Jewish Federations & the Crisis in Ukraine: May 19, 2022

After 91 days of fighting, the war continues in Ukraine with no end in sight. Millions of Ukrainians, including tens of thousands of Jews, have fled the country, many to Israel. Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest. (For background on the crisis, as well as for information on the Jewish community in Ukraine, see here).

  • A total of 959 Ukrainian soldiers, including 80 wounded, have so far surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that negotiations on evacuating the last soldiers continue.
  • The United States said it would give an additional $215 million in new emergency food assistance for Ukraine and called on other countries to help in light of the growing global food crisis due to the war. 
  • In another sign that the tide of the war may be turning, the Ukrainian Armed Forces say they have recaptured another settlement in the Kharkiv region, as troops continue counterattacks in the area. According to an unnamed NATO military official, experts are seeing “momentum in the war shifting significantly in favor of Ukraine.” According to the official, the debate within military circles is now over whether it is possible for Ukraine to retake Crimea and the Donbas territories. 
  • In a dramatic development in European security and geopolitics, Sweden and Finland have formally applied to join NATO in response to the war in Ukraine. US President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with the two countries’ leaders today, as part of a show of support by the United States for their applications to join the military alliance. For now, Turkey is objecting to the approval of the new potential members.
  • According to the UN Human Rights Council, some 6.31 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 1.85 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.


On Wednesday, Israel’s Ministry of Defense delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 vests for emergency and civilian organizations in Ukraine. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Israel has tried to preserve its ties with Moscow and until recently had refused to send defensive equipment to Ukraine — instead sending over some 100 tons of humanitarian aid as well as setting up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced that the Jewish state will pay for some injured Ukrainians to fly to Israel to receive medical treatment, and will allocate millions of shekels for the transfer of medicine to Ukraine.

The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Monday that Ukrainian refugees who can’t be deported should be given work permits in Israel. This ruling relates to two Ukrainians who came to Israel before the war, but is likely to be applied universally to other Ukrainian asylum seekers in Israel. The judge in the case criticized the Government’s policy toward the Ukrainians, saying it violated their human rights by not allowing them to work despite having granted them protection against deportation.

The Times of Israel reported the story of a Jewish Ukrainian soldier in the besieged Azovstal plant in Mariupol who have called on Israel to intervene to save his garrison.


Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts, and have collectively raised more than $62 million since the fighting began - triple the amount of the initial goal of the Ukraine emergency campaign, launched on February 24th, 2022, the day that war broke out. Click here to see a presentation about the allocations process for these funds. Through both directed and collective grant making, Federations are supporting over 46 NGO’s that are operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries, including 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 and others.

In the US Congress last week, the House overwhelmingly approved President Biden%u2019s request for $40 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, which is significantly higher than his original $33 billion request. This relief package includes vital security, economic, and humanitarian aid, in addition to funds to help resettle Ukrainians in the US, which is a major focus of our attention as we prepare our community to help with this influx. Importantly, the legislation also makes Ukrainian refugees in the US eligible for certain federal benefits. Jewish Federations will continue to advocate that the Senate urgently pass this critical aid package. In last week’s JFNA Ukraine webinar, Darcy Hirsh gave an update on these initiatives.

Federations continue to run a volunteer hub in support of refugees fleeing Ukraine. The initiative is taking place in partnership with the Jewish Agency, JDC and IsraAID. To volunteer for this program (please note that only those who speak Russian and/or Ukrainian are being selected at this time), click here

Jewish Federations also host half-hour webinars twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, to update audiences about the rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine. Click to register

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine. 

For those remaining in Ukraine, JDC is:
  • Operating emergency hotlines in collaboration with local Jewish communities in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Moldova, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Slovakia.
  • Providing those it serves, as well as new welfare recipients, with extra essentials like food and medicine, and creating an SOS fund and allocating financial wartime support for extraordinary individual needs and Jewish community organizations.
  • Engaging volunteers, staff, and network of Hesed social service centers to address evolving needs.
  • Leveraging JOINTECH – its remote care tech initiative launched to help combat pandemic loneliness among isolated Jewish seniors – to be used for community programming to provide reprieve during this crisis.

For those looking to evacuate, JDC’s efforts include:

  • Executing and coordinating evacuations across Ukraine, including arranging transport and safe accommodations inside Ukraine and beyond.
  • Arranging special medical transport for those elderly Jews who are unable to make the journey using standard vehicles.

For refugees arriving in neighboring countries, JDC is:

  • Staffing key border crossings along with European community partners and volunteers to assist refugees fleeing harm’s way as they arrive in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, and Romania, while also working to coordinate shelter and home hospitality.
  • Providing food, medicine, and other urgent support for Jews not in refugee camps or shelters and providing financial assistance to newly vulnerable individuals.
  • Partnering with Jewish communities across the region to provide non-sectarian aid to people impacted by the crisis.
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine.

See here, a video about Lera Makiev, who fled Dnipro, Ukraine, with her young son, making their way to the Agency’s center in Warsaw, after hiding in basements for a week. At the Agency’s center, Lera, a longtime dance teacher, has volunteered to run a dance classes. And read the story of Galina Pokrovska, 86, who has just made Aliyah. Galina lived alone in Kyiv after her only daughter, Yelena Peer, immigrated to Israel with her husband Igor in 1991 where they are raising their three children.

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.
Read this story about how Holocaust survivors in Krakow refuse to stay silent in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and see this article about how a group of righteous gentiles were rescued from Ukraine. Also, the Jerusalem Post has published this piece on why Ukrainian Jews are fleeing to Germany.

For more information, please contact Dani Wassner 


Add Comment