Bratslav Hassidim gear up for Uman trip on eve of Rosh Hashana

American Hassidic businessman donates millions to subsidize tickets.

hassid pushes stroller88 (photo credit: )
hassid pushes stroller88
(photo credit: )
Bratslav Hassidim believe that bringing as many Jews as possible to the grave site of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav in Uman, Ukraine, on the eve of Rosh Hashana helps bring closer the redemption. That's why Israel Singer, an American businessman and Bratslav hassid, is donating between $4 million and $5m. for the cause. "Hundreds of Bratslavers do what they can to encourage Jews to go," said one Bratslav hassid. "People like Singer with a few million extra dollars in cash pay for tickets. People with a talent for writing print pamphlets, photographers make videos, others help spread the teachings of Rabbi Nachman." Singer is subsidizing 4,500 tickets to Uman - 3,000 for Israelis, 1,500 for Diaspora Jews - for Jewish males 13 or older who have never before visited the grave site . He is also investing in tents and beds to accommodate approximately 22,000 visitors. This is the second year in a row that Singer is subsidizing tickets. Full-page ads in the leading haredi papers inform those interested in Singer's generosity to send $199 to a Poalei Agudat Yisrael bank account. If they are lucky, the additional $500 needed for a direct ticket to Uman from Ben-Gurion Airport, including ground transportation, will be footed by Singer. Bratslav Hassidim believe that anyone who "connects" with Rabbi Nachman on Rosh Hashana eve at his grave site can change his life for the better. "Rabbi Nachman taught that he can help people on Rosh Hashana who he cannot help during the year," the hassid said, adding that souls like Rabbi Nachman's continue to have an impact on the world even after death. "It's not that we believe he is really alive or that he is the Messiah," he said. "We just believe that what he taught and promised can influence our lives." Bratslav Hassidut is made up of dozens of different groups led by their own rabbis. Some of the largest include a camp led by Rabbi Ya'acov Meir Schechter, a member of the Edah Haredit. Rabbi Eliezer Berland, also of Jerusalem, heads another group of hassidim, many of whom are newly religious Sephardim. His students are known for risking their lives to visit Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. Another leading Bratslav rabbi is Elazar Mordechai Koenig of Safed, who was involved in a bitter conflict with a Sephardi rabbi, also from Safed, who resuscitated the age-old criticism of Lithuanian haredim against Hassidism for deviating from Orthodox theology. Rabbi Eliezer Shlomo Shick of Yavniel, another prominent Bratslav rabbi, was recently accused of officiating at the marriages of minors