Photo Credit: Yishai Fleisher

 

The Brodsky Shul is now a massive Chabad operation with a wonderful mikva (ritual immersion bath), a kosher supermarket with tons of Israeli products, a very tasty cafeteria, and an upscale restaurant. This is a picture of Rabbi Yosef Yitchak Azman (the Chief Rabbi’s son). I saw him sitting with an old woman in the synagogue and she was showing him old photographs, probably trying to find her Jewish roots.

 

On the road to Uman from Kiev there are a few signs in English. My trip to Uman, Medzhybizh and Berdichev was 800 Kilometers in 13 hours. I had a Ukrainian gentile cab driver who was very knowledgeable and knew his way to Jewish sites – but even then they were hard to find and we had to backtrack a few times.
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Outside of the capital Kiev, the countryside seems quite poor. The young people with whom I spoke, Jews and gentiles, complained about rampant corruption and a system of bribery that permeated Ukrainian life from paying-off police when caught speeding, to slipping a few Hryvnia(Ukrainian currency) to a nurse when a shot is needed.
Ukraine has had only a few short years of independence in its long history. From the 14 century onward, various parts of Ukraine were under Polish and Lithuanian, control, then split between Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Under Soviet domination, Ukrainians fought against the German invasion. Ukraine officially declared itself an independent state on August 24, 1991, when the communist Supreme Soviet (parliament) of Ukraine proclaimed that Ukraine will no longer follow the laws of USSR and only the laws of the Ukrainian SSR, de facto declaring Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.

 

I met Marat Shkolnick in Uman at the complex which houses the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Marat is a Jewish artist whose work is being shown at a gallery in town. He told me that his grandfather hosted and maintained an underground shul which operated at the time of the communists. Marat has lived in Uman all his life, and comes often to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, but he shook his head with tears in his eyes when I asked him if he had ever been in the land of Israel.
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Yishai Fleisher is a Contributing Editor at JewishPress.com, Chief Editor at JNi.media, talk-show host, and International Spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with their children.

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