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If You're Going to Kazakhstan ...

November 2, 2006 By:
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Seen the movie, now see the bias?

If you're going to Kazakhstan, don't wear flowers in your hair. Or, for that matter, a Star of David.

Well, that's what's to be surmised from watching the new educational documentary, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," opening in non-Kazakhstan movie houses Nov. 3.

But with such publicity about anti-Semitism there, it's bound to become a popular tourist spot for the ingenuous who think Borat is a genius, an anti-Semitic savant.

Who wouldn't love the nation's new ad campaign: "Take the bias and leave the drivel to us."

But what's to do once you've been yelled at and ridiculed? If you've missed the Running of the Jew, there are many other options for Jewish tourists. And none involves cockroaches.

As the Jewish Virtual Library so prophetically puts it: "Jews in Kazakhstan have a relatively short history."

But there is a history. According to this source, "Under Communism, thousands of Jews were exiled by Stalin from the Pale of Settlement to Kazakhstan for practicing Judaism."

Oh, that Stalin, ever the prankster. "Most notably, Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the late Lubavicher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson."

Indeed, Kazakhstan actually saw an importation of nearly 9,000 Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II.

Let's Do a Head Count!

According to JVL, anywhere between 12,000 and 30,000 Jews now make Kazakhstan their home -- although why it couldn't pin down the number any closer is not exactly clear.

But if you need info or want to get a better idea of what a Jew must do when confronting a Borat, it's best to contact the Mitzvah Association or Chabad Lubavitch there. And for those wanting to wash up, there are two mikvahs in the region although reservations are suggested.

As for those who wonder if Borat knows bupkes about Jews ... Just how pervasive is anti-Semitism? Well, it may not be a great idea to invite your friendly government supervisor to the local hora hangout. According to the report, "Jews are occasionally beaten and harassed because of their identity."

The key word here, of course, is occasionally so if you're going during a good month ...

(There was that ugly incident when the country's secret police arrested a top Jewish leader, with the local press pressing for action against the "Zionists." "One even called upon the people to kill Jews," says JVL. But that was almost 10 years ago and is probably unimportant by now -- unless, of course, you're a Jew.)

But there is hope, or as Borat might say, "hype." Israel and Kazakstan have a mutually beneficial relationship, some six years after the Kazakh president headed an official the there.

And youth centers under the aegis of the Jewish Agency are open throughout the country, the largest being Almaty -- not to be confused with the Almighty.

As for dining options ... If you run into Borat in some dark alley and he offers you a piece of chicken -- some KFC (Kazakhstan Fresh Chicken), don't, of course, expect it to be kosher.

Just make sure it's not still alive.

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