Walk into Mordchai Leviyev’s modest shop on 16th Avenue and you’d
be surprised by the amount of services you could get there. The prominent
yellow awning sign atop the shop states that it is a shoe repair. But
underneath that, the words “barber shop” are also highlighted. Look a little
closer and you see that he also repairs watches and does tailoring and
One thing that may not stick out in Boro Park but which
Mordchai, or Mark, Leviyev, is especially proud is that he is a shomer
Shabbos. The words hang conspicuously on his storefront.
“Boruch Hashem, I am a Jew,” he says simply.
But a lot stands behind that announcement. Mordchai immigrated to the United States in 1996 from Uzbekistan, where his shoe repair
catered to a varied clientele of Jews and non-Jews. Now, his small shop which
abuts the colossal new Krasna beis medrash on 44th Street hums mostly with frum
Mordchai, a quiet Bucharian Yid, was born in Samarkand, and
supported himself in that dry and hot southern Russian city by learning how to
fix shoes. When he arrived here 25 years ago, he promptly reopened his shop at
the same location — 4313 16th Ave. — where he is today. Shoes are shoes,
whether they trod the roads of Samarkand or the streets of Boro Park.
Mordchai is happy to be continuing his practice across two
continents. Asked how he feels about his customers who frequent his 16th Avenue
shop he answers simply, “very good.” And those he left behind in Samarkand?
There are not that many Jewish families left in der heim if
he chooses to visit. Of the hundreds of friends and relatives he recalls from Samarkand,
just ten Jewish families are now left there. A former Communist country, Jews
left as soon as they could after the Iron Curtain lifted in the early 1990s.
The people there are mostly Muslim but its regime is the rare government in
that neighborhood with good relations with Israel and a kind attitude toward
Mordchai biggest challenge right now is handling a virus
he’s never heard of but which is preventing his customers from coming in with
their requests for cuts, trims, bangs, squares and shaves.
“Of course it’s no good,” he said. “But boruch Hashem,
everybody is fine.”