As an expected 50,000 Breslov Hasidim descend on Uman, Ukraine for their annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman there, they are being met with protests from local Ukrainian nationalists.
According to reports by the Moscow Times and Kyiv Post, the Svoboda nationalist party held an “Uman Without Hasidim” rally to demand stricter controls on the Hasidic pilgrims. Tetyana Chornomaz, head of the local Svoboda branch, was adamant that the protest had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. However, she did say that “we have many questions regarding their [the Hasidim’s] stay in Ukraine.” In particular, she and other activists are concerned about security and sanitation while the pilgrims are in the area. During the 2010 pilgrimage, 10 Hasidim were deported back to Israel and banned from returning to the Ukraine for disrupting the public order and causing bodily harm to Uman residents.
Fifty-three of the Ukrainian protesters were detained for attending a court-banned rally, endangering minors, provoking a confrontation with police and blocking roadways. Police also reportedly seized three smoke grenades, five aerosol spray cans, slingshots, metal rods, knives, scissors and ropes from the detainees, who were all released after the charges against them were filed.
The “Uman Without Hasidim” rally took place not only a few days before Rosh Hashanah, but also only shortly before the 70th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, the 1941 mass killing of nearly 34,000 Jews by Nazis in a ravine in Kiev, about 220 km from Uman.