Photo Credit: Yishai Fleisher
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This is not Judaism. The cult of Uman has much more in common with the “Mary-ology” of devout Catholics who believe in the worship of shrines, icons, relics, and saints, with the fervency of a hoodoo/voodoo practitioner. They have designated forbidden conduits to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

I have not even touched on the issue of the physical dangers of visiting Uman, both on a larger regional scale, and the dangers of local anti-Semites who have a history from the not too distant past of butchering Jews. In recent years, at least one Jew was killed by a gentile, and I recall reading more recently about a Jew in Uman who was severely beaten.

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Then there is the issue of chillul Hashem that this pilgrimage creates, as it presents a distorted image of religious Jewry to the world. While many of these pilgrims are mentslich people who mind their own business and behave like humans, there are untold numbers of lunatics who create a tremendous chillul Hashem with their deviant, wild, behavior. Some of this behavior is outwardly profane and doesn’t even mask itself with the cloak of Torah.

For many years there were few proper accommodations, so Ukrainian goyim would rent out their apartments, houses, and haylofts to Jews for ridiculous sums. Other primitive arrangements were also available. The gentiles were surely amused at the irony, when you consider that some of their fathers and grandfathers probably killed Jews. Most Jewish pilgrims are still reliant on the cheapest accommodations. Yet for those with a bigger budget, today there is Inn Uman, a comfortable modern setting with glatt kosher food, mikveh (only for guests!), shiurim, 24 hour security (why?), and comfy accommodations. I don’t know what is more tragic, the insanity of those whose distorted religious worldview compels them to subject themselves to uncomfortable accommodations from possibly dangerous gentiles, or the mentality of those who have created glatt kosher leisure resorts in rural Ukraine.

As I see it, the contemporary Breslov movement offers nothing to the thinking Jew, save a host of spiritually dangerous notions which oppose fundamentals of Torah. It is an ideology of concepts both foreign and forbidden. At the core, they worship and venerate a dead Rebbe. I am not only speaking about the “Nah, Nachs,” but even mainstream followers who fixate on superstition, demonology, segulos, peculiar diets to prevent lewd thoughts, perverse views of “purity and holiness” (based on sexual/aggressive frustration), and bizarre tikkunim. I invite the reader to take even a cursory perusal of the literature to confirm what I am writing.

Some of the material that is propagated by certain mainstream “leaders” of the movement are obscene beyond description, and the decision was easy to not include it in the article. Several years back, a mainstream Breslov personality was disseminating a video about a ba’al tshuvah who had an alleged “near death experience.” Nebach, the guy clearly had (and probably still has) severe psychological problems. The purported visions he describes during his alleged “religious experience” are pornographic and frightening, and they betray a diseased mind. This was circulated across the web, in an attempt to terrify Jews who might be involved in sexual sin to do tshuvah. Now while it is certainly meritorious to try to convince Jews to sanctify their lives and refrain from improper behavior, proper tshuvah requires a rational understanding and proper presentation of the Halachic system to the uninformed. Trying to frighten people with mythical tales of demonic visitations, evil changelings that are the offspring of forbidden sexual behavior, and other goyish nonsense, has no place in yahadut.

The worst expression is the pagan lure of the Na Nach movement. It is growing more popular in Israel, as the followers prey on Israel’s disconnected and disaffected youth. The Na Nachs are particularly attractive to those drawn to alternative experiences, with their outlandish displays of whirling and twirling in the streets like dervishes, or pogo-ing on the rooftops of vans as if they were attending a punk rock concert. The message needs to go out to the entire Jewish and non-Jewish world that this is not Judaism. This is repression and frustration exploding outwardly in the absence of a kosher outlet. Unfortunately, many naive Israelis religious and otherwise don’t really see the problem. They think it is harmless unless of course they actively dislike religious Jews and choose to see these oddities as a genuine symbol of frumkeit and religious fanaticism.

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Donny Fuchs made aliyah in 2006 from Long Island to the Negev, where he resides with his family. He has a keen passion for the flora and fauna of Israel and enjoys hiking the Negev desert. His religious perspective is deeply grounded in the Rambam's rational approach to Judaism.
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