Uman, yes. So why not Babi Yar?

Airplanes from Israel land in Kiev, but some good souls ‘decided’ that the way from the Ukrainian capital to Uman does not pass through Babi Yar.

By MORDECHAI LIPMAN
September 15, 2010 21:47
3 minute read.
pilgrimage to the gravesite of Rabbi Nahman.

Rabbi Nahman supporters in Ukraine 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Shortly before every Jewish new year, tens of thousands of Israelis stream into Uman in what seems like an air convoy.

Most, if not all of the travelers are Breslaver Hassidim, many newly religious, headed to the tomb of Rebbe Nahman in Uman. As they make the pilgrimage to the tomb, most speak about repeating a unique spiritual experience. But this flow of hassidim to Uman once again emphasizes how alienated haredi Judaism is from the Holocaust and how it ignores the horrific events that shaped the faith of most of the Jewish people (except for its haredi faction) in Zionism, its values and its loyalty to the state.

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Not far from Uman is one of the largest killing fields in Europe – in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. This is Babi Yar, where some 30,000 men, women and children, the majority Jews, were murdered by German- Ukrainian machine gun fire.

The slaughter took place In September 1941 over three days and nights. After the Jews were shot, they fell into pits that had been dug in advance. Very few survivors lived to tell the horrific tale.

The planes from Israel land in Kiev daily during the holiday season, only a few kilometers from Babi Yar. Visitors do not take the trouble to first visit the mass grave to recite Kaddish. The journey from Tel Aviv to Uman and back again is organized with excellent logistics, and the organizers leave nothing to chance. Travelers are whisked directly from Kiev to Uman and back without any stops in between – not even to any nearby sites.

This attitude is a reflection of how the haredi community refers to the Holocaust and thus to Zionism. Some haredim “explain” the Holocaust as a temporary concealment of divine providence, which hid its face from the Jewish people and its distress.

Assisted by those learned in religion, I looked into whether the corpus of Jewish prayers refers specifically to the Holocaust. If you guessed it does not, you are correct.



Historians of the Jewish people have always been skilled in censoring past chapters of Jewish life which were likely to contradict the story they wished to tell, and perhaps correctly so. History described by Jewish historians is not without manipulations, but perhaps all historians with national religious goals do so. But no one before has dared to conduct such a huge manipulation regarding events that involved the fate of millions.

OTHER PAINFUL events in the history of the Jewish people have made their way into the Jewish canon. Part of the High Holy Day liturgy is a prayer that shocked me when I was a boy, opening with, “Let us now relate the power of this day’s holiness...”

and ending with, “And repentance, prayer and charity avert the evil decree.” Could one have said this during the Holocaust? And is this possible to say post- Holocaust? The aforementioned liturgical poem, attributed to Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, refers to the pogroms by the crusaders of the First Crusade in Mainz. Various versions of what happened exist, but the main assumption is that about 700 Jews were murdered in one pogrom. This event has been the focus of heartrending attention in the High Holy Day prayer book, which makes it even stranger that there is no reference to the Holocaust in the canon of prayers, no mention of the genocide of six million Jews.


People who wonder about this can ask the leaders of the haredi community, who know how to dispatch their flocks to lifesaving jobs, such as protecting graves thousands of years old (many belonging to non-Jews), but who fall silent about the Holocaust, since it contradicts their stance on Zionism. Even on official remembrance days, some of the most extreme haredim defile the Israeli flag in a no-holds-barred struggle against Zionism.

Step by step, course by course, with Zionist deeds, thought and financing, the haredi ghetto is being rebuilt in the Zionist state.

The writer is director of the Jerusalem-based OT Institute.


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