Ukrainian nationalists to rally against Uman pilgrims

(JTA) — A Ukrainian ultranationalist movement is organizing a march in Uman against the presence of Jewish pilgrims there, Ukrainian media reported.

“The Hasidim colonize Uman, with help from authorities,” Yuri Botnar of the Svoboda party was quoted as telling the news site timeua.com on Monday. Botnar, the local representative of Svoboda in Uman, said he was organizing a march under the banner “Uman without Hassidim” on Sept. 12.

Protests in Uman against the presence of thousands of Jewish pilgrims in Uman started a few years ago, as Svodoba increased its popularity. The ultranationalistic opposition movement entered parliament for the first time in 2012 when 10 percent of the national vote in the election made it Ukraine’s fourth largest party. Several of its leading members, including party leader Oleh Tyahnybok, have made anti-Semitic statements.

Some 25,000 pilgrims, many of them from the Breslov movement, converge in Uman each year ahead of the Jewish new year to pray near the burial place of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov hasidic movement. Most of the pilgrims do not stay longer than one week and are expected to leave before the protest rally takes place. Previous rallies attracted several dozen demonstrators.

Ukrainian police has dispatched nearly 500 police officers to maintain public order in Uman during the High Holidays, Gazeta.ua reported. They were joined by 12 Israeli police officers. Police officers reportedly are limiting the access of non-Jews to the area of Uman where the pilgrims congregate.

In unrelated incidents, three attacks on Jewish property have been reported within two weeks in Ukraine and Russia.

In Pryluki, a town located 80 miles east of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, 17 Jewish tombstones were desecrated when unknown assailants spray-painted them with swastikas, the Ukrainian news site Gazeta.ua reported Aug. 22.

Swastikas also were painted on the night of Aug. 25 on a synagogue in Mykolaiv, a city situated some 80 miles east of the Ukrainian city of Odessa, the news site tsn.ua reported.

And on Aug. 23, unknown assailants hurled stones and other objects at the Gan Geula Jewish kindergarten in Volgograd, a city in southwest Russia, in what authorities said may have been a hate crime, according to Russia’s Jewish News Agency.

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