KONOTOP Jews Past and Present


He had to become a Jew and be circumcised. There were a lot of rich Jews at their marriage. They followed the custom of circumcision. Seldom-cases of refusal were a sensation. Such a unique case took place in Konotop in 1923. One of the leaders of the town’s party instead of circumcision arranged for arranged a so-called “Red Christians.”10 Without any intention for the circumcision, the man’s penis became inflamed and there was a necessity for surgical circumcision, which was performed by a surgeon. Almost all the population, including Christians, gloated, seeing in this event “God’s finger in it.” In 1922, during a bad harvest and hunger in part of Russia, the Jews from Konotop’s community expressed solidarity towards the people of the samefaith but different nationality. The group of Subotniks, i.e. Russian people, from Veronish Gubernya, came to Konotop. It meant Russian people following the Jewish religion. There were Russian peasants, but they had Jewish names. The youngest of them was Haim. Aron was the name of the ravine.11 That ravine was given the right to hold some religious prayers in the synagogue and those people lived in the best Jewish houses and got one echelon of grain. The Jewish community had legal status before the Communist revolution. That community had the elements of self-government. They had their own resources developed by means of self-taxing. They  nacted decrees of civil status, such as birth, death, marriage, and divorce. The heads of such communities were ravine [rabbis] and the civil governor, who was called a public ravine. The public ravine was elected by the community and was approved by the local power [Kahal authority]. The ravine was hired by the community from the number of persons receiving higher religious education (in Yeshivot).

Jews from the time of the 14th century didn’t have centralized religious leadership, such as a patriarch or a senedrian. The “government” ravine usually was the most noble person in town. The spiritual ravine in the first quarter of the 20th century was Semanovich. A quiet man, kind and fair.


10 After the Revolution, it was inappropriate to have a circumcision and follow any religious customs. So they arranged for a mixture of old tradition and Communism, by

calling the cutting a “Red Christian.”

11 Rabbi.


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