PHOTO: Supplies for Ukrainian children line the lobby and hallway at Congregation Neveh Shalom after the Foundation School hosted a donation drive March 29 and 30.
BY DEBORAH MOON
The news and images from Ukraine and bordering countries swarming with refugees have torn at the heartstrings of Portlanders, who have responded generously in many ways.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the Greater Portland Jewish community has raised more than $385,000 for Ukrainian relief efforts. The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland continues to raise funds for the relief effort; donate at jewishportland.org/ukraine-crisis.
This week, Rabbi Michael Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel is in Poland with more than 25 Reform Rabbis assisting refugee relief efforts at the JCC Krakow. He took with him five duffle bags full of baby formula, disinfectants and antiseptics donated by Portlanders.
For three weekends, Positive Charge, positivechargepdx.org, gathered donated items and money to send to Ukraine
refugees. In addition, kosher baker Sara Levine has been raising funds via bread sales at Hillsdale Farmer’s Market for relief aid.
On March 29-30, Foundation School mom Dr. Rebecca Kahn drew on a personal connection to enable other families at the preschool to help.
Dr. Kahn, a radiologist, had worked with nurse Yulia Tkachuk at a breast clinic in Vancouver, Wash., until Yulia decided to stay home with her two young children.
Tkachuk, whose mother is Ukrainian and father Russian, immigrated to the U.S. with her family in 2004. The two friends had stayed in touch, and when Russia invaded Ukraine the connection deepened.
“She has been checking in with me since war broke out,” says Tkachuk.
Initially Dr. Kahn donated a few bags of children’s clothes to the Slavic church in Fairview, where Tkachuk is a member. Sulamita Church has been collecting and shipping supplies for refugees. Then Dr. Kahn spoke to Foundation School Director Cory Willson about hosting a collection drive at the preschool at Neveh Shalom, which her two children attend.
“Yulia is an angel,” says Dr. Kahn. “I knew she has family in Ukraine, and I reached out to see if her family was OK and if there was anything I could do to help. I’m the daughter of a Romanian refugee, and I really empathized and felt other Jewish families felt the same.”
Tkachuk says, “I just shared what is in my heart with Dr. Kahn, and she shared in an email.”
That email brought enough children’s clothing, diapers, blankets and other supplies to fill four pickup loads.
“I just wrote a compelling email and it just took off,” says Dr. Kahn, who moved to Portland in 2015 with her husband, Yoni. “It was something that seemed doable for families. I am proud of our community for mobilizing to help.”
“Rebecca is amazing and our community really stepped up,” says Willson.
Volunteers from the church picked up the donations and sorted supplies at a church member’s warehouse. The first shipping container with medicine and first aid supplies was sent by airplane.
“It was very expensive,” says Tkachuk. “The rest will go via ship. It will take about three weeks to transport them to the border of Poland and Ukraine, where teams in churches will distribute to people.”
“I am very grateful to every single family (who donated),” she says. “We didn’t expect such a response. We are very grateful. Thinking of families shopping with their kids for people in need is wonderful.”
PHOTO: Ukrainian refugees in Romania. Photo by Max Dinshtein for the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Ukrainian relief drive continues as needs increase
Portlanders have donated generously to the nationwide Jewish Federation effort that has raised more than $43.4 million to distribute to partner organizations.
Jewish Federations have allocated some $40 million of the $43.4 million we have raised to 35 NGOs operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries to support refugees and Jewish communities.
These partners include Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), World ORT, United Hatzalah, Hillel International, Nefesh B’ Nefesh, HIAS, the Israel Trauma Coalition, Hadassah Medical Organization, Moishe House, Chabad and Shema Yisrael.
The needs are real and continue. Donate at jewishportland.org/ukraine-crisis.