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
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
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.
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
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
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
People who wonder about this can ask the leaders of the haredi
community, who know how to dispatch their flocks to lifesaving jobs,
protecting graves thousands of years old (many belonging to non-Jews),
fall silent about the Holocaust, since it contradicts their stance on
Even on official remembrance days, some of the most extreme haredim
Israeli flag in a no-holds-barred struggle against Zionism.
Step by step,
course by course, with Zionist deeds, thought and financing, the haredi
is being rebuilt in the Zionist state.
The writer is director of the
Jerusalem-based OT Institute.