Jewish Federations meet with President Zelensky on Ukraine mission

Jewish Federations of North America leaders met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a mission to Ukraine this week to express the Jewish community’s continued commitment to supporting the country.

“Ukraine continues to be subjected not just to outrageous military attacks by Russia, but also to bombings of its homes, hospitals, and schools, and attacks on its electricity grid and civilian infrastructure designed to make life unbearable. I hope the Ukrainians know that their incredible courage and resolve is being supported by the free nations of the world,” said Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO Eric D. Fingerhut.

“Since the outbreak of the war, Federations have been providing humanitarian aid through our core partners, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and World ORT, as well as numerous other partner organizations on the ground including Chabad, Israel Trauma Coalition, and IsraAID, both here in Ukraine and in neighboring countries. We will continue supporting Ukraine,” he added.

Due to the sensitivity of the meeting, no photos or reporters were allowed to the meeting.

In their discussion, President Zelensky expressed gratitude for the support his country has received from around the world, discussed the common plight of Ukraine and Israel, and expressed his appreciation for the Jewish community’s ongoing support, as well as hopes of further visits once the war ended. He reiterated that Ukraine is on the front lines of the fight for freedom and the right of all nations to determine their own destiny, and that they would not give up that fight and would prevail.

Jewish Federations fundraising for the Ukraine emergency has now surpassed $100 million, focused on emergency operational costs, temporary housing and transportation for evacuations, security, humanitarian support, trauma and medical relief, and immigration and absorption in Israel.

This vital aid has helped 507,000 Ukrainians who remained in their country, including internally displaced women and children who have been reluctant to leave behind their family members who were required to join the army. That includes efforts to bring Jewish life to the over 160,000 Jews, many of them internally displaced, through Jewish education, summer camp experiences, and social service support. Read more about the impact here.

With this mission, Jewish Federations became the first North American Jewish organization to visit Kyiv since the start of the war, and were honored to meet separately with First Lady Olena Zelenska, who reiterated her confidence as well that Ukraine will prevail and implored the group to continue advocating on behalf of Ukraine at home.

Fingerhut noted that the Jewish community, while fully committed to supporting Israel at this critical time, will not diminish its support or commitment to the Jewish community and people of Ukraine.

“As we feel with Israel, a country forced into a prolonged war by a vicious and unprovoked attack from just outside its own border, we feel the pain of the Ukrainian people and we want to share your message,” he told the first lady.

"Israel and Ukraine are in a battle for their freedom and sovereignty against anti-democratic regimes that want to see them wiped off the map. We could not be more proud that the Jewish community continues to stand by Ukraine's side, and will continue to provide whatever support we can as it continues to bravely fight for its survival," added David Heller, Jewish Federations' National Campaign Chair.

Zelenska, who runs a major charity in Ukraine, noted the Israeli inspiration for a project to build "resilience centers" that would provide social services and psychological support to Ukrainians.

The mission’s participants included representatives from Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC, and followed another first-of-its-kind mission to Ukraine in 2022.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, creating the greatest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II, Jewish Federations jumped into action. Federations were uniquely positioned to lead the emergency response because of their long presence in the region supporting partners in Ukraine and the region. In addition to work through these partners, Jewish Federations have also spearheaded efforts to create volunteer opportunities for North Americans to help Ukrainians, and advocated for policies and programs to support Ukrainian refugees in the United States.

Last year, the city of Kyiv honored the Jewish Federations for their extraordinary support and humanitarian efforts.

In 2022, Jewish Federations joined forces with Zelenska, Israel’s First Lady Michal Herzog, 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.

Find photos from the mission here, courtesy Jewish Federations of North America/Anton Kulakowskiy.


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