After 162 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).
- Russia has accused the US of direct involvement in the war in Ukraine for the first time. A spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that the US was approving targets for American-made artillery used by Ukrainian forces. In response, the Pentagon said that it provided the Ukrainians with “detailed, time-sensitive information to help them understand the threats they face and defend their country against Russian aggression.”
- In a show of western strength against Russia, the US Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a resolution to ratify membership for Sweden and Finland in NATO. NATO formalized its invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance at the end of June and the decision must go to the 30 member states' parliaments and legislatures for final ratification.
- In the face of concerns over world grain shortages due to the war, the Ukrainian government has raised its forecast for this year's harvests of grain and oilseeds crops. Ukraine says that this year's harvest is expected to be larger than was initially predicted — 65 to 67 million tons instead of the 60 million tons previously forecast. The government said that “despite all the troubles, the harvest continues.” Meanwhile, the first grain ship to depart Ukraine since Russia invaded has been cleared to leave Turkish waters for Lebanon. A team of officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN inspected the ship’s cargo of 26,000 tons of corn and said that the ship was free to leave for Lebanon.
- Zaporizhzhia, Europe's biggest nuclear power plant which has been occupied by Russia as part of its invasion of Ukraine, is “completely out of control,” according to the head of the UN's nuclear agency, Rafael Grossi. Grossi explained that the plant needed an inspection and repairs and said it “is dangerously close to the fighting.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia earlier this week of using the plant, which it overran in March, as a military base to launch attacks on Ukrainian forces.
- The UN Human Rights Council says that 10.35 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 4.27 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.
- Despite an Israeli travel warning and Kyiv’s announcement that it is cancelling this year’s Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman, the central Ukrainian city’s small Jewish community says that it is still preparing for an influx of thousands of worshippers ahead of the High Holidays. The Israeli Foreign Ministry called on Israelis on Tuesday to avoid travelling to Uman in light of the ongoing fighting and the risk of Russian air attacks. Its statement came several weeks after Kyiv announced that it was cancelling the annual Jewish pilgrimage to Uman for security reasons. Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews journey to the central Ukrainian town every year to celebrate Rosh Hashanah at the tomb of the early Hasidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
- First Lady Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said her nation sees Israel as a source of inspiration for resilience given its history of facing attacks from its neighbors. “It is not an exaggeration to say that Israel’s past experience inspires the citizens of Ukraine,” Zelenska told Israel’s Channel 12 news in an interview. “We see the Israelis’ strength and power of resilience in the difficult situation Israel has been in for many years. Your resilience serves as an example for us,” she said.
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.
In the latest round of allocations, funding went to five additional NGO's that totaled $2 million, expanding the avenues of support for refugees struggling with the effects of the war.
Among the recipients of the new funding are Lev Echad for the creation of a resilience program in Lviv to strengthen the homefront, NCSEJ for critical monitoring and reporting work, Tivka Odessa for care of vulnerable populations, including Jewish orphans, Latet for the delivery of emergency food and hygiene boxes to new olim and ITWorks for support of new olim to enable them to focus on job training and study opportunities. Funds were also allocated to a host of other NGO's providing critical humanitarian aid to refugees, including Jewish Federations’ core partners The Jewish Agency for Israel, The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and World ORT.
Jewish Federations joined forces with Israel’s First Lady Michal Herzog, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska, and Israeli trauma group Natal in a project to bring 27 Ukrainian therapists to Israel to study trauma techniques in a one-week intensive course. JFNA’s Chair of the Board of Trustees Julie Platt spoke alongside the two first ladies at the course’s graduation. In her remarks, Zelnska said, “According to estimates from the Ukrainian health ministry, roughly 15 million Ukrainian citizens will need help in the area of mental health, so we had no time to waste, we needed to start acting immediately.” Read more here.
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.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new streamlined process for Ukrainian refugees to file for work permits online. This has been a central focus of advocacy by Jewish Federations, and it will allow those affected to become self-sufficient and rebuild their lives. Click here for more information. The announcement came within days of Jewish Federations launching a $1 million Ukrainian Resettlement Grant Initiative. Six Federations have already received grants, with matching funds provided by a group of philanthropists led by the Shapiro Foundation and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
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.
JDC relates the following story from the field: Since the outbreak of the conflict, Valentina, a JDC homecare worker in Odesa, has become more than a caregiver. She is her elderly clients' main source of comfort, the one thing that keeps them calm in these difficult days. "On February 24, our life changed dramatically," Valentina explains. "It was very hard to get to work between the sirens. But our work did not stop."
And so, despite the danger, Valentina continues to visit and care for her clients – including Gallina, a 90-year-old woman who fled Odesa as a child in World War II, and has decided to remain during the current crisis. Gallina gets anxious every time the sirens wail. If an air raid alarm goes off during Valentina's shift, she will stay beyond her official hours until she knows Gallina is calm enough to fall asleep.
"My babushkas are elderly," Valentina explains, "They get very nervous and very anxious. I try to brighten up their lives. I sit next to them and speak to them until they feel better. I try to relieve their stress."
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine.
Meanwhile a preliminary hearing took place in Moscow last Thursday morning in the case concerning the association operated by The Jewish Agency for Israel in Russia. It was determined that a trial will take place August 19. The association will then present its arguments to continue operating in Russia. Yaakov Hagoel, Acting Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, remarked, “The Jewish Agency for Israel plays a critical role in cultivating Jewish identity and establishing a connection to Israel for Jews all over the world. As such, its vital activities that serve the Jewish communities in Russia will continue in order to ensure the community thrives and remains connected to their heritage and the State of Israel.”
OTHER UKRAINE NEWS
- The New York Times is reporting on how Ukraine is bracing for a harsh winter, with many stockpiling fuel now. The severe hardships will undoubtedly also hit the country’s Jewish residents very hard.
- With more than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees arriving in Estonia each week, some 2,000 have found temporary refuge, living on a ferry in Tallinn Harbor. See 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 Jewish Federation’s Dani Wassner.