Iftar now.»
«Me too,» he said.
I looked to my right. Oybek was seated right there! He was joined by his colleagues: Mr. Jamil Sharapov, Consul-General of Uzbekistan in New York; Mr. Rovsham Alimov, Minister-Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Uzbekistan to the UN; and Mr. Nurillo Abdullaev, Deputy Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the UN.
It was a special moment of interreligious solidarity at a time when relations between Jews and Muslims are explosive. If only we could come together more often, the world would be a better place.