In what many believe was a significant turning point in the war this week, the Ukrainian army launched a major counter-offensive against Russian forces and succeeded in recapturing territory lost in the early stages of the invasion and dealing a severe blow to Russian supply chains. At the same time, Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest, including refugees who have fled and those remaining in Ukraine.
(For pre-crisis background on the Jewish community in Ukraine, see here).
Over the past several months, the National Library of Israel (NLI) has conducted outreach to refugee populations fleeing the war in Ukraine. These efforts have included Ukrainian Voices, a webinar series that also provided a speaking fee for lecturers, grants to academics forced to evacuate their centers of research, and outreach to learn the status of Jewish archives in the war zone. Another initiative was a four-day-long summer camp for tweens and teens displaced from both Ukraine and Russia, held at the Library from August 8-12 and sponsored by NLI's Bridge to Europe. In partnership with Jerusalem's Wild Kids Animation Studio, 50 participants were encouraged to express themselves and come together through projects in three artistic disciplines: theater, plastic arts, and animation. The program culminated in a performance and a presentation of work before families and friends.
In a growing sign of Russian- Iranian cooperation, Ukraine has reported that it shot down a likely Iranian-made drone launched by Russian forces. Read more here.
Despite repeated pleas by Israel, the US, and Ukraine to avoid Jewish pilgrimages to the Ukrainian city of Uman this year due to the war with Russia, Likud MK Nir Barkat decided to travel to the city and visited the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav ahead of the Jewish New Year. Invited by Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman, affiliated with the Likud party, Barkat was documented walking around destroyed neighborhoods in several Ukrainian cities, including Irpin, Kyiv, and Bucha. See further details here.
REFUGEES, FEDERATIONS, AND PARTNERS ON THE GROUND
Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest, including those refugees who have fled and those remaining in Ukraine, given that close to seven million have been displaced from their homes but remain in the country. See this link for a review of Federations’ relief efforts, which include the $73.5 million raised to date, with $62 million already distributed to Federations’ core partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and World ORT, along with over 50 other NGO’s.
Please see here for information on the latest round of Federation allocations for Ukraine here.
Read this JTA article about new life for Ukrainian refugees, thanks to efforts by UJA Federation New York.
Join the Maimonides Fund’s SAPIR Journal for a special webinar on the Jewish community in Ukraine on Sep 19, 2022, at 1NoonET. The organization sent award-winning Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer to visit Dnipro and report on the state of its beleaguered Jewish community. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens will interview Anshel about his experiences there and his predictions for the future of Jewish life in the region. Register for the webinar here.
In the last six months, 36,000 people have immigrated to Israel from the conflict region – 50% are of working age (18,000), and at least 20% are skilled to work in tech companies. In response, a group of Israeli volunteers co-founded an organization called Reboot to welcome displaced professionals and Russian-speaking olim into hi-tech, rallying Israel’s hi-tech sector in support of this population. As of August, an estimated 18% of new arrivals have reported starting new jobs in hi-tech, numbering from 700 to 1,000 people. Reboot receives Federation emergency funds for its work. See more here.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine and the region, supported by Federation emergency allocations.
Over 1,600 children and teens across Europe experienced Jewish camping at JDC-supported camps this just-concluded summer. For four weeks, JDC's "Summer Fun" day camp in Poland attempted to bring joy and peace of mind to 85 young Ukrainian refugees. Located in the heart of Warsaw, just a few blocks away from the former Warsaw Ghetto, the camp was seen as “an oasis of calm” in a difficult year.
"The camp is a lovely bubble where kids can be kids," explains Marta Saracyn, Director of JCC Warsaw. The camp, organized in partnership with JCC Warsaw, the Jewish Agency, JFNA, and a host of local partners, was seen as not only being “a break from months of stress, trauma, and uncertainty.” It also offered campers a chance to prepare for school in their new country.
Fueled by a team of JCC Warsaw professionals, five recently-hired refugees, and 10 Russian-speaking North American volunteers recruited through the JFNA-led Volunteer Hub, the camp offered Polish, math, and science classes. Afternoons were spent on more traditional camp activities: crafts, music, sports, and museum field trips.
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine.
The new chair of the Jewish Agency, Doron Almog, has just returned from a visit to the Agency’s Ukrainian rescue facilities in Poland and Hungary. See his report here.
For more about JDC’s efforts, see here; for those of the Jewish Agency, see here.
World ORT has been educating students in six cities and towns across Ukraine. Of the five ORT schools, two in Kyiv and one in Chernivtsi have re-opened for students to attend in person this month. ORT schools in Zaporizhzhia and Odesa remain physically closed due to security concerns in both cities and the absence of basements that could serve as bomb shelters in the school buildings if and when needed.
Of the more than 3,100 full-time ORT Ukraine students, around 50 percent are now learning online, mostly in their home cities. In addition, many students are taking online classes while displaced within the country, and of the thousands learning online, at least one-quarter are logging on from outside Ukraine. Many students are in their original ORT schools, while others now attend different ORT schools within and outside Ukraine.
Around 1,175 students have returned to their classrooms in person. With almost all schools facing decreased numbers of students and teachers, many classes and grades have merged to increase efficiency. In some cases, ORT children who have left Ukraine but are studying at ORT schools or affiliates in other countries, such as Spain and Italy, attend regular in-person classes in the morning and continue learning online with their Ukrainian teachers and peers in the afternoon.
OTHER UKRAINE NEWS, UPDATES, AND ANALYSIS
An article by the BBC discussed what it called “the mass migration abroad of large numbers of (Russia’s) Jewish population,” with at least one in eight leaving the country since its war with Ukraine began. According to the Jewish Agency, 20,500 of Russia's estimated 165,000 Jews have made Aliya since March, and thousands more have moved to other countries. See more here.
An opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post argues that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine will end Russia’s remaining cultural, linguistic, and political influence in many ex-Soviet regions. See more here.
Read here about how the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine has been supporting Jews around Kyiv with monthly deliveries of food and supplies.
Jewish Federations monitor the Ukraine situation closely and, working with our partners, offer considerable relief efforts to those most in need.
For more information, please contact JFNA’s Dani Wassner.