Borukhova Employed Mr. Mallayev
Religion has been a quiet presence in a Queens courtroom during the five-week murder trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova and Mikhail Mallayev, but solely hardly ever has their Jewish religion been the subject of frontal contention. Till last week.
On Thursday, Dr. Borukhova was forced to admit that she had violated the Sabbath to inquire about buying a spy camera camouflaged inside a button. But the real hassle started shortly afterward, when the defendants’ insistence on observing the Jewish day of rest conflicted with another inviolate period of repose — namely, the judge’s vacation.
The Talmudic details of the dispute will probably be defined shortly. But to understand its energy — why, for instance, it produced the first public disagreement between two defendants who have to this point resisted any temptation to blame each other for the killing of Dr. Borukhova’s husband in October 2007 — it is important to understand how religious and ethnic identity have pervaded the case.
The allegations — that Dr. Borukhova employed Mr. Mallayev, her cousin by marriage, to kill her husband, Daniel Malakov, during a bitter custody dispute over their daughter — have scandalized the small group of Bukharian Jews. All three households belong to the ethnic group, which immigrated, almost in its entirety, to the United States from Uzbekistan and different Central Asian countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bukharian Jews preserved their religion for nearly 3,000 years underneath the Persian Empire, Muslim khanates and Communist rule. They have settled primarily within the Forest Hills part of Queens, clustered round synagogues which might be conventional if not ultra-Orthodox — and now discover themselves riven by the family feud.
Both Dr. Borukhova and Mr. Mallayev advised the police that they’d never be concerned in anything illegal due to their religious beliefs.
Dr. Borukhova’s relations sit on daily basis within the second row of State Supreme Courtroom, murmuring prayers from books printed in Russian and Hebrew. Dr. Malakov’s relations occasionally hiss at them across the aisle.
Protecting their hair in accordance with religious rules for married women, Dr. Borukhova’s sisters wear bouffant wigs that turned an issue when prosecutors claimed that an eyewitness noticed one sister at the homicide scene.
Their mother, who, relying on which side is to be believed, both threatened Dr. Malakov that he would soon “go to God” or merely mentioned the almighty would punish him, opts for a fuzzy cloche hat.