Jewish representatives, Ukrainian authorities deny 'pogrom' in Uman

Early reports described a nightmarish situation with Ukrainians running throughout the city armed with knives and clubs looking for Jews.

Jews are pictured making the pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman, Ukraine. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jews are pictured making the pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman, Ukraine.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A group of teens gave Israeli media a false report claiming that an antisemitic mob was taking place in Uman, Ukraine, causing nationwide outrage, Hassidic network Uman Shalom reported Saturday evening. 
Uman is an important city for many Jews, with thousands making the trip there every year on pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, the founder of the Breslover Hassidic sect.

On Saturday, Yeshiva World News reported that an armed mob stormed through the city over Shabbat, attacking Jews outside the grave.
"I returned from the Kloiz [the Breslov synagogue] and I see that they're beating every Jew who 'dared' to look at them or say a word to them," one Jewish visitor to the town told Yeshiva World News.
"It started with an insignificant dispute between one of the local Ukrainians and a Jew. The Ukrainian involved in the dispute called his antisemitic friends to come and beat up Jews," the dramatic report added. “The police did show up at the scene but didn’t lift a finger to help the Jews. They just stood by and watched what was happening, while the Jews were being beaten up. What they did do was prevent the dozens of thugs from entering the [grave]. Four Jews were taken to the nearest hospital on Friday night as a result of being beaten by the Ukrainians. On Motzei Shabbat they returned and the fighting is now at its height.”
Witnesses cited by Yeshiva World News even claimed that the Ukrainians were running throughout the city armed with knives and clubs and were looking for Jews.

In reality, Uman Shalom explained that an argument ensued between Israeli teens and a local security guard over an elevator. The argument became violent and the guard was later joined by other locals.

Ukrainian police denied that an antisemitic mob took place in Uman, saying that "it was established that the information circulating the internet that four Hassids arrived at the hospital with injuries was untrue."
The local hospital could not confirm the report, it added in a press release. "There were no allegations of misconduct in connection with the conflict between the locals and the Hassids," police said.
"As per the order of National Police head Ihor Klymenko, agents of different [security] services arrived at the Charkasy region to assess the circumstances of the conflict situation that involved Hassidic Jews and local residents," Ukraine's Cherkasy District National Police said in a press release, saying that the agents "are now in Uman."
Police added that Klymanko ordered officers to "identify the causes and circumstances of the conflict between the locals and the Hassidim and to provide a legal assessment of the actions of local law enforcement."

According to the Uman City Council's Executive Committee, the brawl was a dispute of social nature "between [local] security guards and Hassids," rather than an antisemitic incident. 
"Information regarding the scale of the brawl as well as that claiming the use of knives or bars does not correspond to reality," the committee said, adding that those who took part in the brawl "do not have severe injuries."

According to the Uman City Council, local activists met with Hassids on Saturday following the incident. A city council meeting was held on Sunday in which Hassidic representatives met with the mayor, local police as well as police representatives from Kiev and representatives of the Ukraine Security Service.
Following the meeting, measures will be taken by local authorities to combat antisemitism, secure Hassidic neighborhoods and prevent future incidents, according to the city council. "A national security service will be formed to guard the grave of Rabbi Nahman," the council said.
In the past other antisemitic incidents have been reported in the Ukrainian city. In October, locals some vandalized an area near the grave with graffiti of Adolf Hitler. In 2016, Rabbi Nachman's grave was vandalized with a severed pig's head.

According to the council, Jewish representatives and local authorities agreed to "maintain operative contact between the sides with the goal of avoiding similar incidents." The council added that 
"together with the local council, the Hassids will continue installing security cameras throughout the entirety of the historical and cultural center of the Breslav Hassids."

The Uman City Council emphasized that regarding this latest episode "there was no ethnic or religiously-motivated conflict, neither in the beginning of the brawl nor during the time it was taking place."

According to Uman Shalom, no violent events has taken place around Rabbi Nahman's grave in recent years, besides several incidents that were "provoked by fringe Jewish youth," and reconciled by Uman community's Rabbi Yaakov Jan.