David Geller was born in 1929 in Zhmerynka. During the war he evacuated to Central Asia, first to Tashkent and then to Shymkent. After the war, he returned to Zhmerynka, but soon moved to Kiev, where he worked in a factory. In 1950 he was drafted into the army, served for three years, and then settled in Bratslav, where his wife was from.

Other Interviews:

Evacuation of the Communists
Bratslav Matchmaking
"we need to have a wedding!"
Dovid's Gefilte Fish

“In short, I am a Jew”

Bratslav, Ukraine

The covenant of circumcision has long been regarded as a defining rite of male membership in the Jewish community. According to the biblical book of Genesis, God promised Abraham that he would make of his seed a great nation in return for which Abraham and every child in his “generations” would circumcise their male children as a token of the everlasting covenant. When in 1870 a Jewish physician from Hanover refused to circumcise his son, the event launched a wrenching debate within the German Jewish community over whether one could be accepted as a Jew without being circumcised Although circumcision in the USSR was never officially prohibited, Soviet Yiddish propaganda viciously attacked circumcision as a barbaric rite unbecoming of communist behavior. Nevertheless, the journalist David Meckler, who traveled to Soviet Russia and Ukraine in the mid-1930s, was surprised to find Party members still circumcising their children. Party members were able to excuse themselves from punishment by insisting that their wives had carried out the deed without their consent. It was only later in the decade that circumcising a son became grounds for expulsion. Non-Party members, however, were not subject to the same restrictions and often managed to continue to circumcise their sons until the war. Trained moyels (ritual circumcisers) still practiced in most small towns legally until 1937. Even after the 1937 crackdown and arrest of most of the professional moyels, Jewish physicians could still be counted on to perform the procedure quietly and without witnesses. Dovid Geller also proudly shared with us that he was properly inducted into the Jewish community. His father, however, paid the price of Party membership for this breach of discipline. The term for circumcision that most of those we spoke with employed—the German-component term yidishn rather than the Hebrew- component mole zayn (circumcise)—alludes to a familiarity and intimacy with the ceremony. Its usage as a verb—literally, to make Jewish— also indicates the crucial importance attached to the ceremony as a fulfillment of one’s identity. Source: Jeffrey Veidlinger, In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine (Indiana University Press, 2013)