So it’s that time of the year again when discussing Uman becomes popular and even more so this year with all Covid drama surrounding it. At this point it looks like there will be a limited number of people allowed into Uman. Nothing specific has been given yet or how Ukraine will enforce it but it was announced yesterday that this will happen. It’s also being reported that Ukraine is shutting their borders on September 1st for entry from Red zone countries (Israel and USa are both red zone countries). So nobody really knows what will happen. There are over 2000 chassidim already there and more trying to go before September 1st.
Whenever a discussion about Uman happens these day whether it’s on this subreddit, social media, news, etc – there are always people who say that we are going there to sleep with prostitutes, do drugs, party, fight and a million other lies. 100 percent of people who write these things have never walked in Uman on RH. Yes, I did see reports that 94% of Uman’s residents dont want us this year and I don’t disagree. It could be a disaster. But on a regular year all those residents are leaving their apartments and stuff 20 beds in to make thousands of dollars off of chassidim needing places to sleep. But let’s get back to the lies. I’ve been there for every Rosh Hashanah since 2007 and have never seen anything of what people say happens there.
I have walked all over the city of Uman, outside the Jewish section. During RH, checkpoints are set up on the main street which leads into the area of Rebbe Nachman’s kever and where the majority of people stay and eat. A Ukrainian who is not working in Uman or lives in that area is not allowed in. I have also walked miles out of the checkpoint to do some shopping or visit the Sofia park which is an extremely beautiful botanical garden park that Rebbe Nachman spoke about visiting so people go there. I have never been approached by any woman offering “services”. I have never been approached by any shady mafia guys who hang around Uman offering drugs or women. I have never heard of anyone going to any brothels in Uman.
Is there some weed there? Yes. Is there some drinking there? Yes. Violent fights? haven’t seen it. There are many people who go who are not connected to Judaism like most of the breslovers who go. They go for a spiritual experience but also might drink and chill out a bit more than your regular person. Are there a few hundred people who are not shomer torah and mitzvos who dissapear in Kiev when the plane lands and you dont see them until you get back to Israel and who knows where they were? Probably. But it’s not even close to 1 percent of the people who go.
Now i’ll tell you hat I have seen there over the last 13 years:
- Extreme Jewish unity which cannot be found in any community in Israel or the USA or anywhere else in the USA. All types of Jews connecting only because of Rebbe Nachman. A hippie from India who came is having a conversation with a random chassidish dude from Mea Shearim because they have the same Rebbe. Chilonim, Charedim, Dati Leumim, Lakewoos people and hardcore chassidim all davening together.
- People talking to each other. Rabbeinu calls it sichas chaverim. Conversations between friends. You can be having a coffee on the street there and just start having a life changing conversation about your struggles,etc. You can meet a person on Pushkina street (the main street) and your life can change from a 2 minute convo. It happens every year. You can open up about personal struggles in your life, service of Hashem, marriage,etc there. You may not be able to do that back home but there you can get clarity. It’s unbelievable. If you have not been then it is hard to understand of course.
- Walk into the tziyon where Rebbe Nachman is buried from 3 days before RH until 3 days after and it is full of thousands of people learning and davening around the clock.
- Hundreds of different types of Minyanim ranging from Yemenite, Satmar, Chassidish, Carlebach, Litvish, Sefardi to everything else you can imagine (there is even a huge Chabad minyan there and a Vishnitz minyan).
- The main minyan in the Kloys starts at 6:30 am and finishes at 4 pm. The minyan I daven in starts at 8 and finishes at 5 pm. Then we eat, do tashlich and repeat. Where do we have time to party?
- Sometimes you need to leave EY or your home to have a unique original experience that cannot be found anywhere else. And it might be controversial to say this but there is not other experience like this in the world. Not anywhere. Even Meron Lag Baomer isn’t the same.
- I know more than a few people who are not so connected with Judaism during the year but make sure to come every RH no matter what. Sometimes giving up huge business deals and other events to be in Uman.
There are a lot of other points I can make but my main point is that Uman RH is an amazing Jewish experience open to all. It is not at all how it is reported in the media. I hope that we can all make it this year and follow all the rules there and I hope people will stop spreading lies about it.
I also made a video talking about all this with more elaboration which you can watch here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FWvioLtZ8I&t