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23,000 Hasidic Jews make traditional Ukraine pilgrimage despite war

Hasidic jews Uman
In 2022, 23,000 Hasidic Jews flocked to the central-Ukrainian city of Uman despite Russia’s war. Photo: Ukrinform


Hasidic Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah to the sounds of an air raid siren in Uman. According to RFE/RL, more than 23,000 pilgrims arrived from Israel, the US, UK, and France in 2022 despite the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Pilgrims flock to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the founding father of the Breslov Hasidic movement. The grandson of the founder of Hasidic Judaism, the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman was buried in Uman, at a local Jewish cemetery, in 1810.

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Following a decade-long tradition, the Breslov Hasidic Jews come to worship every year.

Hasidic jews Uman
The entrance to Rabbi Nachman’s grave on 27 September 2022. Photo by Zarina Zabrisky.

The local authorities, police, Ukrainian military, and a special NGO work hard on making sure the celebration goes smoothly.

Hasidic jews Uman pilgrimage
Vul. Pushkina. Uman. Photo by Zarina Zabrisky.

Oleksandr Benjamin Khmara, the head of Magen NGO in charge of communication and security and the shooting instructor of the Ukrainian army, spoke to Euromaidan Press about this year’s hopes and fears.

Explaining the necessity of the curfew and no alcohol rules to the pilgrims were among the main challenges. Of special concern was the chance of a Kremlin’s provocation in support of Putin’s “de-nazification” narrative.

These provocations had a chance of materializing: the Ukrainian media Babel, citing its sources in Ukrainian intelligence, reported that on 27 September, Russian troops purposefully launched Shahed-136 Iranian kamikaze drones towards central-Ukrainian Uman to attack Hasidic Jewish. According to the media, these acts of terrorism were part of Iran’s conditions for supplying the drones to Russia.

However, Ukrainian air defense shot them down and the only real threat during the celebration were the air raids.

The sound of sirens mixed with religious singing and chants.

Hasidic jews Uman pilgrimage
Vul. Pushkina. Uman. Photo by Zarina Zabrisky.

The local residents spoke warmly and with respect about the festivities. A woman who fled Kharkiv’s bombardment and currently stays in Uman, in an interview, said that the more people pray for peace, no matter what faith, the better it is.

Hasidic jews Uman pilgrimage
Vul. Pushkina. Uman. Photo by Zarina Zabrisky.
Hasidic jews Uman pilgrimage
Vul. Pushkina. Uman. Photo by Zarina Zabrisky.

“We have the victory already. We just need to receive it,” said Oleksandr Benjamin Khmara, as he also thanked everyone who is praying for Ukraine.

 

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