Hasidic Jews Make Pilgrimage to Ukraine Despite Conflict

Collection with 21 media items created by kierankesner

02 Oct 2014 07:15

Despite the civil war currently devastating Ukraine this year, an estimated thirty-thousand Hasidic Jews gathered in Uman, a small city at banks of the Umanka River, paying little attention to the worldly, bloody political struggle surrounding the site of their spiritual leader's tomb.

Since 1811, Jewish followers of the Breslov Hasidic movement make an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of their founder, Rabbi Nachman (1772-1810) of Uman, in central Ukraine. The gathering, permeated by the rhythm of prayer and teaching, joy and remembrance is a central part of this religious group's devotional practice.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the city of Uman had a large Jewish population. In 1941, when the Germans invaded Ukraine, some seventeen-thousand Jews were murdered and the rest were deported - tragically wiping out the entire Jewish community of Uman.

Despite the Nazi occupation and Communist regimes, Jews continued to make the pilgrimage to Rabbi Nachman's grave even though in some years less than a dozen completed the journey.

Since the fall of Communism, a small but growing Jewish population has re-established itself in Uman in close proximity to the grave of Rabbi Nachman. Despite Uman's remote location, people travel from all over the world for just one week out of the year.

Uman is typical of a small Eastern European city. However, Rabbi Nachman’s grave is protected inside a collection of buildings and sanctuaries situated in something more reminiscent of an old Jewish Ghetto.

Crooked streets and congested buildings rest haphazardly on top of each other and harken back to a place frozen in time. Instead of Cyrillic, signs are in Hebrew. Instead of people dressed in shirts and slacks, the streets are filled with men and women, often separated by gender, and dressed much like those who lived in Uman In the 18th century.

Today, the pilgrimage is undertaken by individuals driven by faith and obligation. A sea of white shirts or black suits and hats, large groups of men and, separately, large groups of women, focus on prayer - blind to the chaos and bloodshed that grips Ukraine.

Ukraine Uman Jewish Breslov Hasidic Orthodox Ultra Orthodox Pilgrimage Religion Europe Eastern Europe Rosh Hashanah New Year Holocaust

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 01
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

Young Hasidic boys sit outside their apartments in Uman for a daily lesson on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 06
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

Reciting prayers near the grave of Rabbi Nachman. Nearly 30,000 Jewish men made the pilgramage to Uman, Ukraine this year to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 05
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

The pilgramage to Uman is full of prayer but is also full of celebration and joy as religious Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 02
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

Hasidic Jewish men gather in the room where Rabi Nachman is buried. Each year they travel to Uman Ukraine to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman and recite a specific set of prayers followed by giving any amount of charity.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 08
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

A young Jewish man celebrates spiritually in the streets of Uman, Ukraine.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 07
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
23 Sep 2014

In Uman, a single bed can cost as much as $500 to rent for the week. Here, a rabbi takes an afternoon nap in a chair which he has rented in a local Uman residents home.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 04
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

A Hasidic man celebrates beside the grave of Rabbi Nachman. It is said that anyone who visits this grave, recites a specific set of prayers, and gives charity will be pulled out of purgatory by his payos (sidecurls).

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 09
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

For Jewish men who make the trip to Uman, it is considered one of the greatest deeds to bring your son before the age of seven to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman and experience the tradition of the pilgrimage.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 10
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

Hanging a rabbinical poster in the early days of the Jewish pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 11
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
23 Sep 2014

As the day began to come to a close, Jewish men either returned to their apartments from praying at the synagogue or headed there for evening prayers.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 12
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

Two young hasidic boys walk through the streets of Uman. Adapting incredibly quickly, the Jewish pilgrims become one with the streets of Uman shortly after arriving.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 13
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

A hasidic Jewish man has a private moment by the lake just before Rosh Hashanah in Uman, Ukraine.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 16
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
23 Sep 2014

A group of Jewish men gaze in various ways out into the streets of Uman.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 14
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
23 Sep 2014

Gathered near the grave of Rabbi Nachman, Jewish pilgrims celebrate and pray in the streets of Uman.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 17
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
23 Sep 2014

As a part of Hasidic tradition, a man has his head shaved, leaving the sidelocks (payos) for spiritual reasons.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 18
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
24 Sep 2014

Hasidic Jewish bypassers peer skeptically into a Ukrainian man's car despite the man being a local resident of the neighborhood.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 19
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
24 Sep 2014

Jewish men gathered along a local lakes edge in Uman Ukraine to symbolically cast their years sins into the water with the hopes of a pure beginning in the year to come.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 20
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
24 Sep 2014

Due to the restriction of electronics, this image was discretely shot with my iPhone. Shortly after a morning of prayers, men head back to their rented apartments.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 21
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
24 Sep 2014

This photograph was captured discretely with my iPhone do to the prohibition of using electronics during certain days of the pilgrimage to Uman. Here, Jewish men gather by a nearby lake to pray.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 15
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
23 Sep 2014

In the small town of Uman, crowds often become overwelmingly large during the week of the pilgrimage. Here, a young boy is seen passed over the people to a safe clearing behind a fence.

Thumb sm
Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman 03
Uman, Ukraine
By kierankesner
22 Sep 2014

A group of Jewish men return to their apartments from a Mikvah (ritual immersion into a body of water) with towels in hand.