As events move quickly in the Ukraine crisis, we share Sonya’s story, from one of the many organizations serving Ukrainian refugees, as well as updates from our major overseas partners.
The challenges following a tragedy are especially difficult for immigrants. The lack of natural support systems such as family and life-long friends, limited or no financial safety net, and a sense of up rootedness and isolation all exacerbate their already dire circumstances. The Selah organization serves as an aid and advocate to these new immigrants to Israel, identifying their most urgent emotional and physical needs and organizing resources to help. Thanks to funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Selah is able to help those seeking safety and a new life from Ukraine.
Sonya is a 19 year-old, Ukrainian, on a Selah program in Israel. She and her 150 program mates are all from the former Soviet Union, many from Ukraine. Watch her heartfelt video on what it feels like to be in Israel with so many family and friends left behind in Ukraine.
Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI)
- The Jewish Agency has joined a humanitarian operation, together with the local municipal governments, in order to mobilize the Israeli public in donations for the entire refugee population along the border areas. They officially launched and invited the municipalities to take part in this campaign today. This activity will be coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that the equipment can be collected, transported and distributed as soon as possible aligning with our values of Tikkun Olam and mutual responsibility.
- They have received a total of 12,000 unduplicated calls to their special hotline. About 5,000 of those calls are from Jews seeking to make Aliyah as soon as possible. Other calls came from concerned relatives in Israel, seeking guidance on how they could help their loved ones in Ukraine.
- The Jewish Agency has 80 workers in Ukraine and 18 in the neighboring countries (Poland, Moldova, Romania, and Hungary) for ongoing humanitarian and rescue operations. They are sending more Russian and Ukrainian speaking staff, another 18 staff members arrived near the border.
- 200,000 Ukrainians are eligible for Aliyah under the law of return. The current estimate is that 10,000-20,000 Jews will make Aliyah to Israel. At the same time, The Jewish Agency will be ready to continue to support the local Jewish communities the day after, as it has done in the past.
- The Jewish Agency has 3,380 beds available in hotels and other facilities on the other side of the border to accommodate this wave of Aliyah.
- The Jewish Agency is working with different organizations and Israeli government offices, participating in emergency forums. Because of their close relationship with the state of Israel they can operate efficiently and fast.
- The Jewish Agency, through the security fund, is responsible for the security of Jewish communities outside Israel and North America. They are transferring funds to protect Jewish institutions and the people behind. 150 community organizations have received grants totaling $1 million. As looting happens, those requests are urgent. The Jewish Agency is providing satellite phones to local Jewish communities so they could stay in contact in case communications infrastructures stop functioning.
- In Israel, the Jewish Agency is supporting 58 Lone Soldiers and 695 Ukrainian teens on the Jewish Agency’s programs participating in Israel, providing them with emotional support.
- Thanks to you, and your continued efforts, they make this possible, more than $15 million raised over the course of one week to support humanitarian and rescue operations along the Ukrainian border, with over $10 million coming from partners at the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Keren Hayesod. The needs of this operation stand at over $21.3 million and are expected to grow as the situation evolves.
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
- 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. Across 1,000 locations, this aid benefits nearly 40,000 needy Jewish elderly and poor families throughout the country. JDC is also equipping staff in four field offices (Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkov, and Odessa) with contingencies to ensure they can continue to reach those in need and assisting Jews to find safety, including finding shelter for those who are or become displaced as the crisis continues.
- What was once the largest yeshiva in the world, Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva, is now a refugee camp in Poland for Ukrainian Jews.
- The JDC has 500 beds across Poland in temporary refugee camps. They have about 190 beds in Lublin. Some are regular hotel rooms, but there large hallways in the building where they put mattresses on the floor to accommodate as many people as they could. JDC also has two storage centers where it keeps large amounts of food, clothes, shoes and other items.
- JDC is active on the Ukrainian border with Romania. Israel Sabag, the JDC’s director in Romania, told The Jerusalem Post: “At the border, we built a lovely tent with JDC flags, blue and white flags and the word ‘Welcome’ in Hebrew. The idea is to signal to the Jews that we are here. The place operates 24 hours a day for all refugees. We serve hot soup, coffee, tea, food, local SIM cards, phone chargers, baby food, diapers – pretty much everything you need after a 40-hour ride in a car.”
- The JDC team in Romania works closely with the Federation of Romanian Jewry. There are about 20 people in the tent around the clock – most of them volunteers from the Jewish community.
United Hatzalah in Israel
United Hatzalah is using its grant from Federations to help fund a specially chartered plane carrying 15 tons of medical supplies, food, humanitarian aid, for all Ukrainian refugees at the Moldova border. The plane will also be bringing an additional 40 medical personnel, EMTs, paramedics, doctors, psychologists, and therapists, to join the organization’s 15 volunteers already on the ground.
- Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council cosponsored an interfaith prayer service last Sunday for Ukraine. Thousands attended.
- Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh raised over $300,000 plus a $500,000 grant to JDC from a foundation with whom we have a long relationship.
- Jewish Federations joined 177 organizations in signing a letter to the U.S. Government requesting an immediate 18-month designation of Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainians currently in the U.S. so they may not need to return to Ukraine during the violence and evolving humanitarian crisis.