Tens of thousands of Jews affected by the war in Ukraine will be able to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Chanukah with joyous activities and celebrations, thanks to dozens of initiatives Jewish Federations of North America are supporting.
“Chanukah symbolizes the Jewish people’s defeat over darkness and forces of destruction, and this message is so relevant today for our brothers and sisters impacted by the war in Ukraine,” said Jewish Federations of North America President & CEO Eric Fingerhut. “It is our duty and privilege to bring the light of Chanukah to Jewish people in Ukraine and neighboring countries, working with our partner organizations so that they can celebrate this joyous holiday during such difficult circumstances.”
Some of the Chanukah initiatives that Jewish Federations are making possible include:
- Refugees who fled Ukraine and have found safe havens in Poland and Barcelona will celebrate Chanukah together with Jewish volunteers from the US and Canada, as part of Jewish Federations’ volunteer hub, which launched last March and to date has placed 100 Russian-speaking volunteers in placements supporting refugees.
- Volunteer Dr. Yuri Vedenyapin, a musician and professor of Yiddish at McGill University, will travel with the Chief Rabbi of Poland bringing music, song and the light of Chanukah each night of the eight-day holiday to refugees in Warsaw, Krakow, Lublin, Gdansk and other cities. The refugees will also be joined by Polish Jews living in these cities. During the 2nd night of Chanukah Dr. Vedenyapin will perform at the Presidential Palace at a special Chanukah ceremony for refugees hosted by President Andrzej Duda.
Mother-daughter volunteers Rabbi Ilana and Daniella Baird from California will lead educational programming on Chanukah for refugees in Barcelona, working alongside the Jewish community’s progressive Comunidad Judia Bet Shalom, which has also been supported by Federations’ emergency campaign with supplies and volunteer coordinators.
- Across Ukraine, Jewish Federations’ core partner JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) is providing scores of online and in-person Chanukah events - including menorah lightings, concerts, cooking classes, cultural salons and holiday quizzes - for tens of thousands of Jews, including the elderly and internally displaced people (IDPs), in addition to its continued delivery of humanitarian aid.
- In Israel, festive events will be held at Jewish Agency for Israel absorption centers and youth villages where young immigrants from Ukraine have been absorbed. Jewish Federations’ core partner will also host candle lighting events throughout Ukraine and in bordering countries, where The Jewish Agency is assisting refugees with a variety of online holiday events for those in outlying areas.
- Chabad’s umbrella relief network, the Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JRNU), is distributing more than 40,000 Chanukah boxes filled with holiday supplies and treats to Jews throughout Ukraine with Federation support, enabling them to light the menorah and bring joy into their own homes and places of residence.
Since the outbreak of the war, Jewish Federations have raised a collective $78.8 million for Ukraine aid. They directed funds to their core partners JDC, The Jewish Agency and World ORT, as well as to over 50 NGOs providing humanitarian aid and relief to refugees in Ukraine and neighboring countries. Funding supports emergency operational costs, temporary housing and transportation costs, security, humanitarian support and trauma and medical relief, and immigration and absorption in Israel. Federations’ latest allocation of $7 million is bringing winter relief to over 22,000 Ukrainian Jews in partnership with JDC and Chabad, and is helping to make Russian aliyah possible, with The Jewish Agency.
In addition to providing humanitarian aid for refugees and placing volunteers, Jewish Federations successfully advocate for expanded refugee rights and resettlement in the US and operate a $1 million Ukrainian Resettlement Grant Initiative with matching funds from the Shapiro Foundation.