Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Cross Defaced in Ukraine Hasidic Pilgrimage City

A cross near the gravesite of a Jewish sage in Uman, Ukraine, was defaced with a Hebrew inscription — a move that could stoke sectarian tensions in the Hasidic pilgrimage site.

Hebrew graffiti was discovered Aug. 12 on a cross opposite the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the 18th century founder of the Breslov hasidic movement, the Ukrainian news site allday.in.ua reported

“To exact vengeance on the gentiles,” reads the message, which was scrawled across the torso of a figure of Jesus Christ. A further inscription on Jesus’ leg reads, “Stop desecrating the name of God.”

Uman is a major pilgrimage site for followers of Rabbi Nachman, whose gravesite is the focal point of an annual Rosh Hashanah celebration. Last year, the festivities drew an estimated 40,000 Jews.

The cross was installed the summer, timed to coincide with the 1,025th anniversary of the mass conversion of medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus, the precursor of contemporary Russia and Ukraine.

Tensions between pilgrims and local citizens have risen in recent years as the numbers of pilgrims have increased.

Last year’s Rosh Hashanah celebration was marred by violent riots, the Jerusalem Post reported.

In the wake of the graffiti incident, Jewish leaders in Uman have called for the cross’s relocation.

“We respect other religions, and don’t wish to damage symbols of other religions. But, unfortunately, not all of our coreligionists understand this. They could break or destroy the cross. That would lead to a genuine war between hasidim and Christians. We cannot allow that, so we request that the cross be moved to a different location,” said Shimon Busquila, a representative of the Rabbi Nachman International Fund, who was quoted by the Russian news site Korrespondent.ru.

Uman’s deputy mayor, Vladimir Vibliy, requested that local activists move the cross, according to Ukrainian newspaper Vzglyad. But local residents strongly objected.

One local who asked not to be identified told Vzglyad, “If they touch the cross, we will retaliate on the grave of their tzaddik.”

Sergei Yaremchuk, a member of the local committee of Svoboda, Ukraine’s right-wing, nationalist political party, described the incident as “a provocation to incite ethnic hatred.”

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.