Ukraine Robbers Steal $50K From Hasidic Pilgrimage

Uman Group Organizes Annual Breslov Gathering

Keeping Watch: Ukrainian police stand guard as Hasidim pray in Ukrainian town of Uman. The annual pilgrimage to Jews is seen as a mixed blessing by some locals.
Keeping Watch: Ukrainian police stand guard as Hasidim pray in Ukrainian town of Uman. The annual pilgrimage to Jews is seen as a mixed blessing by some locals.

By Doni Bloomfield

Published July 23, 2013.
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Robbers assaulted a security guard and stole $50,000 from an organization preparing for a major Hasidic annual pilgrimage in Uman, Ukraine, Interfax reports.

The funds were designated to construct a large camp for poorer pilgrims and provide them with food for the holidays, according to the Reb Nachman of Breslav International Charitable Foundation.

The loss may hit the annual pilgrimage hard. Uman, located 130 mile south of Kiev, is the burial place of Rav Nachman of Breslov — great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism and a towering mystical figure in his own right.

His apocryphal kabbalistic phrase “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me’Uman” and accompanying sidelock-ensconced visage are ubiquitous in graffiti throughout Israel.

Every Rosh Hashana, growing numbers — up to 35,000 at last count from 1,000 in 1989 — of Jewish pilgrims of all religious backgrounds (though almost all male) descend on Uman to be at Rav Nachman’s gravesite for the new year.

It is a tradition that, begun during Rav Nachman’s lifetime, has continued since his death in 1810. Enormous throngs of tourists are a welcome source of revenue in Uman, but the size and intensity of the gathering, and the long history of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, explain why this isn’t the first spot of tension between the local population and the Jewish pilgrims.

In 2010, violence broke out and around 500 pilgrims surrounded two Ukrainian men who were alleged to have stolen from a nearby building. The standoff resolved peacefully as Israeli police arrived at the scene to calm the crowd and local Ukrainian officers. Accusations of Umanian anti-Semitic behavior are met with complaints over rowdy behavior by pilgrims, some of whom harass local women according to Israeli police.

More than 400 Ukrainian officers, accompanied by Israeli police, will be on hand this September to head off any further confrontations.

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