Monday, July 06, 2015
Yitzhak, 35, a father of three, first visited Uman three years ago. He prostrated himself at the graveside of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, for the sake of spiritual enrichment and for the mitzvah, hoping to secure a good living, answers to his problems, and a happy life. "When we finished the evening prayer … my friend suggested we take a walk and get fresh air," says Yitzhak. "He took me to a neighborhood at the edge of town. We went into one of the houses. I didn't think about my wife at all and she knows nothing about this. I know about other Hasidim who go to prostitutes in Uman: married, single – Hasidim of all types."
Uman is a central Ukrainian city where Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was buried after his death in 1810. Each year, a quarter of a million people, from the decidedly secular to the most fervent of believers, make the pilgrimage to the city because, according to tradition, the rabbi promised to intercede on behalf of anybody praying at his grave on Rosh Hashanah.
Most of the pilgrims to the Uman go there to pray, but about 5 percent, estimates Israel Cohen, a writer for the ultra-Orthodox website Kikar HaShabbat, have something else in mind too. This works out to thousands of johns a year.
Last month, Labor Knesset member Merav Michaeli sparked a Facebook storm when she uploaded a video of herself discussing another Knesset member, Likud's Oren Hazan (who allegedly used hard drugs and coordinated escort services for clients at the casino he managed in Bulgaria before entering politics). In the video, she also mentioned prostitution in Uman. With that, Michaeli touched on a sore point, which the Hasidic pilgrims tend not to discuss.
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