New Year in Ukraine: huge Chassid turnout

Tens of thousands of Chassidic Jews from around the world gathered in a small Ukrainian city Sept. 9 to mark the Jewish New Year at the tomb of their spiritual leader — an apparent record for the annual all-male pilgrimage banned for decades by the Soviets.

Ukraine’s chief rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich estimated the turnout at up to 50,000 pilgrims in the city of Uman, located 125 miles south of Kiev.

The Chassidic men and boys were praying, dancing and reciting psalms around the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav on the 200th anniversary of his death.

Recent turnouts at the pilgrimage had been around 25,000. The pilgrimage was outlawed when Ukraine was part of the officially atheist Soviet Union, although some Jews secretly made their way to the area despite the threat of arrest. In the last decade, commemorations have ballooned into a massive event. — ap