Uman Visitors Won't Get Warm Welcome This Year

Chassidic visitors to Uman may be greeted by mass protests of Ukranian nationalists demanding they leave town.

David Lev ,

Uman poster
Uman poster
A7 Hebrew

Tens of thousands of Israelis who are planning to depart in the coming days to visit the burial site of Rav Nachman of Breslov may not get a warm welcome this year. A group of local residents in the Ukraine city of Uman, where the rabbi's tomb is located, have called on residents to come out to a major protest against their Israeli visitors, demanding that the city ban them.

As many as 50,000 Israelis could visit the site over the next two weeks – culminating in Rosh Hashanah services at the site. According to his students, Rav Nachman announced to his followers that he would provide a special blessing to them if they made the effort to pray near his tomb on the Jewish New Year, and for hundreds of years, except for during World War II – with limited groups permitted to visit during periods when Ukraine was under Communist control -  Breslov Chassidim have streamed to the site, with the excursion gaining popularity in recent years among Jews from the Breslov and other Chassidic groups. This year is expected to be the best ever for “Uman tourism,” as a new agreement allows Israelis to enter Ukraine without arranging a visa in advance.

But apparently some Uman residents have decided they would rather keep out the large Jewish groups who take up residence in their town  this time of year. In recent days, large posters depict an “alien-like” Jewish figure behind the universal “unwanted” symbol, with the poster's headline proclaiming “Uman With Chassidim.”

The poster invites the public to a series of protests demanding that the government refuse entry to the Chassidic groups. The first protest took place several weeks ago, attracting several hundred people, sources in Uman said. Marches have been held in previous years, with residents complaining that they feel “like under occupation” when the Jewish visitors are in town. The marches have generally been identified with Ukranian nationalists, who have been associated with European neo-Nazi groups.

Officials of the World Breslov Center, which organizes and coordinates the visits, have asked the Uman municipality to ensure the safety of visitors. Last year, a 19 year old Israeli visiting the site was murdered by a group of local residents, who smashed the window of a car owned by a Jewish visitor. Shmuel Tubul, who had recently gotten engaged, along with his younger brother, rushed outside to see what had happened, and were set upon by the Ukranian gang, one of whom stabbed Tubul in the chest.