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Boro group awards educator

For many of the thousands of Bukharian Jews who have fled their homes in the former Soviet Union for Rego Park and Forest Hills in recent years, one of the first stops for them after they arrive in the United States is Bramson ORT College.

Bukharians, who left Central Asia following the breakup of the former Soviet Union because of economic decline and civil unrest, often came to Queens equipped with extensive educational backgrounds but needed help with language and job training skills — which they soon learned they could receive at Bramson ORT in Forest Hills.

Ephraim Buhks, director of U.S. ORT Operations and Bramson ORT College director, has worked hard to reach out to Bukharian community members to ensure they land the help they need to succeed.

These efforts were recently lauded by the Bukharian Jewish Congress of the United States and Canada and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). The Queens-based organization and politician gave Buhks the Community Leadership Award at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills last week.

“Our organization has been working for many years with Mr. Buhks,” said Rafael Nektalov, editor-in-chief of The Bukharian Times ,who nominated Buhks for the award. “We’ve seen Mr. Buhks coming many times to our community to ask how Bramson can help the immigrants in our community. Many immigrant people from the former Soviet Union come here and study at this beautiful college.”

Bramson ORT is a two-year technical college with a campus on Austin Street. It is part of ORT, the Organization for Educational Resource and Technological Training, a nonprofit that operates a worldwide network of schools and training centers in more than 60 countries.

Buhks said it made sense for him to reach out to the Bukharians because there are about 50,000 members of the community living around the college in the Forest Hills and Rego Park neighborhoods.

“Because we’re in Forest Hills, it’s not surprising we trained and retrained thousands of people in that community,” Buhks said. “Now we’re training their children, and hopefully we’ll be training their grandchildren in the next couple years. It’s important to help people who dropped everything and came to a country without language skills and only had the hope they’d succeed.”

Under Buhks’ leadership, they started English as a Second Language courses in the 1980s and career-oriented classes aimed to help students immediately land jobs, such as in computer technology or business management.

“We helped them to find successful employment in businesses and some opened their own businesses,” Buhks said.

Buhks has long worked with Bukharians to ensure immigrants felt at ease in their new surroundings, and he and community members recently worked to offer a course on the history of Central Asia.

“The kids who grew up here know very little of the area they originally come from, and the community wants to make sure cultural heritage would be passed on to the new generation,” Buhks said.

Zoya Yakubova, Bramson’s community coordinator, said the college has transformed the lives of many of the more than 40,000 Bukharians living in the borough.

“When they come here, most of them get ESL from Bramson ORT,” said Yakubova, a Bukharian from Rego Park. “We’re the first place they come.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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