(JTA) — A crucifix placed near the Uman grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov should be removed, the chief rabbi of Ukraine said.
“Ukraine is not a Jewish country and Ukrainian Jews respect Christian symbols like crosses,” Rabbi Yaakov Bleich told the Jewish Ukrainian news site Еvreiskiy.kiev.ua. “However, the cross raised in Uman, in the immediate vicinity of the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, is a clear provocation.”
Bleich said the installation of the cross by an unnamed religious society was not endorsed by the leadership of Christian denominations nor by the local authorities, who he said should intervene.
Earlier this month, graffiti scrawled in Hebrew was discovered on the crucifix, which was erected in recent weeks on the banks of a lake near the grave of the 18th-century founder of the Breslov hasidic movement.
The message read, “To exact vengeance on the gentiles.” A further inscription on the crucifix’s leg read, “Stop desecrating the name of God.”
Referring to an estimated 30,000 Jewish pilgrims expected to arrive in Uman for Rosh Hashanah, Bleich said they would not be able to pray at the site this year. He told JTA the cross would prevent the pilgrims from performing tashlich, a prayer often accompanied with the ritual of symbolically casting off the sins of the previous year by tossing pieces of bread or another food into a body of flowing water.