Ukrainian warn Hasidic visitors to avoid traditional Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage

More than 23,000 Jews traveled to Uman last year despite the war with Russia.

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

The authorities in the Ukrainian city of Uman have called on Hasidic pilgrims to forego this year’s traditional homage at the tomb in the city of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the revered founder of the Breslover Hasidim, which takes place on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Despite the perilous security situation amid the ongoing Russian invasion, hundreds of Hasidim are expected to make the pilgrimage between Sept. 15-17, when Jews around the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah, to Uman, which lies in the south of the country in the Cherkasy region.

Uman was once home to a thriving Jewish community that was decimated during the Nazi Holocaust. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, several Orthodox families have moved to the city. In 2021 — a few months before Russia launched its invasion — more than 30,000 Hasidim spent Rosh Hashanah in the city, while last year, more than 23,000 visited despite the fighting, according to the United Jewish Community of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Ihor Taburets, the chair of the regional military administration in Cherkasy, met with Israeli Deputy Ambassador Liron Finkelstein to discuss security arrangements for this year’s crop of pilgrims.

While he urged those thinking of making the journey to cancel their plans, Taburets also acknowledged that “at the same time, we understand that some of the faithful, like last year, will still dare to come. Therefore, together with the city authorities, the security and defense sector, and all specialized services, we are already working preventively.”

Taburets added that following his talks with Finkelstein, “we are also working on other areas, having the experience of previous celebrations. We are talking about the provision of medical assistance, the functioning of public catering establishments, the work of communal workers, anti-epidemic measures, and so forth.”

He emphasized that “the key priority remains the same — safety.”

In a separate development, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel warned that his country may close the border to the pilgrims in retaliation for Israel’s deportation of Ukrainian tourists.

According to the envoy, Yevgen Korniychuk, Israel has deported approximately 10 percent of Ukrainian visitors arriving through a bilateral deal that allows visa-free travel for three months.

“We have made our feelings on this known,” he told Israeli media outlets on Wednesday.

Those pilgrims visiting this year will fly to Chisinau in Moldova before traveling overland to Uman. Earlier this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Jewish Tradition Minister Meir Porush visited Moldova to discuss arrangements for the pilgrims arrival. In a statement, Cohen said he had thanked Moldovan leaders “for their readiness to find the safest and most effective mechanism for those Israelis that choose to travel through Moldova this year on the way to Uman.”

A Russian airstrike on Uman in April this year resulted in the deaths of at least 20 people. Shortly after the airstrike, the Russian Ministry of Defense posted an image to its Telegram channel of a missile launch with the caption “right on target.”