» Articles » Jewish Uman: past and nowadays

Jewish Uman: past and nowadays

The town of Uman was first mentioned in documents of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1616. Then the city belonged to the nobleman Kalinovsky, who built a castle-fortress here. At the end of the 17th century, Jews began to populate the city. The second partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1793 brought Uman into the Russian Empire. Gradually the Uman community increased and by 1801 it had already reached 1895 people, which accounted for 58% of all residents.

One of the historical milestones in the life of the Jews of Uman was the arrival in 1808 of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of Breslov Hasidism. However, after two years of stay in Uman, on one of the holidays of Sukkot, Rebbe Nachman died, bequeathing before his death to his followers that they visit his grave once a year for the forgiveness of sins.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Jews in Uman were engaged in handicrafts and commerce. Rich Jews owned shops and factories, mills, pharmaceutical warehouses, soap factories and tanneries, as well as much more - all trade at that time, and even the service sector in the city, belonged to Jews. As of 1910, there were 3 schools for Jewish men in the town, as well as a Talmud Torah. In 1914, Jews in the city made up more than 52% of all its residents.

During the revolution and civil war, at least 350 members of the Jewish community were killed as a result of pogroms. After Soviet power was established in the city, a significant part of the community gradually moved to larger and more industrial cities in the country in the hope of a better life.

Before the outbreak of World War I, in 1939, 13,233 Jews lived in Uman. The Germans occupied the city in early August 1941. According to some sources, at that time there were approximately 15,000 Jews in Uman, including refugees from the western regions of the USSR. During the German occupation, according to various sources, about 25,000 Jews were killed in Uman and its environs, including those brought there from other regions.

After the war, a number of Jews returned to Uman, but Jewish life there underwent significant changes: the authorities closed the last surviving synagogue, built up the old Jewish cemetery, destroyed the ohel of Tzadikk Nachman, and committed many other acts that did not at all contribute to the revival of Jewish life in the city.

With Ukraine's declaration of independence, the Jewish community of Uman was gradually revived. Also, Hasidic pilgrims began to return to the grave of the tzaddik, and the Ukrainian state began to provide them with all kinds of support in this. Every year over 30,000 Jews visit Uman for pilgrimage purposes.

Now there is a local community in the city, as well as Bratslav Hasidim who live here on a permanent basis, constantly supervising Nachman’s ohel, the work of the synagogue and other places of pilgrimage.