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Borukhova Employed Mr. Mallayev

Religion has been a quiet presence in a Queens courtroom through the 5-week murder trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova and Mikhail Mallayev, but solely hardly ever has their Jewish religion been the topic of frontal contention. Till last week.

On Thursday, Dr. Borukhova was forced to admit that she had violated the Sabbath to inquire about shopping for a spy camera camouflaged inside a button. But the real hassle started shortly afterward, when the defendants’ insistence on observing the Jewish day of relaxation conflicted with another inviolate interval of repose — namely, the judge’s vacation.

The Talmudic particulars of the dispute will probably be defined shortly. However to grasp its energy — why, as an example, it produced the first public disagreement between two defendants who have up to now resisted any temptation to blame each other for the killing of Dr. Borukhova’s husband in October 2007 — it is important to grasp 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 community of Bukharian Jews. All three households belong to the ethnic group, which immigrated, nearly in its entirety, to the United States from Uzbekistan and different Central Asian nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Bukharian Jews preserved their religion for almost 3,000 years underneath the Persian Empire, Muslim khanates and Communist rule. They’ve settled primarily within the Forest Hills part of Queens, clustered around synagogues which might be traditional if not extremely-Orthodox — and now find themselves riven by the family feud.

Both Dr. Borukhova and Mr. Mallayev instructed the police that they would never be concerned in something illegal due to their religious beliefs.

Dr. Borukhova’s relations sit every day 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 throughout the aisle.

Protecting their hair in accordance with religious rules for married women, Dr. Borukhova’s sisters put on bouffant wigs that turned a difficulty when prosecutors claimed that an eyewitness noticed one sister at the murder scene.


Their mom, who, depending on which facet is to be believed, either threatened Dr. Malakov that he would soon “go to God” or merely stated the almighty would punish him, opts for a fuzzy cloche hat.


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