Tell us about your hometown.

Quba is a town in Azerbaijan, also called Krasnaya Sloboda, is the only place with a significant population of mountain Jews in the former Soviet Union. Besides the fact that almost half of the city’s population is made up of Jews, Quba is unique in that it has a large number of synagogues – there are 13 of them – and all of them are beautifully renovated. I lived on Proletarskaya Street, later renamed in honor of my uncle Yitzhak Khanukov. On this street, he erected a monument.

Why was your uncle so famous?

He was a famous person in Quba, a correspondent for the Pravda and Izvestia newspapers, the chairman of the community, on the initiative of which a monument was erected.

How were Jewish traditions observed in your family?

My father worked in the synagogue, and he was the chairman of the religious community. His main principle of life was to help people. He always ensured that members of his community had everything they needed to celebrate Shabbat. My father tried to keep the synagogue in order, to make repairs as needed, to decorate the walls of the synagogue with natural wood.

Our whole life was led around Jewish traditions, holidays and Shabbat.

What holidays do you remember the most?

Sukkot and Passover. The Sukkot Holiday was celebrated by the entire village.

And did you have matzah on Passover?

We baked our own matzah at home. People brought clean kosher flour, and we baked matzah.

What an extraordinary Mitzvah! Who baked the matzah?

Baking matzah was a man’s job that was done by all the men of the family. My father had a partner, and the youth helped. We also always had kosher homemade wine for Passover that was brought from Derbent.

How were you able to have kosher meat in Quba?

We had Rabbi Melach, a famous rabbi and shochet, who at that time wrote in Jewish magazines. I still have his picture. Rabbi Melah slaughtered kosher meat on Pesach and other holidays. And for everyday life, he provided kosher meat to everyone.

Was the tableware for Pesach separate, or did you kosher your regular dishes?

Not only did we have special dishes for Passover, but we had separate ones for milk and meat. In addition, for Passover we always tried to buy new pots and pans.

In your opinion, did the emigration of traditional mountain Jews  from Quba to different countries have a negative impact on their  Jewish observance?

No, I think that the observance of our traditions has improved. Children are sent to Jewish schools, and young people study in yeshivas. Of course, those who live in Israel have it much easier, but those living in other countries also find ways to preserve their traditions. In our home, my wife and I maintain the observance of Jewish laws. I am sure that my sons will also pass on our traditions to their children.

What are your plans for the future?

I want my children and grandchildren, as well as all Jews, no matter where they live – in Quba, New York, Paris, Berlin Toronto – be healthy, happy, and so that the Jewish people will live forever. Am Yisrael chai!