Photo Credit: Aaron Meyer
Calmer Times. Breslov chassidim on erev Rosh Hashanah in 2012 at the grave of Rav Nachman in Uman

War brings casualties, dislocation and disruptions, and it looks like the most significant event among Breslov chassidism, the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Rav Nachman’s grave in Uman, Ukraine, will be somewhat diminished in numbers from the U.S. because of the brutal civil war in that country.

If you talk to Breslov chassidim, most will tell you they are traveling to Uman.


If you talk to travel agents, however, a quick survey reveals that most travel businesses are certainly down in number of flights booked to Uman this year compared to previous years. “We are definitely selling less tickets this year because of the situation in Ukraine,” said Lipa Danziger of Five Star Travel, Brooklyn. “Actually, a good 15 percent less.”

Leah Neiman of Madison Travel in Lakewood also reported weaker ticket sales. She also pointed out that among those going, far more are taking out travel insurance for the trip to Ukraine.

Still, Menachem Rosenberg, a Breslov chassid in Brooklyn, believes that in the end “more people will go this year than last.”

As optimistic as Menachem Rosenberg is – and he said he is going to Uman – he’s sure that this year, most of the travelers will not tour other religious sites or places in Ukraine.

But overcoming difficulties to get to Uman is not new for Breslov chassidim. Rav Nachman of Breslov felt a special connection with the holiday and instructed his disciples to gather every Rosh Hashanah, even if this involved great effort and devotion.

“My grandfather went to Uman in Soviet times in 1969 and later my father was under arrest in Communist days in the 1980s,” said Y.B. Jacobovitch of Lakewood, who plans to go to Uman and figures he will be joined by thousands. His grandfather, who is in his nineties, also intends to sojourn this year.

As best that can be determined, between 2,000 and 3,000 Breslov chassidim will travel to Uman from the U.S. But estimates indicate that 20,000 to 30, 000 will journey from Israel to the gravesite in the Ukrainian city. And individuals and unaffiliated groups also fly to Uman for Rosh Hashanah.

Aaron Meyer of Lakewood agrees with Y. B. Jacobovitch regarding trouble in former Soviet Union days and remembers that under Communism there was a “black list” indicating who traveled to Uman.

“We got used to the difficulties in getting there. That strength to get to Ukraine is still among us; there’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said, although he admits he’s heard of people who are not going this year. He repeated there is “no real danger,” because Uman is located (about 400 miles) away from the fighting,” in Donetsk. Still, he added, “People listen to the news and may think twice before going.”

Meyer estimated that about 250 Breslov chassidim would be going from Lakewood. He added that he has been assured by talking to various rabbis in Ukraine that security has been stepped up there.

Meanwhile, a fragile ceasefire seems to be holding between Ukraine and the insurgents in the Eastern Ukraine area, but not around Donetsk and Luhansk where clashes continue. At least 3,000 people have been killed in the conflict and more than 310,000 internally displaced in Ukraine, the UN says. A small number of Jews have lost their lives and several thousand Jews have been moved or displaced to safer Ukrainian cities where they have been taken care of by the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Chabad and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. More than a thousand have made aliyah to Israel.

The State Department warns U.S. citizens “of the risks of travel to Eastern Ukraine due to ongoing violent clashes between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.”


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