Jewish Federations & the Crisis in Ukraine: June 23, 2022

After 119 days of fighting, Russia is trying to consolidate its gains in Ukraine’s east. As the war drags on, Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest. (For pre-crisis background on the Jewish community in Ukraine, see here).
  • Russian forces have advanced into several villages south of Lysychansk, the last city in the Luhansk region still held by Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian government, “the fight for Lysychansk and Severodonetsk has entered its climax,” and the military has released video showing extensive destruction in the cities.
  • The Ukrainian Government says that its forces control less than half of the country's eastern Donetsk region and more than a hundred cities and villages within these areas no longer had gas or electricity. Media reports suggest that 55% of the region, which is controlled by Russian forces, has been “completely destroyed.” 
  • The 27 leaders of EU countries are expected to support granting “candidate status” to Ukraine and Moldova but say their admission to the EU could be a “long process.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke with 11 European leaders on Wednesday, asking for their support in allowing Ukraine to join the EU, on the eve of the summit.
  • Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said that Russian claims that Lithuania has imposed a rail blockade on Kaliningrad are a “lie.” (Kaliningrad is a part of Russian that is disconnected from the rest of the country. Entering the area from the rest of Russia requires traversing either Lithuania or Poland).  Simonyte said that Lithuania, “is complying with the sanctions imposed by the [European Union] on Russia,” adding that necessary goods like food and medicine are still being transported to the exclave. 
  • At least 10 people were killed and 10 others wounded in Russian strikes on Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, according to the head of the city’s regional military administration.
  • The UN Human Rights Council says that more than 8 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 2.84 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’s Defense Ministry Policy Deputy Director Ilan Mezushan took part in a US-led meeting of 50 countries last week over how to support Ukraine in its war against Russia, despite the Israeli government not providing military aid to Ukraine. At the same time, the US requested that Israel allow the German Government to supply Ukraine with Israeli-developed anti-tank missiles, but apparently the request was denied by Israel’s Ministry of Defense. The missiles, which are produced in Germany and would be transferred to Ukraine by the German government, are produced with Israeli technology under an Israeli license that requires the Jewish state to approve any transfer of the missiles to a third party.

Israel continues to tread cautiously on all matters related to the conflict – particularly regarding supplying military hardware - and is especially careful not to antagonize the Russian government. Israel needs to cooperate with Russia, the dominant force in Syria, to ensure it has freedom to act against the Iranian presence in Syria.

Israel has progressively taken a more pro-Ukraine position amid US pressure since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war while attempting to walk a fine line between upsetting the US or Russian governments. However, Israel has yet to send Ukraine advanced weaponry for their war effort, as many EU-member states have.

Earlier today, President Zelensky addressed an audience at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, via the Internet, where he said that Israel must join the international sanction regime against Russia and allow visa-free entry for refugees fleeing Moscow's aggression. “Unfortunately, we have not yet seen Israel join the [international] sanctions regime. When governments introduce sanctions against Russia, this is not about money or about business. It is about values and general security…. (But) we understand that it is not a simple situation for you.” Zelensky added that he was grateful for the support the people of Israel had shown his country.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel has launched a social media campaign criticizing the Israeli government for the “ongoing delay” in providing treatment to Ukrainian soldiers who lost limbs during the war against Russia. As part of the campaign, the Ukrainian Embassy posted on Sunday on both Twitter and Facebook a picture of a 19-year-old Ukrainian soldier named Delil, who lost both his legs in a Russian attack and now needs a prosthetic implant. The Embassy wrote that, “Many Ukrainians lost body parts in Russian attacks. Israel is an international expert in the field of prostheses. We expect the Israeli government to do the right moral thing and help Delil and many other Ukrainians be well again. There is no justification for the continued delay in aid in this humanitarian field.”

Israel’s Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata announced last week that since the beginning of the fighting in Ukraine, over 25,000 new olim have arrived in Israel from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Moldova. Tamano-Shata said, “With great pride, I’m happy to announce that we’ve passed the 25,000 threshold of immigrants in this operation. This proves that the State of Israel is a warm and safe home for all Jews in distress. We continue to make great government efforts to absorb the new immigrants in the best possible way.”

When looking at Ukraine alone, 32,958 Ukrainians have arrived in Israel since fighting began: 10,618 arrived as olim and another 22,340 who arrived from Ukraine but are not eligible for immigration under the Law of Return, (meaning they are not Jewish or don’t have at least one Jewish grandparent). Some 8,000 Ukrainian nationals have since left.  (Of the 10,618 olim, 5,888 are new immigrants, and another 4,730 are in the process of making Aliyah).

In total, this means that some 33,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine have arrived in Israel, and 25,000 of those people still remain. In this opinion piece, the Jerusalem Post argues that had the US taken in a similar amount of Ukrainians relative to its population, it would have admitted some 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees and adds, “That is not even close to the situation, with US President Joe Biden setting a goal of admitting 100,000 Ukrainians.”

Meanwhile Israel’s Interior Ministry appears to be ignoring a recent High Court of Justice ruling that said that widows and widowers of individuals eligible for Aliyah under the Law of Return are also eligible – so long as they have continued affiliation with the Jewish community. See here for more details.

Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts, and have collectively raised more than $64 million since the fighting began. For full details about Federations’ response to the crisis in Ukraine, please see here, and for details about the impact that Federations work is having on those fleeing, see here.

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.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine. The organization was prominently featured in this CNN story on the plight of refugees. The piece leads with the story of Hanna Pysana — a Jewish refugee turned volunteer for JDC/Jewish community in Moldova — and quotes JDC CEO Ariel Zwang, in addition to reporting other information on JDC’s efforts evacuating Jews from this crisis. In addition, JDC was featured in this Jerusalem Post story on Ukraine responses.

The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine. Read here the moving story of a deaf Ukrainian couple who have made Aliyah through the Jewish Agency; and here for the story of the last remaining woman in one family to make Aliyah, as she escaped the horrors of the fighting in Mauripol.

The Jewish Agency and JDC have both established emergency hotlines to assist the Jewish community in Ukraine. For more about JDC’s efforts, see here; for those of the Jewish Agency, see here.

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, says that Russia’s war in Ukraine and the subsequent flood of refugees into Poland has unexpectedly transformed his community. “I am very proud of my community. Polish Jews have switched from being a community of receiving, to being a community of giving.” The Polish Jewish community, which has received funds from Jewish Federations’ Ukraine campaign, is providing widespread humanitarian relief to Ukrainian Jewish refugees arriving in the country. Read more here.

  • Since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, tens of thousands of Russians have fled to the Caucasus. Among them are hundreds of Russian Jews who have relocated to Yerevan in Armenia. Read more here.
  • While most of the focus has been on those Jews escaping Ukraine, an estimated 200,000 remain in the country. See here for a piece on what is happening in the community left behind.

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 Dani Wassner 


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