Many fewer Breslov Hasidim are flying to Uman, Ukraine this year for the hasidic movement’s annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to the grave of its founder, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, in part because one of the sect’s main leaders, Rabbi Eliezer Berland, is hiding in plain sight in Morocco, where he is protected against arrest.
Fewer Breslov Hasidim Fly To Uman Amid Financial And Leadership Crisis
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Many fewer Breslov Hasidim are flying to Uman, Ukraine this year for the hasidic movement’s annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to the grave of its founder, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Ynet reported, in part because one of the sect’s main leaders, Rabbi Eliezer Berland, is hiding in plain sight in Morocco, where he is protected against arrest.
Berland was accused by several female followers – including several minors – of sexual abuse. He is reportedly afraid to travel to Uman because he fears he will be arrested there and deported back to Israel to possibly stand trial. Many of Berland’s followers are either traveling to Morocco to spend Rosh Hashana with him there or are staying in Israel, and fewer are going to Uman.
Even more Breslov hasidim are staying home this year because of Berland’s Shuvu Banim community’s decision to stop subsidizing flights to Uman, making the travel out of reach financially for many hasidim. The sect is in a deep financial crisis, and seven of its leaders in Israel have been arrested on fraud, tax evasion and money laundering charges.
Even so, many of the sect’s hasidim have reportedly declared a boycott on flying to Uman until the community finds a way to reduce the cost per flight to a more reasonable amount.
"Only about two months ago, a large hasidic movement traveled with charter planes to Poland, which is further away than Kiev, for $200 round trip. The price was not subsidized; this is what they got from the airline. We can see the power of a large and organized group,” the boycott’s organizers wrote in a petition.
Panicked travel agencies have reportedly resorted to publishing ads which declare that it is a mandatory religious duty to spend Rosh Hashana at Rabbi Nachman’s grave in order to guilt hasidim into traveling there.
Uman trip organizers even held a raffle for free airline tickets for people who say special prayers for hasidic yeshiva students who are forbidden by law to leave Israel because they have not served their hitch in the military or are wanted criminals.
"It's no secret that many of the passengers are yeshiva students who are not allowed to fly because of the IDF or criminals who are getting closer through Breslov, and the competition was created for them," a Breslov source told Ynet.
There is a cheaper way than flying to get to Uman – traveling by ship. But the movement’s leaders banned its use because they were afraid women would be on the ship with men.