After 155 days of conflict, the fighting in Ukraine continues. As the war passes the fifth month mark, 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).
- The United States says that more than 75,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine. Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and recently visited Ukraine, said that “We were briefed that over 75,000 Russians have either been killed or wounded, which is huge, you've got incredible amounts of investment in their land forces, over 80% of their land forces are bogged down, and they're tired. But they’re still the Russian military.”
- At the same time, more than 25,000 people, including nearly 4,000 children, have been evacuated to Russia from the Russian-backed separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the past 24 hours
- Meanwhile Russian forces have made further incremental progress in the Donetsk region, where they have been bombarding areas south of the city of Bakhmut for several weeks. Despite this, the Ukrainian military said it was able to repel Russian offensives toward the city.
- According to CNN, Ukraine has now set its sights on regaining southern cities and towns lost to Russian troops. See here for more.
- The UN Human Rights Council says that 9.93 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 3.9 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.
- Israel sent 25,000 meal rations to Ukraine, Israeli ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky announced on Wednesday evening. “25,000 instant meals were shipped today to Kharkiv as part of continuing Israeli humanitarian assistance to Ukraine,” Brodsky tweeted. The meals sent over were “MRE-style” (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) military rations.
- The Counsellor at the Ukrainian Embassy, Roman Kotovych, visited the Zo Ha'shaha (“this is the time”) call center on Wednesday. The call center is operated by Israel’s Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry to help Ukrainian citizens in Israel. See more here.
- Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning on Tuesday morning for Israelis planning a pilgrimage to the Ukrainian city of Uman for the High Holidays, an important site for many Jews, traditionally visited on Rosh Hashana, the upcoming Jewish New Year. The “explosive security situation” poses a direct risk to civilians, the Foreign Ministry said. The Ministry also called on all Israeli citizens currently in Ukraine to immediately leave.
REFUGEES, FEDERATIONS, AND PARTNERS ON THE GROUND
Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts, and have collectively raised more than $73 million since the fighting began.
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 supporting numerous NGO’s that are operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries. This includes 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.
Jewish Federations have launched the Ukrainian Resettlement Grant Initiative, a $1 million project to support refugees seeking safety in the U.S. JFNA will provide matching grants to local Jewish Federations to build capacity within social service organizations to support displaced Ukrainians in their communities. The first grants totaling half-a-million dollars have already being allocated, with matching funds provided by a group of philanthropists led by the Shapiro Foundation and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. The program will be modeled after an initiative that JFNA launched earlier this year to help communities in their efforts to resettle Afghan refugees, and much of the learning drawn from this initiative will help guide the efforts to resettle Ukrainian refugees. Further details can be seen here.
Meanwhile, as part of a hub operated by JFNA, in partnership with The Jewish Agency for Israel and JDC, ten volunteers from the United States are helping to lead a 3-week summer camp hosted by the JCC of Warsaw and local partners for 85 refugees between the ages of 7-17 who are fleeing war in Ukraine. The volunteers, who are serving alongside local program staff from Poland, are Russian-speaking Jews who serve as educators or rabbinic leaders in the U.S. Many of them are former refugees who fled antisemitism in the Soviet Union decades ago.
Since the volunteer hub was launched in March, Jewish Federations have recruited 80 skilled volunteers from around North America for placements in Poland and Hungary. The volunteers have assisted over 9,000 Ukrainian refugees during this time. The current camp is operating out of the Lauder Morasha School, adjacent to the grounds of the Warsaw Ghetto, where 90,000 Jews lost their lives during the early 1940’s.
Victoria Barsky, a professor of Russian language and literature at CUNY, is one of the ten volunteers who is helping to lead the programming. Victoria fled the Soviet Union as a child with her parents and rebuilt her life in New York, where she was supported by various Jewish organizations aiding refugees. “This experience is about paying it forward and helping people of all faiths and backgrounds who need our support,” Victoria said.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine and the region, supported by Federation emergency allocations.
Since fighting began on February 24, JDC has:
- Evacuated over 12,900 Jews from Ukraine;
- Provided over 39,178 refugees with food, medicine, trauma support, and more;
- Received over 18,412 incoming calls and made over 44,230 outgoing calls on its emergency hotlines;
- Delivered over 617 tons of humanitarian assistance.
In addition, at present, thousands of Jewish children across the FSU are attending over 60 JDC summer camps and retreats. In a dispatch from Odesa, a city under Russian fire, JDC reported the following:
In most of Odesa, an eerie silence reigns. The port is quiet, the tourists gone. But this week, the sound of children's laughter rang out. The children are enjoying Jewish day camp, the second such camp JDC helped run this summer in this beleaguered Ukrainian city.
For the children of Odesa, JDC camps are an oasis of joy in a desert of crisis. The first summer camp we operated in mid-June was so successful that we extended it from two weeks to three! Campers included internally displaced children who recently fled to Odesa from Mykolaiv and Kherson. For them, camp was truly a ray of sunshine and a true expression of Jewish community solidarity as they were welcomed with open arms.
Today, over 50 Jewish children are participating in a second JDC day camp where they spend their day playing sports, creating arts and crafts, even taking master classes in cooking. For seven hours each day, Odesa's Jewish children escape the crisis and become children once again.
At times, the emergency did intrude – camp was moved from its usual home in the JCC to a building equipped with a bomb shelter (which unfortunately the children ran to more than once) and there were no field trips or excursions. Overall the joy of summer camp prevailed!
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine.
Meanwhile in Russia, tensions between the government and the Agency are ongoing. Israel’s Prime Minister Lapid has dispatched a team of senior legal advisors to meet in Moscow with their counterparts from the Russian Ministry of Justice to try to solve problems, and a trial has been set for August 19. Prime Minister Lapid said earlier this week that relations with Russia are important for Israel, but that in all diplomatic discourse with the administration in Moscow, the Government of Israel has kept the large and important Jewish community in Russia at the forefront of topics discussed. Lapid added that closing the Jewish Agency offices would be a serious event that would adversely affect relations. Jewish Federations are keeping a very close watch on this matter and are in ongoing contact with the Agency.
See here for a story on a group of 20 Ukrainian mental health professionals who have spent the past two weeks in Israel receiving training on how to treat trauma cases. Israel, which has gone through numerous wars with its Arab neighbors and has a large population of Holocaust survivors, has deep experience in treating psychological or mental trauma. In Ukraine, however, awareness for recognizing and treating mental trauma remains relatively low, and the country is not equipped to deal with the massive numbers of people affected by the Russian invasion.
OTHER UKRAINE NEWS
- As prices soar in Ukraine, the war is exacting a steep toll on the local economy as well. Fuel prices are up 90 percent from a year ago, and food costs have surged over 35 percent. Many people, with incomes no higher than before the war, are being squeezed. See more on this from the New York Times here.
- Three powerful and prominent Jews in Ukraine have had their citizenship stripped. Last week, President Zelensky reportedly took steps to revoke the Ukrainian citizenship of two of the country’s best known oligarchs, Igor Kolomoisky and Hennadiy Korban, as well as that of Vadim Rabinovich, a former tycoon turned opposition lawmaker. 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: JFNA’s Dani Wassner.