Asya Barshteyn 's father was a purveyor and her mother was a homemaker. She attended a Yiddish school for six years, until her schooling was interrupted by the war. She survived the war in the Sharhorod ghetto. After the war, she completed her schooling by correspondence. She worked as a telegraph dispatcher and a switchboard operator at the post office, and later as a cashier at a barber shop. In 1983 she moved to Vinnytsya,where she is one of the leaders of the Vinnytsya Jewish Women’s Choir.

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“as though God had baked it”

Vinnytsya, Ukraine

In this clip, Asya Barshteyn describes her Sabbath rituals.

Asya's insistence that she performs all the rituals “like you were supposed to do” was echoed by many of those we interviewed, who insisted that they followed religious strictures “just as they were supposed to,” or occasionally described how they performed a custom even though “you are supposed to do it differently.” These phrases indicate a strong sense that the performance of religious ritual was a requirement that they had agreed to fulfill in accordance with established guidelines and customs.

In their narratives, religious obligations trumped the expected behavior of a Soviet citizen, for whom religious performance was not an obligation, but rather an infringement. In Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s, one was certainly not “supposed to” light Sabbath candles and bake challah bread.

Source: Jeffrey Veidlinger, In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine (Indiana University Press, 2013)