While things have quieted down a bit in Kiev, there remains an overall sense of uncertainty among Ukraine’s large Jewish population. The escalation of tensions in Crimea, as well as in other cities throughout Eastern Ukraine, indicates that the situation could still get worse before it gets better. As the Jewish people’s first responder – and formal partner of the Government of Israel in helping to maintain the safety of Jews around the world – The Jewish Agency for Israel has been paying close attention to the crisis.
Security: In recent days, The Jewish Agency has allocated $400,000 from our >Emergency Assistance Fund in order to upgrade security at 108 locations in some 35 cities throughout Ukraine. The locations include synagogues, Jewish community centers, communal offices, day schools, nursery schools and yeshivot. Heseds operated by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and schools run by World ORT are among those receiving grants, which include funds for new cameras, increased guard presence and barrier reinforcements. We are also working with our local partners to identify additional sites in need of assistance.
Jewish Life: After violence peaked in late February, our staff in Ukraine has worked brilliantly to keep the Jewish flame burning despite the level of anxiety that persists. In the past week, we have held Aliyah seminars, training programs for camp counselors, art history discussions and Sunday school classes. Unfortunately, after discussions with security professionals and community leaders, we decided to cancel our Purim celebrations, which were to take place later this month in partnership with Hillel. I am pleased to report, however, that our day camps – critical venues for connecting our youth to their Jewish heritage – will convene in late-March as planned.
Aliyah: Since 1929, The Jewish Agency has enabled millions of Jews to make Aliyah from locations where they felt unsafe. We are not seeing signs of a mass Aliyah from Ukraine, at present, but our local representatives and Aliyah coordinators have reported an increase in applications as well as requests for consultation. In Kiev alone, there have been 66 such requests, one-third of which came from people who were not previously engaged with any of our programming. In Crimea, 36 Jews preparing to make Aliyah have asked to accelerate the process. We are also providing support for our Aliyah coordinators who are now handling an increased workload, and we are prepared to offer additional Aliyah seminars as well as Israel experience trips. Should there be a significant increase in Aliyah, we are ready to ensure that every immigrant will be welcomed to Israel and will have a successful absorption into Israeli society.
The Jewish Agency remains grateful to our partners, Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, as well as our supporters, like the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, who make it possible for us to provide immediate assistance to Jews whenever and wherever they are in need. We can never truly predict when crises will suddenly arise, but once again we are all demonstrating that the collective strength of the global Jewish family stands at the ready. Because of this, the Jewish community of Ukraine knows it is not alone.
Click here to help ensure the safety of Ukrainian Jews, in schools, synagogues and community centers located throughout the country. The Emergency Assistance Fund was established by The Jewish Agency for Israel in the aftermath of the Toulouse massacre, to provide funding to protect Jewish institutions worldwide.