[T]his is a readable, illuminating, and in many ways pathbreaking book. Highly recommended.
This ambitious volume, the product of 20 years of research and writing, explores Bukharan Jews on three continents to shed light on centers and peripheries in Jewish life and on the complexities of defining Jewish peoplehood. Part history, part ethnography, part memoir, the volume ranges expertly over two centuries of Bukharan Jewish life, from the community's "discovery" by Western Jews to its dispersion following the fall of the Soviet Union. In addition to casting light on an exotic community, now largely relocated to Israel and the US, Cooper uses her case study to illuminate two contrasting paradigms of Jewish peoplehood, one that posits a controlling "center" of Jewish life and the other ("the edah paradigm") that celebrates multiplicity. The analysis would have benefited from more attention to non-Jewish studies of phenomena like "ethnicization," and its use of edah will be confusing to those familiar with Daniel Elazar's use of that term in a political science context. Nevertheless, this is a readable, illuminating, and in many ways pathbreaking book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. -- J. D. Sarna, Brandeis University