This week, I had the opportunity to lead a delegation of Jewish Federation leaders to visit affected families in and around Dnepropetrovsk, close to the center of the conflict in Ukraine.
There, at great risk to their personal safety, the staff and volunteer networks of Federation partners – the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and The Jewish Agency for Israel – are working tirelessly to deliver lifesaving food, water and medicine as well as support and comfort to thousands of displaced people, and to sustain their connections to Jewish life.
For decades, Federations have upheld a commitment to help Jewish communities throughout the world. Nowhere is that more clear than in Ukraine, a country 350,000 Jews call home. In response to this recent crisis, Federations have raised nearly $5 million to help our partners continue to provide vital aid to Ukrainian Jewish communities. You can contribute to Federations' Ukraine Assistance Fund here.
Throughout the mission we encountered messages of hope and gratitude: hope for a better future and gratitude for being part of a global Jewish community that cares. Samantha Dubrinsky, a young mission participant from Birmingham, reflected each day on the activities of the group. Her stories will appear in Times of Israel next week.
Below are photos that spotlight some of the extraordinary people we met during our time in Ukraine. Their moving stories will be etched in our minds forever – stories that, now more than ever, desperately need to be shared.
Fred Zimmerman, Nashville
Chair, Intermediate Federation Trustees
The Jewish Federations of North America
Elderly patients visit a medical clinic at the Beit Baruch center in Dnepropetrovsk. Thanks to support from Federations, the center provides around-the-clock healthcare, food and shelter to Ukraine's most vulnerable Jewish seniors.
Elderly women attend a day club at Federation partner’s Hesed Menachem Jewish Welfare Center in Dnepropetrovsk, which runs social and cultural activities and provides food, medical care and winter relief to 7,000 seniors.
A young family sits in their new temporary home at a Federation-funded center for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Pavlograd. Many of the 3,000 IDPs are young middle-class families forced to flee for their safety.
Displaced Jews decorate their rooms at a Federation-funded center for internally displaced people in Pavlograd. Ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine has forced 3,000 vulnerable Jews to flee their homes for uncertain futures.
This couple, one of many of those displaced, are considering leaving the country and building new lives in Israel. Nearly 6,000 Ukrainian Jews made aliyah in 2014; already in 2015 that number is up 143 percent.
Mission participants help an elderly woman up the stairs at a rehabilitation center in Dnepropetrovsk. Access to medical care is one of several crucial services Federations help to fund for more than 7,000 vulnerable Jewish seniors in the city.