War not halting huge Chasidic pilgrimage


Ukraine is hardly a big draw for tourists at the moment. Unless, that is, they are Chasidim.

An estimated 25,000 Jews, most of them from the Orthodox Breslov sect, have made their way to the chaos-ridden country for Rosh Hashanah. It is their annual ritual to celebrate the New Year by the graveside of their rebbe, Nachman of Breslov, who died in 1810 and is buried in Uman, near Kiev.

"I am concerned, but praying and hoping that everything will be ok," said Nasan Maimon, one of the Breslov community's star educators and former head of the Breslov World Centre, before he departed on Monday.

He said that pilgrims feared being attacked in the Ukraine, and elsewhere. "The concerns are that the world is in a state of turmoil now - in every country there are terrorists and antisemites."

He added: "There are some people who have changed their plans and cancelled but most have not." Gedaliah Lichter, who works in a Breslov bookstore in Jerusalem, said that the drive of most Chasidim to visit the grave would overcome their fears. "People go because they believe in it," he said.

However, Breslov leaders are taking security seriously, and have liaised with authorities in Israel and in the Ukraine. An unconfirmed report in Charedi media suggested that Orthodox parliamentarian Meir Porush had a closed-door meeting with Mossad chief Tamir Pardo to discuss security in Uman.

Most of the Uman visitors are Israelis, but there is a large contingency from the US. This prompted the US embassy in Kiev to issue a letter warning American pilgrims to take precautions.

The embassy warned over card fraud and advised "situational awareness" - but gave no hint as to how a huge gathering of men in Chasidic dress could keep a low profile.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive