After 169 days of conflict, the fighting in Ukraine continues. As the war drags on, Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest, including both refugees who have fled, as well as those remaining in Ukraine.
(For pre-crisis background on the Jewish community in Ukraine, see here).
- There are increasing reports of Ukrainian counterstrikes against Russian forces. This week, Ukraine's military said it carried out six airstrikes against Russian targets in southern Ukraine. Russian forces were apparently hit in Kherson, and ammunition depots were destroyed in two nearby areas. Russian command posts were also destroyed.
- Further, in what could be Moscow's biggest loss of military aircraft in a single day since World War II, at least seven Russian warplanes were destroyed after as-yet unexplained explosions hit a base in annexed Crimea on Tuesday.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Western countries to ban all Russian visitors saying Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy.” Such a ban, he argued, would be more effective than the current sanctions, which bar Russian airlines and officials linked to the Kremlin. Russians can still get EU and US visas. Also, in a sign of defiance against Russia, the Ukrainian President said that “the war in Ukraine began with Crimea and must end with its liberation.”
- The UN Human Rights Council says that 10.625 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 4.5 million refugees who initially fled Ukraine have since returned. See here for an overall mapping of the situation of Ukrainian refugees in the neighboring countries. For details on where Ukrainian refugees have been fleeing to, see here.
- In a further souring of Israel-Russian relations, Moscow has condemned Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip during the two-day conflict last weekend. In a written statement, Russia's spokesperson for the foreign minister Maria Zakharova said that “Moscow is seriously concerned about a new round of armed violence in the zone of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
- Similarly, Russia’s embassy in Egypt criticized Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid, condemning him for past criticism of alleged Russian massacres in Ukraine, in light of the past weekend’s fighting in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian terrorists. The Embassy posted a screenshot of a tweet that Lapid issued in April on the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha where he wrote, “Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it.”
- Aliyah from Ukraine and Russia tripled in the months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Between February 24 and July 31, 12,175 immigrants arrived from Ukraine and 18,891 arrived from Russia, a total of 31,066 over the five-month period. Approximately half the Ukrainian immigrants arrived between March and April. The figure marks a 318 percent increase over the same period in 2019. Between February and July, 73.9% of Ukrainian immigrants between the ages of 18 and 60 were female and 26.1% were male, as a result of Ukrainian draft laws banning men in that age range from leaving the country.
- The Berl Katznelson Foundation released research showing that hate speech in Israel against those with Russian heritage has increased three-fold since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A report, which analyzed over half a million social media engagements (posts, comments, etc.), found approximately 5.6 million offensive statements, slurs and calls for violence within Hebrew-language social media. According to the research, social media engagements that include hate speech against Russians jumped by about 270% – from 18,153 engagements that included hate speech last year to 67,129 this year.
REFUGEES, FEDERATIONS, AND PARTNERS ON THE GROUND
Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts. Since the launch of the campaign in February, Jewish Federations have collectively raised $73 million and allocated $61 million to over 50 NGO’s on the ground.
JFNA recently released a series of blog posts providing background information on Jewish Federations’ investments before the war in Ukraine and fundraising and allocations since the crisis began; information on the collective impact of Jewish Federations’ emergency allocations; and details on the lifesaving work of Federations’ core historic partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, and World ORT.
Through both directed and collective grant making, Federations are now supporting many NGO’s that are operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries. These include Jewish Federation partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and World ORT; as well as United Hatzalah, Hillel International, Nefesh B'Nefesh, HIAS, the Israel Trauma Coalition, Hadassah Medical Organization, Chabad, Shma Yisrael, Project Kesher, JCC Krakow, Jewish Community Vienna, the Emergency Volunteer Program, Magen David Adom, Global Surgical Medical Corps, Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rescuers Without Borders and others.
Supported by Jewish Federations, Jewish camping programs, both inside Ukraine and in places where Jewish refugees have found temporary shelter, are offering children the opportunity to have fun, hang out and feel safe over the summer. In Warsaw, Kef BeKayitz Day Camp is run by the JCC in cooperation with Hillel, the Office of the Chief Rabbi, and other local groups. Russian-speaking volunteers were recruited as part of Federation's Global Volunteer Hub to staff the camp. Read more in this AP article.
Federation is also supporting summer camps for hundreds of Ukrainian children in Poland and Hungary in partnership with Chabad, and summer camps for Ukrainian olim (new immigrants) across Israel through the Jewish Agency. Read about JDC’s summer camp in Odessa and watch this video of summer camp participants in Romania.
For a full summary of Jewish Federations’ responses to the Ukraine crisis, see here.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine and the region, supported by Federation emergency allocations.
As described above, JDC also ran summer camps for young Ukrainian Jews. Learn more in this account:
They came from some of Ukraine's hardest-hit cities: Mariupol, Kherson, and more. For months they have been living in new, often temporary, homes in safer parts of the country. Many left husbands, fathers, uncles, and brothers behind. Almost all are suffering from trauma. But for two weeks this summer they were superheroes. From June 19th – July 2nd, JDC ran a family camp for 120 internally displaced Jews from Ukraine. These vulnerable families, including some raising children with disabilities, were able to loosen their capes and relax with other "off-duty" superheroes.
The family camp, held in a quiet campsite in western Ukraine, mixed therapeutic activities - group and individual sessions with five staff psychologists, art therapy and more – with more typical JDC summer activities like hiking, sports, and Shabbat celebrations. While the conflict was always in the background – no balloons were allowed because if they popped the sound could trigger stress and anxiety – families were finally able to breathe.
"People didn’t want to leave," Camp Director Tanya Krasii, a JDC professional from Kyiv, told us, "They felt very safe, secure and supported. They were happy to hear that our staff and counselors would continue to be in touch and support them even after the retreat ended."
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine. See here for the Aliyah story of Moshe, a young Jew from the Donestk region of Ukraine that has been a focus on fighting. And here to read about Andrey, who made Aliyah from Ukraine and has now returned to the country to help his fellow Jews through the Jewish Agency.
For more about JDC’s efforts, see here; for those of the Jewish Agency, see here.
OTHER UKRAINE NEWS
- In order to cope with the acute fuel shortage in the country, Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, which has received Jewish Federations emergency allocations, has spent over $2 million buying a fleet of 40 electric cars that it is distributing this month to communities in the country. See more here.
- See this article from Bloomberg on what the media group refers to as “deteriorating relations between Russia and Israel.”
- One of Ukraine’s richest men, Jewish business personality Oleksandr Feldman, has permanently closed his famous zoo due to the fighting. The not-for-profit Feldman Ecopark never charged for entrance and conducted extensive therapeutic programs for children. Read more here.
Jewish Federations continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine closely, and, working with our partners, are offering considerable relief efforts to those most in need.
For more information, please contact: JFNA’s Dani Wassner.