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Exacting Vengeance on the Gentiles?

Seeing the sight of Jesus on a cross must have made them feel like they were seeing Avodah Zara in the Beis HaMikdash.
A figure of Jesus on the cross defaced in Hebrew opposite the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine, Aug. 14, 2013.

A figure of Jesus on the cross defaced in Hebrew opposite the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine, Aug. 14, 2013.
Photo Credit: Alena Vovchenko / JTA

Once again we are treated to the sight of very religious looking Jews acting like a street gang. A statue of a cross with a figure of Jesus on it was defaced by a group of Breslover Chasidim in Uman. The cross was recently erected opposite the grave of the founder of this Chasidus, Rav Nachman of Breslov – located in the Ukrainian city of Uman. From JTA:

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

This kind of thing would not surprise me if it were being done by extremists from a community that embraces an isolationist lifestyle. But although they are hardcore Chasidim who dress and look much the same as Satmar Chasidim – Breslovers do a lot of outreach. I would expect them to know how to behave in a more civilized manner. They must have had a socialization process that taught them that or they could not do outreach. And yet here they have acted in a completely uncivilized way.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that a Christian symbol near their venerated Rebbe’s grave site was desecrated with graffiti. I guess their socialization process goes just so far. A statue of Jesus so close to their Rebbe’s grave site was too much to handle.

I don’t know why the Ukrainian Government chose that site for its statue. I don’t think it was a wise decision. But at the same time, I don’t think it was necessarily meant to ‘stick it’ to the Breslovers either. It was probably just not a well thought out plan.

I can understand why these Chasidim felt outrage. They consider the Breslover Rebbe’s gravesite to be so holy that make annual pilgrimages to it. Tens of thousands of Jews (mostly Breslover Chasidim) from all over the world visit it during Rosh Hashanah – one of the holiest times of the year. It is almost as though they were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. Seeing the sight of Jesus on a cross must have made them feel like they were seeing Avodah Zara in the Beis HaMikdash.

The outrage is understandable. But their expression of it is inexcusable. It is the kind of behavior that can bring tragedy upon the Jewish people. Uman is not Jerusalem. R. Nachman’s gravesite is not the Beis HaMikdash. The citizens of Uman are their hosts. Breslovers are guests. And the guests have just defaced the image of the god their hosts worship.

The more responsible Breslover leadership has apologized. Sort of. From JTA:

“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…

It may have been a legitimate request. But it was made too late. If made at all it should have been made politely before the statue was vandalized. Nonetheless the deputy mayor of Uman agreed with it.

On the other hand the citizens of Uman were so outraged by the vandalism – that they will have no part of moving the statue. They promised retaliation against Rav Nachman’s grave if it is moved. I can’t say that I blame them.

I think the point to be made here is contained in the response made by Shimon Busquila: ‘…not all of our coreligionists understand this’.

That is exactly the problem. Why don’t they understand this? It is not enough for a leader to simply say that some of their co-religionists do not understand the consequences of being uncivilized – thereby damaging the property of their hosts.  Especially their religious symbols. No matter how upsetting it is to them.

The Chasidim who did this are taught to hate non Jewish religious symbols much more than they are taught to behave in civilized ways when encountering them. So when they get upset at the sight of one of those hated symbols, they react in ways that bring ill repute upon – and ill will against – our people. They do so without thinking or perhaps even caring about the consequences.

It would be similar to a Jewish patient being admitted to a hospital run by Catholics which have a crucifix in every room and defacing the one in your room with anti Christian graffiti.  Can you imagine a response by a that was similar to the Breslover response in Uman? ‘We respect other religions but not all of our coreligionists do so please remove the cross from his room or more of them will be damaged and we will end up in a war between Christians and Jews’.

This is not a response. This is an excuse… and a means of trying to get rid of that statue via a subtle threat.

That said – if I were the Ukranian government I would relocate the statue just to avoid conflict and thereby continue the positive impact tens of thousands of tourists have on their economy. But at the same time I would privately resent the reason I had to do so – the disrespect of these Chasidic Jews of my god.

The real solution to this – so that it never happens again – is for the Breslover religious leadership to re-educate their coreligionists to never do anything like that again and instead act like civilized human beings at all times. I’m not even sure if asking them to move the statue politely without any prior vandalism is appropriate. They are your hosts. Be grateful for their hospitality! Breslover leadership has to realize that if they are going to get along with others in the world, they have to teach their flock to behave like human beings at all times… and keep their outrage to themselves.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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9 Responses to “Exacting Vengeance on the Gentiles?”

  1. John Keytack says:

    What???

  2. Shemayah Shiloh Phillips says:

    I say good for them! Yes, it is Avodah Zarah, and a filthy thing from a filthy religion. But doing it in a Christian dominated country? Yikes!! You might think these Breslovers are a bit crazy but you never see crazy like Christian crazy.

  3. Ron Lewenberg says:

    Tolerance has to go both ways and must be taught. The cult of victimhood has to stop for the sake of Jews, especially the Hasidim who are so dependent on the tolerance of others.
    Shemayah, your bigotry is filthy and self destructive. You are a 1905 cossack in slightly different garb.

  4. Karen Renea says:

    When is the last time, you saw a Christian…a REAL ONE deface in any way, anything symbolic to Judaism or Israel? There is NO excuse for this behavior. Christians love the Jewish people, and recognize that the early church was made solely of Jews, for several years in the beginning. Jesus indeed was the son of God and if Jews that profess to know scripture would open their eyes and actually see the prophecies of Jesus being foretold, they would know he came to save them as well. A Jewish person has no greater friend than Christ or a Christian.

  5. Karen Renea says:

    A jew has no greater friend than Christ or a REAL Christian. The thing is, some may “CALL” themselves Christians, but if their actions are not Christ-like, (and that is to obey the Commandments and the teachings of Christ, who was the only begotten son of God, and who fulfilled all prophecies of his coming when he came.) then that person may Call themselves Abraham for all that it matters, but they are not Christians. Just as Jesus told his people when he was here. Abraham saw my day and was glad. But true evangelical Christians love the Jewish people, Israel and would do no harm to neither..however this cannot be said in reverse. The thing is, Christ came to break down the barrier between God and man, he is the one true Lamb that was sacrificed to be that bridge to the Holy of Holies, in the TRUE, no longer in the shadow. Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his friends (New Testament John 15:13) Zec_13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. Who exactly do you think Zechariah was talking about here? Who else could call Israel “friend” and who else died to break down the barrier? Jesus nor any true follower of Jesus and the one true God, is an enemy to Israel, or an enemy of Judaism…it is the very root in which holds the branch…the OLIVE ONE you could say to the Jewish people and to true Christians. Joh 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
    Joh 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
    Joh 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
    Joh 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
    Joh 15:21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
    Joh 15:22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
    Joh 15:23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
    Joh 15:24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
    Joh 15:25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. Psa 35:19 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause. Psa 69:4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away. Psalms 22: 1-8; Mark 15:28-39…and well over a 100 more…

  6. a person on a cross, is a roman catholic symbol, nothing to do with christianity. Christ has risen, He is no longer on the cross. roman catholics don't seem to understand this, that Christ lives in a person' s heart, and we don't need crosses or statues to know His Word. this is roman catholic idolatry. so I am not surprised it angered some of the Jews, there was no need of this affront.

  7. karen we dont worship statues or crosses, Christ has risen this is the joy which is in our heart, the vatican still has Christ on the cross, and they have no idea what He looked like as the only passage in the Bible we can go by Christ appearance is Isaiah chapter 53

  8. Mick Bolton says:

    Glad I’m an atheist. A plague on ALL religions.

  9. Ahron Ebert says:

    Of course he was the son of G-d. He was Jewish and all Jews are the children of G-d. See first tractact of The Talmud.

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