Devastating! Heartbreaking! The news from Ukraine is horrible to watch and read about. Last week, I wrote extensively about Ukraine and the Jewish community there. Sadly, our concerns have become reality and the Jewish Federation has opened a special campaign to help support the Jewish community of Ukraine.
As I shared yesterday, our Jewish Federation overseas partners – the Jewish Agency, JDC, and World ORT -- are on the ground leveraging their strong presence built up through years of Jewish Federation support. Today, they are serving as a critical lifeline to help protect and safeguard Ukraine’s Jewish community.
Right now, they are:
- Working around the clock to provide uninterrupted humanitarian aid to 40,000 poor Jewish elderly and families, delivering food, medicine, winter relief, and emergency assistance.
- Mobilizing volunteer networks to reach 51,000 beneficiaries in remote locations.
- Equipping staff in four field offices (Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkov, and Odessa) with contingencies to ensure they can continue to reach those in need -- especially the homebound.
- Leveraging their vast presence on the ground to prepare for potential emerging needs -- including people being displaced from their homes.
- Preparing for emergency airlifts to Israel.
- Preparing to dispatch mobile medical units to get supplies where they are needed most.
- Bolstering security at Jewish institutions, including JCCs in Kharkov, Odessa, Dnipro, Kyiv, Zaporozhe, and Lvov.
- Coordinating with local Jewish organizations and partners, especially Chabad's wide-range of services, to ensure a united emergency response.
In more than 1,000 locations across Ukraine, our partners provide a lifeline for Jewish elderly, children, and families through our network of care services, Jewish community programs, and Jewish leaders.
Based on these discussions and initial proposals, we estimate upwards of $16 million in immediate and short-term needs. Your support is essential. 100% of your contribution goes to those in need.
Or send a check to:
Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
9900 SW Greenburg Road
Tigard, OR 97223
We will continue to update you as more details emerge.
Yesterday, Jewish young adult groups from Russia and Ukraine were scheduled to fly home from a 10-day Birthright Israel trip they shared together. Instead of flying home they are now staying together at a Tel Aviv hotel until further notice. I wonder how those young people feel about what is happening at home?
One thing that strikes me when I watch the news is the bus convoys and people trying to leave the country. They are now refugees. It reminds me of the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the convoys seeking safety.
Moldova’s (small former Soviet republic to the southwest of Ukraine) Jewish community announced that it has prepared a fleet of buses to evacuate Jews from neighboring Ukraine. Pinchas Salzman, Chief Rabbi of Moldova, said they had “made extensive preparations” for a Russian offensive over the past several weeks “with the aim of absorbing thousands of Israelis and Jews fleeing the war zones in Ukraine.”
As part of the deployment, the community is ready with buses to transport people from Ukraine to Moldova with food supplies, pre-rented hotels along with additional shelters to accommodate hundreds of people, and emergency medical staff. Also, community members have been deployed to border crossings and the airport to provide immediate emergency assistance to the refugees and are in constant contact with the Jewish communities in the Ukrainian cities located in the war zone.
The Talmud (Shevuot 39a), in discussing the domino effect of sin, concludes with the Aramaic phrase, Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other. This phrase is the basis of the notion of communal responsibility in Jewish law. If one Jew sees another Jew at the verge of sinning, he has an obligation to step in and help. Even more so, it implies an obligation on all Jews to ensure that other Jews have their basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter taken care of. Simply by virtue of being a Jew one is responsible for the well-being of other Jews, and vice versa.
And that is exactly what we are doing now in Ukraine and have done through the years.
Shabbat began at 5:15 p.m. in Kyiv tonight. Shabbat should be a time of quiet and rest. I am sure that will not be the case for our mishpocha in Ukraine. It makes me wonder how many families were even able to light Shabbat candles?
Just last week, the Jewish Federation decided to host a community-wide virtual Shabbat candle lighting in partnership with the National Jewish Outreach Project (NJOP) and its Shabbat Across America program. This gathering would mark almost two-years since the original lockdown from COVID. You may recall that early in the pandemic, the Jewish Federation hosted a number of well-received virtual Shabbat candle lightings (including a world record attempt) and a Havdalah service to both begin and end Shabbat as a community from our individual homes.
Our newly scheduled candle lighting will have even greater meaning. It is an opportunity for us to stand with the Jewish community of Ukraine. Join us next Friday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m.. We will be doing a very brief (approximately 18 minutes) program concluding with the lighting of Shabbat candles with our Community Chaplain, Rabbi Barry Cohen. Let us turn an ordinary Friday night into something extraordinary -- register here.
Shabbat shalom and pray for safety for all, and for a speedy end to the hostilities.