Cultures throughout the world support and implement very specific practices that impact their daily lives. These practices may include the ability to manage their health and wellbeing in different ways. Therefore, it is important to recognize the manner in which these cultures manage their health concerns to improve their health and wellbeing. The Bukharian Jews represent a unique set of customs and approaches to managing their religious beliefs and their health and wellbeing, and these factors are critical in supporting their development and growth as a culture with specific health concerns and needs, similar to those of other cultures.
Many cultures practice a variety of different approaches in managing their health; therefore, these practices play a role in shaping outcomes and expectations for these groups. Specific cultures identify a number of important areas to consider when addressing their specific needs and seek methods of supporting their members through organized practices and customs that support their cultural and religious beliefs. Within this context, it is important to recognize the needs of individuals within the culture and how their healthcare needs might be impacted by customs and preferences based upon religion and other needs. One culture of interest is the Bukharian Jews, a group of Jewish individuals who are true to their religion and represent their beliefs in different ways throughout their communities. The following discussion will address the important cultural considerations of this population and will consider some of the most important unique customs of this culture and its people in the context of health and wellbeing.
Bukharian Jews are derived from a specific area of Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan, both of which were former members of the Soviet Union, and are found in a number of US cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago, amongst others (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). It is known that for the people of this culture, families are very important and many generations live in close quarters and connect on many levels (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). This group is also characterized by specific behaviors such as aggression and hostility in many members, which is often passed down to infants and children (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). In this context, it is important to evaluate the different cultural identifiers and expectations that make this group unique and diverse in their beliefs and customs.
Bukharian Jews are also represented by a culture that emphasizes income over individual achievements, and this is created through an effective understanding of an individual’s place in the family environment (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). In many families, “The boys may feel responsible for the family’s financial hardships and may drop out of school to start earning money, an action that is approved by the community” (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996, p. 247). This is an important means of income for family members, but it does not enable these children to succeed in an academic setting in an effective manner (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). Therefore, the decisions regarding family members may be challenging and cause considerable harm if they are not properly managed (Halberstadt and Nilolsky, 1996).
In terms of the development of this culture, Bukharian Jews are represented by a challenging approach to healthcare and treatment. For example, this group does not openly approve of any type of mental health services if there are concerns regarding mental health and wellbeing that have been identified (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). For this group, “For a Bukharan client it is dangerous to seek help with mental health problems. If this information leaks into the community, the social standing of the family is in jeopardy and the marriageability of the children is in danger too…As mental illness carries such a stigma, the family usually minimizes serious mental problems (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996, p. 249). Under these conditions, mental health concerns are not treated by mental health professionals, as this type of intervention is inappropriate and does not reflect the true ideals of the group and its people (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). These efforts convey the importance of different perspectives to this group, many of which do not identify with more traditional approaches to managing mental health as perceived by other cultures that embrace modern medicine (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996).
From the perspective of the younger population within the Bukharian Jews, it is important to recognize the disconnect that exists between these individuals and their older counterparts. For example, many young adults within this group might not find it difficult to embrace modern ideals and perspectives; however, marriage and family is another matter and may lead to difficult complications for many people (Schoenberg, 2013). If marriage is pursued in the traditional Bukharian manner, the marriage is typically arranged and serves as a primary connection to the childhood home and family environment (Schoenberg, 2013). At the same time, it is important to recognize that if an individual were to marry outside of the faith, this is almost an immediate cutoff from the family unit, as ties will be severed and the family member will be shunned from the community (Schoenberg, 2013). This is an unfortunate circumstance that many young Bukharian Jews do not wish to experience; therefore, they seek guidance and the courtship of the appropriate spouses for marriage and to create families of their own (Schoenberg, 2013). Nonetheless, there is a severe disconnect between many of the younger members of the faith and their families and members of other communities, particularly when these members strive for acceptance into modern living (Schoenberg, 2006).
For Bukharian Jews, there is a significant challenge to consider with respect to chronic illness and healthcare services because this group does not typically accept many services from the outside world because they appear to conflict with their existing practices (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). In this context, it is important to recognize the value of creating an environment that educates this population regarding the importance of obtaining adequate healthcare and treatment as necessary to accommodate the needs of this population and its primary health concerns (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996). From this perspective, it is also important to determine how to best move forward and to create an environment that embraces change and progress, while also considering that modern healthcare practices are not an infringement upon their cultural and religious freedoms, but instead, provide a greater opportunity to explore the different dimensions of care and treatment that are available to this group to enable them to lead healthier and more productive lives (Halberstadt and Nikolsky, 1996).
The Bukharian Jews in the United States have faced difficult challenges due to their cultural limitations and perspectives regarding healthcare and treatment alternatives. However, this group maintains a close knit relationship amongst families and other community members and continues to maintain its customs, in spite of modernization efforts. For many of these people who qualify for physical or mental health treatment, challenges may exist that lead to significant challenges for this population when they are unable to seek support due to cultural and religious restrictions. Therefore, members of this culture must consider their options and seek new alternatives in order to achieve greater health and wellbeing on a consistent basis. These efforts are critical to the ongoing longevity of this population and their ability to adhere to their customs and cultural beliefs as required. Nonetheless, a balance must be drawn between the needs and demands of the culture and the needs of its people who face any number of health risks in their daily lives, as these perspectives support the necessity to improve health outcomes for this group over time so that they are not without the resources that are necessary to expand health and wellbeing.
Halberstadt, A., and Nikolsky, A. (1996). Bukharan Jews and their adaptation to the United States. Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Summer 1996, 244-255.
Schoenberg, S. (2013). Buhkarian Jews walk tightrope in U.S. between tradition, modernity. Retrieved from http://www.cjp.org/page.aspx?id=78164
Schoenberg, S. (2006). Not your typical hyphenated-American: young Bukharian Jews struggle with their American Jewish identity. Retrieved from http://bechollashon.org/database/index.php?/article/2086