The Shochet: A Memoir of Jewish Life in Ukraine and Crimea by Pinkhes-Dov Goldenshteyn

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Translated by Michoel Rotenfeld 

Set in Ukraine and Crimea, this unique autobiography offers a fascinating, detailed picture of life in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Tsarist Russia. Goldenshteyn (1848-1930), a traditional Jew who was orphaned as a young boy, is a master storyteller. Folksy, funny, streetwise, and self-confident, he is a keen observer of nineteenth-century Eastern Europe, both Jewish and non-Jewish. His accounts are vivid and readable, sometimes stunning in their intensity. 

The memoir is brimming with information; his adventures shed light on communal life, persecution, family relationships, religious practices and beliefs, social classes, local politics, interactions between Jews and other religious communities (including Muslims, who formed the majority of Crimea’s populace), epidemics, poverty, competition for resources, migration, war, modernity and secularization, holy men and charlatans, acts of kindness and acts of treachery. In chronicling his own life, Goldenshteyn inadvertently tells a bigger story—the story of how a small, oppressed people, among other minority groups, struggled for survival in the massive Russian Empire.

Until now, only a small circle of Yiddish-speaking scholars had access to this extremely significant primary source. This translation is a game-changer, making this treasure trove of information accessible to academics and ordinary readers alike. Informed by research in Ukrainian, Israeli, and American archives and personal interviews with the few surviving individuals who knew Goldenshteyn personally, The Shochet is a magnificent new contribution to Jewish and Eastern European history.


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