Ukraine’s only mohel returns to warzone on a Jewish mission – Ynetnews

Posted By on June 26, 2022

When Ukraine's only mohel received a call to conduct a brit milah, a Jewish religious male circumcision ceremony, in the war-torn country, he did not hesitate for a second to leave his refuge in Austria and make the difficult journey home.

Up until the war, Rabbi Dr. Yasha (Yaakov) Gaisinovich was living in Ukraine, but when the fighting broke out, him and his family were forced to flee to Vienna. There, the Austrian Jewish community has taken the family under their wing, and the rabbi has been living in the city ever since.

3 View gallery

Dr. Yasha (Yaakov) Gaisinovich

(Photo: Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Ukraine)

A few days ago, however, the rabbi had received a call that prompted him to embark on a 1,741 kilometer journey from his safe house in Austria to his hometown of Dnipro in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine. His mission - to see through a brit milah of a newborn Jewish baby on the traditional eight-day mark.

Gaisinovich was in the former Soviet Union country. During his medical studies he found himself becoming more connected to the Jewish religion, and decided to make Aliyah. In Israel, he merged his specialization in surgery and religious affinity, and studied to become a mohel.

Gaisinovich would occasionally fly to Ukraine, where Jewish communities usually don't have a mohel on site, to conduct circumcisions.

With time, it became clear that the Ukrainian communities were in need of a permanent mohel, and Dr. Gaisinovich answered the call. He moved to Donetsk, and frequently traveled cross country to various Jewish communities to conduct brit milah ceremonies.

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Dr. Yasha (Yaakov) Gaisinovich at work

(Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Ukraine)

On average, Gaisinovich would oversee 23 circumcisions per month.

The 2014 war in eastern Ukraine with the Russian separatists forced Gaisinovich and his family to relocated to Dnipro. But, a few years later, with the onset of the Russian invasion, the rabbi and his family packed their belongings once again, and fled to Austria's capital. On his way there, the rabbi made a stop in Moldova, at the request of the local Chabbad community, and ushered a brit milah for one of the community's newborn babies.

About a week ago, a Jewish baby boy was born in Dnipro, and the parents turned to the mohel to ask him to conduct a circumcisions. Despite concerns, Gaisinovich and his wife decided granting the family's wish was the right thing to do.

"I knew I was the only person who could do it, and I just got up and went," said Dr. Gaisinovich. "I was very worried in the beginning and I didn't even blink during the thousand kilometers in the central areas in Ukrainian territory, but I knew that I am 'the Mohel of Ukraine,' so I have a responsibility to the community and there is a mission I must fulfill. I told myself, 'if Abraham, the first Jew, devoted himself for the sake of the brit mila and circumcised himself at age 99, I too need to show devotedness for this important mitzvah.'"

After 26 hours of driving through eastern Europe and crossing Ukraine from east to west, the Rabbi arrived at Dnipro. On Thursday, the day after his arrival, Gaisinovich conducted the newborn boy's brit milah, after which he carried out four more circumcisions for older Jewish men in the community.

On Sunday, the word had gotten around that Dr. Gaisinovich was in town, and he conducted two more circumcisions for Jews that came especially upon hearing of his presence.

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The Mohel Dr. Gaisinovich and the men he circumcised

(Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Ukraine)

Rabbi Meir Stambler, chairman of the Jewish Federation of Ukraine, explained why the war had Jews rushing to see through the religious ritual. "With news of Yaakov's arrival to Dnipro - we got phone calls from adult Jews who live here and in other cities in the area, who also wished to enter the covenant of Abraham," said the Rabbi.

"They told us that the war made them realize that life is fragile, and that they should take advantage of the time they have and incorporate as much Jewish tradition into their lives as possible. It's touching to see the devotedness of the Jews, aged 20-70, who enter the Abraham's covenant. We're certain that this honor will accompany them and protect them even now, through the challenging times for the diaspora."

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Ukraine's only mohel returns to warzone on a Jewish mission - Ynetnews

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