Jewish pilgrims gather in Ukraine despite the perils of war

Sep 24, 2022, 11:28 PM | Updated: Sep 25, 2022, 12:10 pm
Orthodox Jews pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, the great grandson of the founder of Hasidic movem...

Orthodox Jews pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, the great grandson of the founder of Hasidic movement, in the town of Uman, 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Ukraine's capital Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. Thousands of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims flocked to central Ukraine to mark the Jewish new year Sunday, ignoring international travel warnings as Russia struck more targets from the air and mobilized its citizens to stem losses in the war that has entered its eighth month. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

UMAN, Ukraine (AP) — Thousands of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims flocked to central Ukraine to mark the Jewish new year Sunday, ignoring international travel warnings as Russia struck more targets from the air and mobilized its citizens to stem losses in the war that has entered its eighth month.

The pilgrims, many traveling from Israel and further afield, converged on the small city of Uman, the burial site of Nachman of Breslov, a respected Hasidic rabbi who died in 1810.

The streets of one of Uman’s central neighborhoods were packed with men of all ages wearing traditional black coats and long side curls. Some chanted prayers. Others screamed, shouted and danced. Advertisements and directional signs in Hebrew blanketed the area.

Some visitors, like Nahum Markowitz from Israel, have been making the journey for years and weren’t about to let the war get in the way this year.

“We are not afraid. If we come to Rabbi Nachman, he will protect us for the whole year,” said Markowitz, who has been visiting Uman since 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet Union made the pilgrimage accessible to foreign visitors.

Besides, he said, he is already familiar with the risk of war and the wail of sirens that comes from living in Israel.

The city, 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the capital, Kyiv, typically attracts thousands of pilgrims for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which begins in the evening Sunday and ends on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian embassy to Israel repeatedly urged those planning a pilgrimage to stay home, warning on Facebook that Russia has repeatedly targeted heavily populated areas and that “attacks cause real danger to your lives!”

The Israeli and American governments also cautioned citizens not to make the trip this year — and some of those warnings may have worked.

More than 35,000 pilgrims visited last year even in the face of pandemic travel restrictions, said local official Oleh Hanich.

This year’s turnout was smaller, though still substantial, considering that no commercial flights are arriving in the country. The United Jewish Community of Ukraine said 23,000 pilgrims were in Uman as of Sunday.

“Neither coronavirus nor war stops them. For them, this is a holy place,” Hanich said, while acknowledging “we can’t guarantee their complete safety.”

Rav Mota Frank, 54, initially had reservations about making the trip from Israel this year. But he decided it was worth the risk after realizing that the situation in Uman is calmer than at the front and seeing how Ukrainians themselves have reacted to the dangers of war.

“When there are air alarms, they do not hide in the basement, but try to be near the shelter,” he said of the Ukrainians. “We in Israel are used to it — there is also a constant war. We are used to what life is like. And that’s why it doesn’t scare us much.”

Uman is relatively far from the front lines in Ukraine’s east and south, though it is within the range of Russian missiles and has been struck before.

In 2020, thousands of pilgrims failed to reach Uman after Ukraine closed its borders due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.


Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Kyiv contributed reporting.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Man charged with threatening doctor over transgender care

BOSTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a Texas man with threatening a Boston physician who cares for transgender children. Thirty-eight-year-old Matthew Jordan Lindner of Comfort, Texas, faces a charge of transmitting interstate threats. He was arrested Friday in Texas by the FBI and is expected to appear in federal court in Massachusetts at a […]
1 day ago
FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, walks with U.S. President Joe Biden during the...
Associated Press

Turkish strikes on US Kurd allies resonate in Ukraine war

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Biden administration officials are toughening their language toward NATO ally Turkey as they try to talk Turkish President Recep Erdogan out of launching a bloody and destabilizing ground offensive against American-allied Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria. Since Nov. 20, after six people died in an Istanbul bombing a week before that […]
1 day ago
FILE - Women stand by a marble statue of a naked youth thought to represent Greek god Dionysos, cen...
Associated Press

British Museum reportedly in talks on Parthenon Sculptures

LONDON (AP) — The British Museum has pledged not to dismantle its collection, following a report that the institution’s chairman has held secret talks with Greece’s prime minister over the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles. The report by the Greek newspaper Ta Nea is the latest twist in the […]
1 day ago
Soldiers arrive in Soyapango, El Salvador, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. The government of El Salvador se...
Associated Press

El Salvador sends 10,000 police, army to seal off town

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — The government of El Salvador sent 10,000 soldiers and police to seal off a town on the outskirts of the nation’s capital Saturday to search for gang members. The operation was one of the largest mobilizations yet in President Nayib Bukele’s nine-month-old crackdown on street gangs that long extorted […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Sweden extradites to Turkey man convicted of terror links

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities on Saturday arrested and jailed in Istanbul a convicted member of an outlawed militant group who was extradited from Sweden where he had fled, Turkey’s state-run news agency said. The move comes as the NATO member continues to hold up Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the military alliance, pressing […]
1 day ago
Christian Pulisic of the United States is dejected after the World Cup round of 16 soccer match bet...
Associated Press

US knocked out of World Cup, loses to the Netherlands 3-1

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Memphis Depay and Daley Blind scored in the first half and Denzel Dumfries added a late goal as the Netherlands eliminated the United States from the World Cup with a 3-1 victory Saturday that advanced the Dutch to the quarterfinals. Second-half substitute Haji Wright cut the U.S. deficit to 2-1 […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Jewish pilgrims gather in Ukraine despite the perils of war