UKRAINE JEWISH PILIGRIMAGE x264

Thousands of Hasidic Jews from around the world are gathering in the Ukrainian city of Uman for a yearly pilgrimage marked by singing, dancing and prayer. The pilgrims crowding the city's streets are mostly men in black hats or kippas coming to pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nahman -- a revered leader of their traditionalist movement. On the pilgrimage days for a week around the Jewish New Year, this sleepy, dusty town of 90,000 inhabitants some 200 kilometres (124 miles) south of Kiev is transformed into a multilingual hub of the Hasidic movement. The celebrations are a way for Hasidic Jews to get back to the roots of their movement in the heart of eastern Europe more than 60 years after the Holocaust. The stream of pilgrims makes its way down Pushkin street to a large metal structure covering the tomb of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav and two synagogues filled with believers who pray here for hours on end. Rabbi Nahman, also known as a tzadik or spiritual master, died in Uman in 1810, having urged his followers to gather by his tomb to celebrate Rosh Hashana, or Jewish New Year. This year up to 25,000 Hasidic Jews, most of them from Israel and the United States, are expected to heed his call and attend the celebrations. The Hasidic tradition, founded in the 18th century in Belarus and Ukraine, places special emphasis on joyous communion with God. The singing and dancing give Uman a festive air. With Hasidic music pouring out of CD-players and laptop computers, pilgrims dance in circles and sing all around -- in the streets.