Sometimes what’s done in Uman stays in Uman, but not for the better – S. says he knows of “at least” 10 cases of men who wound up abandoning their families in Israel for local Ukrainian women. “Uman has become a city of sanctuary. It’s very hard to track them down and force them to sign divorce papers and pay child support,” S. says.
Above: Hasidim in Uman a Torah scroll to the Breslov synagogue
Here are a few excerpts. Please click the link posted below them to read the entire article:
…Most of the pilgrims to the Uman go there to pray, but about 5 percent, estimates Israel Cohen, a writer for the ultra-Orthodox website Kikar HaShabbat, have something else in mind too. This works out to thousands of johns a year.
…“At first just a few dozen would visit prostitutes while in Uman,” says Jacky, a Breslov Hasid. “It might happen at the park, in houses on the edge of town, or in the hostels. Nobody talked openly about it.”
But that drip became a torrent, so much so that special “modesty patrols” were set up to punish errant Hasids, Jacky says (though they didn’t last). As the women throng about them, in the last couple of years rabbis have taken to wearing shawls with which they can cover their eyes.
…“People break savings accounts to make the trip to Uman during Rosh Hashanah,” says Matan Meshi, a 22-year-old Breslov Hasid who’s already visited Uman 30 times. “It is a great mitzvah, which is rewarded by great successes and miracles. One week in Uman costs $1,700, which is a lot of money for simple people or yeshiva students. But they’ll turn the world upside down, scrape for every shekel in order to win this mitzvah,” he says.
Daniel is another Breslov Hasid who’s had to replace his passport twice already because of his frequent visits to Uman, and who admits he visits prostitutes there. “My wife knows nothing about it,” he says. “It inflames and excites me. Then I go home, calm down for some months, and fly out again. For me it’s prayer and pleasure, too.”
…Israeli criminals fleeing the long arm of the Israeli law […] settle down in Uman and resume the lifestyle they know best: pimping. One Haredi who’s been to the city dozens of times claims the prostitution is controlled by Israeli crime bosses in league with Ukrainian pimps.
…Poor women in rural Ukraine may have few options other than prostitution, and many wind up in Kiev, which has earned itself the soubriquet of the sex capital of Europe. Some 50,000 women are believed to engage in prostitution in Kiev itself (and one of of every five is believed to be a minor); about 30% of them are believed to be addicts; and 20% to carry AIDS. (In the previous decade, thousands of Ukrainian women seeking a living reached Israel, too).
Uman’s whole population is 85,000, including its suburbs. It has five universities, and the visiting Hasidic clients claim that some female students wind up selling sex services to pay tuition. One Haredi who knows Uman well claims some families are so desperate [because of Ukraine’s failing economy] that mothers try to pimp their daughters right by Nachman’s grave itself.
“Some even learned the rules, and wear modest dress in order not to offend the feelings of the Hasids,” says an Israeli who now lives in Uman. He believes the customers for the Uman prostitutes are mainly reborn Jews, at some point in their process of discovering religion. “They go to the girls because they’re weak in character, and fall,” he suggests. “Happily, there aren’t many of them. It’s mainly men coming to Uman for the first or second time, who had not been exposed to things like this before, and they stumble. Ultimately, Haredi men also have base urges and can go wrong.”…
S., a freshly-married young man, eschewed sexual services, though his (equally married) roommates did not, and came back to their shared quarters as excited as schoolboys, he says. He personally was worried that somebody would snitch to his family or wife.
Moreover, sometimes what’s done in Uman stays in Uman, but not for the better – S. says he knows of “at least” 10 cases of men who wound up abandoning their families in Israel for local Ukrainian women. “Uman has become a city of sanctuary. It’s very hard to track them down and force them to sign divorce papers and pay child support,” S. says.
The Haredi establishment is not unaware of the problems. Some rabbis have actually banned their followers from flying to Uman, lest they fall to temptation to sin…
About three years ago, less out of concern for the women than the chastity of their men, the Breslov Hasids decided it was high time to curb the phenomenon, and set up modesty patrols. [But the patrols] fell through [about a year later] because even though they weren’t asked for more than about a dollar each, the travelers balked at paying anything for the pleasure of being policed by the zealous modesty patrols.…
Read it all here.