The kind­est cut of all: magic mo­hel

Rus­sian rabbi com­pletes a record 4,500 cir­cum­ci­sions on both ba­bies and adults

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY NIS­SAN TSUR

HE HAS be­come known as the Mag­nif­i­cent Mo­hel, a Chabad rabbi work­ing in Ukraine who this week cel­e­brated an as­ton­ish­ing land­mark — 4,500 cir­cum­ci­sions which he has car­ried out in the last 13 years.

Rabbi Yaa­cov Gaissi­novitch, 35 and a qual­i­fied urol­o­gist, has been based in Donetsk, Ukraine, since 1998. Moscow-born, he moved with his family to Israel in 1993. The rabbi, who speaks flu­ent English, He­brew and Rus­sian, said that he had be­come ba’al teshu­vah — adopt­ing a strictly Or­tho­dox life­style — af­ter his move to Israel, and af­ter he at­tended a Jerusalem yeshivah, had learned how to per­form a brit mi­lah.

Speak­ing on his way to the north­ern Ukrainian city of Lutsk, to per­form yet an­other brit, Rabbi Gaissi­novitch added: “Af­ter I spe­cialised un­der some of Israel’s most fa­mous mo­hels, I my­self was or­dained to be a mo­hel.

“A short time later I was asked by the ‘Brit Yosef Yitzchak’ or­gan­i­sa­tion, which pro­vides cir­cum­ci­sion ser­vices to any Jew world­wide, to be their emis- sary in Ukraine. I ar­rived here in 1998 and started work­ing as the only mo­hel for Ukraine and Moldova.”

Since then, it’s not just the Ukrainian Jewish birthrate which has kept Rabbi Gaissi­novitch busy. Many adults who have re­dis­cov­ered their Jewish roots, and quite a few more who have con­verted to Ju­daism, have turned to the rabbi for his cir­cum­ci­sion ser­vices. Some­times, he says, he has needed to per­form up to five cir­cum­ci­sions in a sin­gle day.

But his ex­tra­or­di­nary record in­cludes “22 cir­cum­ci­sions in a sin­gle day, and 36 cir­cum­ci­sions in two days, that I made in a Jewish camp in Dne­propetro­vsk”. The “pa­tients” were Jewish campers “who vol­un­teered to un­dergo the pro­ce­dure with their par­ents’ per­mis­sion”.

A reg­u­lar week for the Mag­nif­i­cent Mo­hel is a dizzy­ing cal­en­dar of flights and cer­e­monies.

“Last week I did a cir­cum­ci­sion in Dne­propetro­vsk, which is 300km from Donetsk, and then came back to Donetsk. On Mon­day morn­ing I flew to Moscow, then to Nalchik in the Cau­ca­sus area to do a cir­cum­ci­sion for a baby, then back to Moscow, to Donetsk and im­me­di­ately on to Kiev and to Odessa, and in each place I did a cir­cum­ci­sion.

“To­day at 7am I al­ready did a cir­cum­ci­sion in Donetsk, then I flew to Kiev and now I’m on the way to Lutsk, 500km away, to per­form an­other one.

“Af­ter that I will fly back to Kiev, and to­mor­row at 6am, I have an­other one.

“Then I will go back to Donetsk and from there by car to Dne­propetro­vsk for an­other cir­cum­ci­sion. Then I’ll visit an­other sum­mer camp in Dne­propetro­vsk, for an­other five to six cir­cum­ci­sions. Some­times, we make the cer­e­mony in the ho­tel next to the air­port, to save time. I don’t al­ways un­der­stand my­self how I man­age to do so many in a sin­gle day”.

With wry amuse­ment, the rabbi reem­pha­sises that his work is not just about ba­bies. “Not long ago I re­ceived a call from the city of Niko­layev. There was an 82-year-old Jew who had de­cided that it was prob­a­bly time to have his own brit mi­lah.”

Rabbi Gaissi­novitch, sec­ond left, with one of his newer ‘pa­tients’

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