Bukharan Kashrut Stamp
This is a stamp used to signify that certain foodstuffs are kosher according to Jewish Law. The stamp was used by the Bukharan Jews (Jews who live in the region of Bukhara in Central Asia, now split across Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan), and although the exact years in which this stamp was used are not known, the stamp was photographed in 1992 upon its arrival at the National Library.
The metal stamp includes two verses from Psalms in its design – אם אשכחך ירושלים תשכח ימיני"" (If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill (Psalms 137:5) and "מי יתן מציון ישועת ישראל" (Psalm 14:7). Both verses show the connection between the Jewish community in the diaspora and Jerusalem. In the centre of the stamp is a Star of David and two engravings. On the right is a man seen sowing, and on the left are woman beside the Western Wall.
For many centuries, kosher food wasn’t marked or stamped, due mainly to the explicit trust that the local Jews had in each other's businesses. Food was prepared and sold locally, and due to the lack of technological advances, food could not be stored for any length of time. With the advent of refrigerators, freezers and more advanced preserving agents, it became possible to sell food many miles away from where it had been prepared. As such, kosher stamps were necessary to demonstrate that the food had been prepared according to the strict laws which govern kosher food.
The Jews of Bukhara can trace their roots back to the time when the Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Persians in 539BCE. Although their situation as a Jewish minority was noticeably better than that of European Jews, for many centuries they suffered various levels of discrimination depending on the controlling power of the region. The Bukharan community is now split between the US and Israel, with less than 10,000 now remaining in the Central Asian region. Due to it having been cut off from other Jewish communities, many unique customs developed over the centuries within the Bukharan community.
Connection to Parashat Shemini
Parashat Shemini contains the Jewish laws relating to kashrut. Specificall, Parashat Shemini focusses on which animals are kosher and which are not. The Torah works its way methodically through a list of animals, fish and birds, all the while detailing which physical attributes must be present in order for an animal to be kosher.
As can be seen in this stamp, Jews throughout history and all around the world, conformed to these dietary laws. Stamps such as this, or other markings and certificated ensured that Jews could keep these laws and differentiate between Kosher and non-Kosher food. Today, many packages have kosher symbols printed upon them, showing the certifying organisation.
This resource can be used by a Jewish Studies teacher to discuss the Jewish dietary laws, and the lengths taken by Jewish communities to ensure that these were followed. Teachers can also take a close look at the stamp and recognise the different Jewish motifs and verses.
A Jewish History teacher can use this resource to discuss the ancient community of Bukhara, and the changes that the community has undergone over the centuries.
What is featured in this picture?
Where in the world does this object come from?
What language is written on the object?
What do the words mean?
What images are engraved on the stamp?
Reading Between the Lines
For what would the object be used?
Why was this stamp necessary?
Who would have used this stamp?
Why would there be Hebrew writing on the stamp instead of the local language?
What are the Jewish dietary laws?
What kind of food could have this stamp?
What kind of food could not have this stamp?
What do kashrut stamps look like today?
Do you know any people who are Bukharans, or have links to the community?
Create a timeline of the Bukharan community throughout the ages.