We’ve Worked in Ukraine for Decades

 

For generations, Federations have and continue to be the foremost partners to Jews around the world.

 

Through the Jewish Agency for Israel, we bring Shlichim to Ukraine, run Sunday programs, bring Ukrainian youth to Israel for immersive programs, and support the aliyah of Jews.

 

Through our partners at the JDC, we support multiple Hesed centers across 1000 locations, supporting the most vulnerable people of Ukraine. We run JCCs and Jewish youth programs to help younger generations reimagine Jewish life where it once was all but decimated.

 

And through World ORT, we’ve played an important role in the renewal of Jewish life through Jewish day schools, vocational training, and more.

 

But the urgent needs continue. 

 

Civilian and military deaths continue to mount in Ukraine as fighting enters a fourth week. Despite enormous Russian efforts, the capital Kyiv has still not fallen. Millions of Ukrainians, including tens of thousands of Jews, are still attempting to flee the country. Read on to see how Federation and our partners are helping provide for displaced Ukrainians and helping them escape to safety, and learn what you can do to support these efforts.

How Your Donations Are Helping

As the Ukraine emergency continues to unfold, the Jewish Federations are proud to announce that they have surpassed their second goal of $40 million, raising and allocating an astonishing $43.4 million in just three weeks to help secure the Jewish community of Ukraine and others facing wartime difficulties.

 

Given that the scope of the need continues to grow, Federations have continued vetting new opportunities to offer assistance on the ground and are already reassessing the overall level of need. We expect to announce an updated fundraising goal in the coming days.

 

The $43.4 million in funds have been allocated by both the Jewish Federations of North America and individual Federations through our partner agencies The Jewish Agency for Israel, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and World ORT, as well as United Hatzalah, Hillel International, Nefesh B'Nefesh, HIAS, Israel Trauma Coalition, Hadassah Medical Organization, Chabad, and Shma Yisrael.

 

Jewish Federations President and CEO Eric Fingerhut emphasized that our partner organizations providing relief on the ground were ready to jump into action because Jewish Federations have helped build and sustain them over decades through regular giving during quieter times.

 

"Communities do not wait until there is a fire to build a fire department, and the Jewish people do not wait until there is an emergency to create an effective system of rescue and humanitarian aid," Fingerhut said.

 

In 2021 alone, the Jewish Federations and Network of Independent Communities raised and allocated over $100 million in unrestricted funds for our three partner organizations to power their vital work protecting Jews around the world, caring for the neediest among our people wherever they live, and connecting our communities.

 

"The skill and expertise we have been witnessing in the relief efforts in Ukraine and in the bordering countries is the result of years of experience, training, relationship building, and fundraising,” Fingerhut continued.

 

“We are proud that our system has both laid the groundwork for these organizations over the years and that our communities were so quick to answer the call to action at the moment it was needed."

 

Federations have placed a specific emphasis on providing immediate relief and direct services to vulnerable populations and maintaining basic service delivery, to the degree possible, including:

 

  • Providing housing, clothing, medication, cash assistance, mental health services, security, and transportation for refugees fleeing the war and those seeking to make Aliyah.

  • Expediting the rapid Aliyah of those individuals or families who wish to move to Israel and facilitating their absorption on arrival.

  • Ensuring the secure evacuation of individuals under immediate threat or where active hostilities are already taking place.

  • Safeguarding the security of Jewish communal facilities and Jewish individuals, whether in their home communities or temporary accommodations.

 

Funds are going toward sustaining displaced Jews not in camps/shelters with basic needs, such as food, medicine, appliances, and clothing, as well as increasing cash assistance to the elderly, children and vulnerable families who are in financial turmoil and face physical threats.

 

According to our estimates, our funds have already had impact in the following ways:

 

  • 12,100 refugees have been fed and housed

  • 7,000 refugees have received on-the-ground support in Ukraine

  • 5,500+ Jewish Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Israel

  • 7,800 beds have been rented

  • 55,000+ calls have been received at various hotlines

  • Served as the lifeline for 18,000 Jewish elderly and 2,500 poor Jewish children

 

For more information on our collective efforts to help the Jewish community of Ukraine, please see the updates, below, from JFNA.

Recent Briefings

Updates & Statements from Our Partners

 

Update from World ORT (3/4/2022)

 

As we reach one week since the beginning of the crisis, our hearts go out to our ORT family who are suffering emotionally and physically from the dangerous conditions. Our ORT network is strong and together we can help alleviate their distress. Thank you to the hundreds of ORT supporters who have already contributed to our Emergency Campaign. Read below some updates about the current situation and how you can help.

 

STATUS OF ORT SCHOOLS IN UKRAINE

 

ORT supports seven schools in Ukraine, in Chernivtsi, Dnipro, Belaya Tzerkov, Odessa and Zaporozhe, and two in Kyiv. These schools educate more than 3,000 full-time students. ORT also runs KesherNet centers, which support unemployed women with job training, as well as an education center in Kyiv and a technology center in Dnipro.

 

All ORT schools in Ukraine are closed and mobility is limited. After 25 years of building schools and training centers in Ukraine, there are now more than 8,000 people who rely on ORT as part of their daily lives. Since the start of the conflict, their lives have been upended by rockets and sirens, which go off very often.

 

Many, like Ukrainian civilians across the entire country, are at home, trying to remain safe. Some left for Romania, Poland, and Moldova, but many roads are blocked and dangerous, preventing people from leaving. Shops and gas stations are mostly closed and food is becoming scarce. Reports from the field say that lines to get into supermarkets are 200 people long and shelves are bare. The ORT School in Moldova is preparing to eventually accept ORT Ukraine refugees at their school and is helping with accommodations and necessities.

 

STUDENTS TAKE ACTION

 

Kyiv 141 ORT school students have initiated an Instagram page where students in Ukraine will be sharing their stories and photos of their life during the war. One of the aims of the project is to keep an archive of their experiences, and to help students to keep in touch, share their support and stay informed of what’s really happening. The student’s IT teacher, who is now in Western Ukraine, is assisting the students. She has also initiated a Google form where students, families and teachers can indicate their needs, so that ORT can help.

 

KFAR SILVER CARES FOR UKRANIAN STUDENTS

 

Kfar Silver is home to Ukrainian students who arrived at the Youth Village as part of Na'ale, a program that brings Jewish teenagers to Israel to complete their high school education. As the war continues, the Ukrainian students are anxious, constantly worrying about their families and friends back home.

 

The staff at Kfar Silver is helping the students cope with emotional support and counseling, and fun activities and outings to distract them. Since the students are part of the boarding school, their counselors care for them on a more personal level and do what they can to keep their spirits up.

 

“We provide the children with everything they need. We welcome ORT students from Ukraine to come to our village to live and continue their education. Boarding schools are the best possible environment for students who are experiencing trauma in their lives since they can receive all the services they need in one place,” said Amos Gofer, Kfar Silver CEO.

Update from JDC (2/23/2022)

 

Since tensions began around Ukraine in November, a steep rise in the price of daily essentials — food, medicine, and utilities — has forced tens of thousands of needy Jews to make a desperate choice between buying food or keeping warm through this freezing winter. This mounting economic crisis adds to the pandemic’s lasting financial toll, catapulting the most vulnerable into renewed risk and suffering.

 

JDC is working around the clock to ensure uninterrupted humanitarian aid including food, medicine, winter relief, and emergency assistance for the most vulnerable Jews throughout Ukraine — no matter what. Across 1,000 locations, this aid benefits nearly 40,000 needy Jewish elderly and poor families in Ukraine.

 

Right now we are:

  • Providing lifesaving food and medicine and sanitary items like diapers;

  • Preparing our staff and volunteers to continue to provide aid no matter the circumstances, including through food package delivery, hotlines, and online platforms;

  • Mapping our clients, especially the homebound, to ensure we can reach them; and

  • Coordinating with local Jewish organizations and partners to ensure a united emergency response.

 

We’re leveraging our vast presence on the ground and past experience from the 2014 Ukraine conflict and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to address a variety of possible emerging needs, including displacement.

 

This kind of emergency planning, and caring for people in crisis, is part of JDC’s DNA. It’s inherent to our work saving Jewish lives and building Jewish life for more than a century.

 

Ukraine’s vibrant Jewish community is one of the largest in the world, home to an estimated 200,000 Jews. Since the collapse of communism, JDC has worked in Ukraine, and across the former Soviet Union (FSU), caring for tens of thousands of needy Jewish elderly and poor families; rebuilding and innovating Jewish community life; and training a new generation of Jewish leaders.

Update from Taglit-Birthright Israel (2/24/2022)

 

As news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reached Israel, Birthright Israel began working to support participants from those countries who are currently in Israel, offering the option to stay in Israel, or reunite with their families when possible. 

 

There are three Birthright Israel groups from Russia and Ukraine currently in Israel, of which 26 participants are from Ukraine. Sixteen Ukrainian participants were supposed to fly home on Thursday morning, but while they were sitting on planes, bombing began in Kiev and flights were immediately canceled.  Birthright then placed them at a hotel in Tel Aviv. Eighteen Russian participants are staying at another hotel in Tel Aviv, courtesy of Birthright, after their flight to Moscow was postponed.  

 

Another 10 Ukrainian young people are currently touring Jerusalem in a mixed Birthright group with 10 participants from Russia.

 

Many Birthright Israel participants from Ukraine expressed shock as they anxiously followed the news.

 

Anastasia Bilig, a Kiev resident, said her thoughts are with her friends in the region. “It's horrible. It's terrible. And I have no words in my mind to describe it. I feel scared that these things can happen in the 21st century,” she said.

 

Lola Koktysh, also of Kiev, said she maintains hope despite her sense of shock. “I'm in full shock. I knew the situation was intensifying fast, but no one could predict what would happen today. And right now, everyone is afraid. There is panic, but people are still hopeful. And even in the light of the heartbreaking events, we are staying united,” she said.

 

Birthright Israel brings close to 5,000 participants from Russian-speaking countries on tours of Israel every year, with the majority coming from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Since its inception, more than 55,000 Russian speaking participants have taken part in a Birthright Israel trip. After a two-year series of suspensions due to Covid-19, trips resumed this month.

 

“We are committed to assisting all of our participants from Ukraine to get through this challenging time. Currently, they can choose to stay with family in Israel, return home on a flight through Warsaw, or even join an Onward Israel program for an additional month. Whatever solution works best, we will be there to support and care for them until they can reunite with their families in their hometown,” said Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark.

 

Taglit-Birthright Israel offers a free, life-changing trip to Israel for young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 32 and, in doing so, transforms the Jewish future. Its mission is to give every Jewish young adult around the world, especially the less connected, the opportunity to visit Israel on an educational trip. Today, Birthright Israel is the largest educational tourism organization in the world that has given over 750,000 journeys to the state of Israel. Specifically with groups from the FSU, Birthright Israel works in partnership with Genesis Philanthropy Group to provide participants with various enrichment experiences while they are on their trip.

Update from World ORT (3/17/2022)

 

Below are the keys areas we have identified to support our students, teachers and their families:

 

  • We have sent financial aid to students and teachers who have remained at home in Ukraine for them to buy locally any provisions/first aid and medicines that is required and available. This is an ongoing urgent need.

  • We are working directly with our ORT office (relocated to Chernivtsi) as well as our school principles to understand the current needs for those families that have stayed. This will help us to be more specific in purchasing goods, particularly medicines needed, so that our ORT family is accurately provisioned according to need.

  • We are setting up transport hubs to send humanitarian aid into Ukraine to deliver directly to our school communities. The first truck (from Switzerland) in partnership with the Swiss NGO, U21 Foundation, arrived in Ukraine this week via the Polish border and has distributed aid directly to our school communities across the country.

  • We are working with Plamen Petrov (ORT Bulgaria Director) in Sofia who with funds supplied by World ORT is hiring a truck and buying medicines/first aid and other goods to be sent across the border. We hope that the shipment will be complete in the next few days to embark on its journey to Ukraine via Poland. This process can be repeated with more transports if the route from Bulgaria into Ukraine is viable.

  • Charlotte Guttman, the President of ORT Belgium has been working with her community to hire and fill a truck with humanitarian aid. This transport should leave Saturday for the Polish border with Ukraine to allow the goods to reach our school communities.

  • We are working closely with ORT professionals and community leaders in European countries to assess the needs of incoming (ORT) refugees to see how we can provide funds to help. We are working with France, Spain, Italy, Romania, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Baltic States, Moldova. Our schools in Ukraine have sent to their students, teachers and families a list of contacts by country with the message: If you make it to any of these countries, ring this number, speak to this person. They will help you.

  • This message is getting through, and ORT refugees are being housed and schooled in Moldova, Bulgaria, the Baltic states. We are receiving information about new arrivals of ORT refugees every day in countries such as Spain, France and Italy.

  • We are funding help for Kfar Silver to receive around 40 Ukrainian refugees – they have received five so far, with 20 more expected this week and more in the following weeks.

  • In Kfar Silver and in other countries our students receive additional psychological support for those who are now dealing with terrible traumas.

Update from CEO of the Jewish Agency, Amira Ahronoviz (3/11/2022)

 

On Sunday and Monday, I traveled to Poland and Hungary to visit our teams on the ground, show them support and solidarity, and better understand the needs on the ground. I spent time in our facilities and meeting with partners both from the Israeli government and the local communities. At times, I was at a loss for words but I want to share with you what I can express.

 

As I landed in Warsaw on Sunday, I met the first group of olim heading to their Aliyah flight to Israel. What stood out to me here and throughout my visit was the composition of people – mainly young women, children, and teens. With Ukraine's mandatory draft of men ages 18-60, families have been faced with the difficult decision to separate and leave their husbands, fathers, and grandfathers behind. I am full of awe for these women who are making brave choices to ensure a better future for their children. On the one hand, many will want to reunite with their family members. On the other hand, it is not clear when, if at all, they will be able to go back. Later that day, these 200 olim landed in Israel to begin their new lives.

 

These families endure inconceivable journeys, physically and emotionally. For many, the decision to leave is abrupt. They are leaving behind life as they know it - their homes, careers, assets, and family members. While under fire, they leave with whatever they can grab and begin their journey not knowing what the next step looks like. Some crowd onto trains for hours on end, some make the journey by foot in the bitter cold, and some load onto buses with no food or toilets. At the border, they face a 12-hour wait just to cross over to safety into the neighboring country.

 

In Hungary, I had the opportunity to spend time at the train station in Budapest. After the hourslong journey, those seeking refuge are greeted at the platform by dozens of organizations and volunteers looking to provide help. The Jewish Agency has a booth here, with information about how to get to our transit centers and to Israel and connections to local communities. I was privileged to join the other volunteers on behalf of The Jewish Agency in speaking with and directing potential olim. It's one thing to know hear about our operations on the ground; it's another to directly assist our beneficiaries.

 

Upon arrival at our transit centers, they are greeted with the warmth and goodwill of our teams and volunteers on the ground in addition to food, a bed to rest on, showers, and necessities. As of today, we have 2,000 future olim in our facilities and we are working close with the Government of Israel and our partners to expedite the Aliyah process as much as possible. Volunteers, organizations, and the local community have donated equipment, time, and even opened their homes for the cause. Today, we too are leading a national humanitarian operation with the local governments in Israel. We are collecting supplies and equipment for thousands of refugees which will be sent by plane in the coming days to the transit centers. This is an exciting mobilization of the Israeli society, together with over 50 municipalities, youth movements and organizations, volunteers, and more. As we've literally named the operation, it's "our turn."

 

In the transit center, I met with many families. One story that was very emotional was that of a Russian man, a Ukrainian woman, and their 15-year-old daughter. They traveled for 20 hours on a train car packed with 200 people – with no air and in pitch black. They waited for 12 hours at the border before crossing in Poland. On Sunday morning, the father learned that his mother passed away in Russia; he was not even able to be with her in her final days. Through many tears he told me of the life they left behind, family and friends that have now been dispersed without contact for several days. Yet through the tears, he expressed his deepest gratitude to The Jewish Agency and the entire Jewish people for saving their lives.

 

While in Budapest, I also met with a group of counselors who recently attended a training seminar ahead of our camping season across the Former Soviet Union. The seminar ended the day that the war broke out – and now many of these young adults have no way of getting home. Out of the 120 participants, 34 are from Ukraine. For the past two weeks, they have been staying in our facilities in Budapest under our care. What was amazing to see was how quickly they have turned this troubling situation into an opportunity for volunteerism. They have immediately stepped up to volunteer within our operations and activities in the city, not letting the fear for and distance from their families stop them.

 

These refugees are full of appreciation, but mostly exhausted and troubled by the reality in which they live. It is hard to describe the heavy uncertainty that filled each room; everyone knows this is a humanitarian crisis, but no one knows where or how it will develop. What is at stake is not just Ukraine, but the world order that has allowed us to flourish in the 21st century.

 

I am proud of our organization and our teams, both in headquarters in Israel and even more importantly, our Shlichim and local employees in the field. Each and every one of them is working 24 hours a day. They have become a personal address for dozens of phone calls a day and they make sure to respond to them all. There is no question they are exhausted, but they will continue doing everything possible to save lives. They do not want to leave this work, but I understood the critical need for reinforcement. There is a sense of war, and through that, a sense of teamwork and purpose.

 

The reality is constantly changing, and with that, the scenarios we are facing. Our work would not be possible without the full coordination with the Government of Israel and specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nativ, the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption, the embassies and others. Each day, every decision (whether small or large) helps us build processes for the betterment of others. It's just as important to thank all of our generous partners from JFNA, Keren Hayesod and the many private foundations and individual donors who have made our life saving work possible.

 

While once it could've been taboo, there's a sense among Ukrainian Jews that identifying as Jewish is the right thing to do now, knowing there are those who will come to the rescue. I am most proud today to be part of the Jewish people. I take enormous comfort in the fact that the Jewish collective is yet again rising to meet these challenges through mobilization, mutual responsibility, authentic care, and unprecedented resources.

 

As it says in the Mishna, "Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." This is the feeling on the ground; every person and family in our centers is a world in and of themselves – people with lives and dreams that were cut short at once. We save them, and we will help them rebuild their lives.

Update from the Jewish Agency (2/24/2022)

 

The people of Israel are known for standing together both in times of joy and emergency.

 

Amid the escalation and possible war, our commitment is to the security of the Jewish people.

 

The Jewish Agency for Israel and Keren Yedidut have joined together to open an emergency center for Ukrainian Jews intended to provide guidance and information regarding the Aliyah (immigration) process to Israel.

 

The emergency center will operate information lines in Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Russian and is intended for applicants from members of the Jewish community in Ukraine and their relatives in Israel.

 

The toll-free phone number in Ukraine is 0800504603 with additional local numbers: 442300478, 380936517177, 380960979851, 0638318336, 380504691840.

 

Relatives living in Israel can call toll-free 1800228055 extension 4 with additional local numbers - 02-6367714 and 02-6461447.

 

The Jewish Agency and Keren Yedidut are prepared to address various needs due to the escalation in coordination with the relevant government ministries.

  • READY TO TAKE ACTION?

    Contact Judy Alperin, CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven
    (203) 387-2424 x231 | jalperin@jewishnewhaven.org

    JCRC Co-Chairs: Betty & Arthur Levy