The recent placing of a crucifix near the Uman grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was an act of “clear provocation,” Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, chief rabbi of Ukraine, said.
“Ukraine is not a Jewish country and Ukrainian Jews respect Christian symbols like crosses,” Bleich told the Jewish Ukrainian news site Еvreiskiy.kiev.ua. “However, the cross raised in Uman, in the immediate vicinity of the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, is a clear provocation.”
Earlier this month, Hebrew graffiti was discovered on the crucifix, which was erected in recent weeks on the banks of a lake near the grave of the 18th-century founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
The Hebrew message read: “To exact vengeance on the gentiles.” A further inscription on the crucifix’s leg reads: “Stop desecrating the name of God.”
Referring to an estimated 30,000 Jewish pilgrims expected to arrive in Uman for Rosh Hashanah, Bleich said: “They will not be able to pray there this year.”
He told JTA the cross would prevent the pilgrims from performing tashlich, a prayer often accompanied with the ritual of symbolically casting off the sins of the previous year by tossing pieces of bread or another food into a body of flowing water.
Bleich also stated that the installation of the cross has not been endorsed by the leadership of Christian denominations nor by the local authorities, which, in his opinion, should intervene.