The tragic armed conflict in Ukraine is now into its second week.
Under the leadership of our President, Ronald S. Lauder, the World Jewish Congress is actively supporting and working closely with our communities in the region, especially to determine how they can best serve the flow of refugees across the borders and ensure that they have the proper resources to do so.
We also launched the World Jewish Congress Ukraine Humanitarian Relief Effort, through which we hope to raise critically needed funds that will go towards ensuring that those displaced by the conflict, and the people of Ukraine who are enduring horrific hardships, will receive some aid that they so desperately need including food, water, shelter, medicine, and resettlement, among other life-saving resources.
One hundred percent of the funds raised through this effort will be put to immediate use to support these communities’ undertakings. In addition, as necessary, we will allocate resources to known and trusted relief organizations and agencies.
It is our hope that the initiatives we are developing during this time of crisis will lay the groundwork for sustainable humanitarian work to be carried out in the future.
Impact of Conflict on Ukraine's Jewish Community
We are in constant contact with the WJC’s two Ukrainian affiliates, the VAAD of Ukraine and the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine (JCU).
While the situation remains uncertain, we understand there have been no specific threats directed towards the Jewish community of Ukraine greater than those that are being felt by other Ukrainian citizens.
The VAAD of Ukraine has confirmed that attempts will be made to organize as many deliveries as possible of necessary humanitarian aid from the border of Ukraine to those in need around the communities in Ukraine. Among the items that have been distributed are medicine, sleeping bags, and heating devices.
Likewise, the JCU is engaged in the situation on the ground and seeking all possible avenues to provide help to the tens of thousands of Jews who remain in the country. The JCU is focused on providing critical life-saving aid to the most vulnerable group in this situation – the Jews of Kyiv from the elderly home, among whom are many Holocaust survivors. These people cannot be evacuated due to their age and medical condition.
Communities in Neighboring Countries
WJC staff established a working group of communities bordering Ukraine, including Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, creating informal channels to communicate and share information concerning humanitarian resources. Actions being undertaken by these communities, in coordination with local and international organizations, include: the transport of humanitarian aid to border crossings, railway stations and other areas, the establishment of crisis management protocols, and other activities to provide care for refugees arriving in their respective countries.
Members of MAZSIHISZ (Hungary) and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland are opening their homes and providing food and care to refugees.
The Slovakian Jewish community in the last few days is also extremely active in preparing for the influx of potentially larger number of Jewish refugees and to be ready for any scenario possible. This is done through securing adequate transportation means and having accommodation on stand-by and by coordinating with their colleagues in Hungary in case of an overflow.
The Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania and the Jewish Community of Moldova, in cooperation with the Jewish organizations on the ground, provide numerous Jewish refugees with accommodation, medical aid, clothes, psychological help and transportation.
The communities are, of course, not limiting their support to Jews, but also offering help to other refugees entering their countries.
In addition, we are coordinating with Israeli authorities, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the European Jewish Congress and Euroasian Jewish Congress, as well as smaller groups across Europe and Israel, to exchange information and to reinforce support for logistic and transport efforts for refugees.
WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps Action
In cooperation with WJC staff, Jewish Diplomatic Corps members have also been coordinating through all possible channels to assist those in need and ensure that resources are made available to refugees attempting to flee to other countries.
Many families and individuals leaving Ukraine have received information and guidance from JD Corps members to access transit routes out of the country to safety. As an example, members of the JD Corps still on the ground in Ukraine have marshalled resources that have led to the evacuation of approximately 300 persons on buses. They will continue to carry out this critical work.
Others, based across Europe and elsewhere, have helped to bring families and vulnerable children to sanctuary outside of Ukraine’s borders. In some cases, these young leaders, themselves, have travelled far to reach those needing aid.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those in the area of conflict or affected by it, and we continue to hope for a speedy resolution of the conflict.
We can all be especially proud of how WJC’s affiliated communities across central and eastern Europe have come together to effectively coordinate numerous forms of emergency assistance – this is profoundly heartening, in the face of such tragedy.