NYC politicians urge Ukraine FM to stop illegal construction in Uman holy site

Thousands of Hassidic Jews visit the tomb of Rabbi Tzadik Nachman, the great-grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov and founder of the Hassidic movement, every year.

 Jewish men in the street near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman, on eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, September 6, 2021.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
Jewish men in the street near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman, on eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, September 6, 2021.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

New York City-based Democrats Ritchie Torres, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler and Gregory Meeks sent Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba a letter urging Ukraine’s government to put a stop to the illegal construction taking place within the Burial Place of Tzadik Nachman of Breslov cultural heritage site in Uman, Ukraine.

Rabbi Tzadik Nachman, the great-grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov and founder of the Hassidic movement, is buried in Uman. His burial site is visited by thousands of Jews every year, including Hassidic Jewish Americans.

“Tzadik Nachman is a deeply significant cultural heritage site for the global Jewish community,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres. “Any construction project that threatens protected zones of this historic burial and cultural site must be immediately halted. I am proud to partner with Congresswoman Meng, Chairman Meeks, and Chairman Nadler in urging the Ukrainian Government to act with urgency to preserve this site.”

The area around the site has been a protected zone since October of 1994 and is protected by the Uman People’s Deputies Council.

This decision prohibited any kind of construction within the protected zones without the explicit agreement of the state agencies responsible for the protection of historical and cultural landmarks, as well as with the Jewish community of Uman.

 The grave of Reb Nachman in Uman, Ukraine (credit: LORD MOUNTBATTEN/WIKIPEDIA) The grave of Reb Nachman in Uman, Ukraine (credit: LORD MOUNTBATTEN/WIKIPEDIA)

Why do Jews go to Uman?

7,000 to 10,000 Israelis are expected to fly out to Ukraine this week to take part in the annual High Holidays pilgrimage to Uman, though Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated that all Israelis should refrain from traveling to Uman this year amid the Russia-Ukraine war. 

“Many of my constituents each year make the journey to Uman, Ukraine to pay homage to Rabbi Tzadik Nachman, making this heritage site an extremely holy place for Hassidic Jews,” said Rep. Meng. “While Ukraine is in the midst of defending its country from Russia’s unjust invasion, we urge the Government of Ukraine to take immediate action to stop the illegal construction currently ongoing at Rabbi Nachman’s burial site. The illegal construction is not new, and cannot continue unabated.”

We urge the Government of Ukraine to take immediate action to stop the illegal construction currently ongoing at Rabbi Nachman’s burial site

Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)

An additional 19 Democratic US representatives signed the letter, including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey – who are both Jewish – bringing the total number of representatives involved in the letter to 23.