Blind faith: Uman's Jewish community suffers 'days-long' power outages

One rabbi says Jewish communities, including at Rabbi Nachman's grave compound, are sometimes left without light and heat for days; 'At night, temperatures reach -2 degrees Celsius, so we sleep with coats on and bathe in mikveh,' he says

Edward Doks, Nir Cohen|
Power outages throughout Ukraine leave its cities' infrastructures in dire conditions, but they are even more devastating in the peripheral areas of the war-ravaged country, which incudes the city of Uman that houses a large Jewish community.
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  • Residents of these small towns say they often go days without electricity or water.
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    הפסקת חשמל באומן
    הפסקת חשמל באומן
    Power outage in Uman
    (Photo: Breslev Bauman Union)
    "Since Saturday there has been an ongoing power outage in Uman, pumps aren't working and therefore no water is getting to the higher floors of the buildings," says Rabbi Natan Ben-Nun, president of the Breslev Bauman Union.
    "I sleep at our offices inside the synagogue. At night, the temperatures drop to -2 degrees Celsius, so I sleep with a coat on. We bathe at the showers in the Mikveh, we go out to the bathroom with our iPhone flashlight."
    The grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, also known as Nachman from Uman, is also bearing the effects of such harsh living conditions.
    "At our big synagogue all of the heating is electricity-based, so it's not working there as well. It's very cold, people wear warm clothes. We have three generators that give us light," says Ben-Nun about the site in which the grave of Rabbi Nachman is located.
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    עלטה בציון קברו של רבי נחמן באומן
    עלטה בציון קברו של רבי נחמן באומן
    Rabbi Nachman's grave compounds amid a power outage
    (Photo: Breslev Bauman Union)
    "We filed a request to the Ukrainian government to cancel the tariffs on generator imports. Today, there is a crazy demand in Ukraine for emergency lamps, candles, lumber for heating unites, wood chips, and any alternative source of light and heat."
    Aside from the lack of electricity at the grave's compound in Uman, the fighting in Ukraine took the life of one of the men in charge of upkeeping the site.
    "One man that was part of our security staff had been drafted to the army and was killed," Ben-Nun says. "Many people left, but I'm staying in Uman despite it all. Uman is where my life is."
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    באומן נעזרים בגנרטורים כדי להאיר את המתחם
    באומן נעזרים בגנרטורים כדי להאיר את המתחם
    Generators are used to light the synagogue
    (Photo: Breslev Bauman Union)
    Those who stayed in Uman are forced to deal with a very tough reality. "We have a team of six cleaners. They usually clean the site with an electronic machine. In today's situation they are willing to do the work manually, just so they do not lose their jobs," says the rabbi.
    Another member of the Jewish community in Uman, Chaim Chazin, made his way there from Odessa in order to bring them supplies.
    "I went especially to big wholesale market in Ukraine near Odessa to bring us street lighting and rechargeable LED lamps. There was nothing there either," he says. "I went from store to store, until I reached the supplier. I was so happy to find the goods, I bought $2,000 worth of them at my own expense for the whole community."
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    חושך בבית הכנסת באומן
    חושך בבית הכנסת באומן
    The synagogue in Uman amid a power outage
    (Photo: Breslev Bauman Union)
    Aside from the power outages, Chazin says "life is totally calm" in Uman - where the Jewish community has already started preparations for the upcoming holiday of Hannukah.
    During this holiday, a wave of Israelis is expected to visit Rabbi Nachman's grave. "We already know of about a thousand people that bought tickets," says Chazin. "It will only grow. Rosh Hashana was a surprise, there were close to 25 thousand people.
    "God willing, when the guests arrive, everything will be ready and organized."
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