Dear Friends and Colleagues,
During the past few weeks we have witnessed a concerning escalation of events in Ukraine, where the future hangs in the balance.
The situation is especially tense now, as an upcoming referendum draws close, in which Crimea’s integration into the Russian Federation will be determined. The Crimean parliament has already voted in favor of joining Russia -- a decision which has been condemned by the new acting President of Ukraine, by the US government, and by EU leaders. A group of Jewish leaders have sent an open letter to President Putin, asking him not to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine, claiming that there is no danger for Jews in the country.
While our representatives’ field reports show that there has been no significant change in most of Ukraine, the Jewish Agency has noticed subtle but steady trends as the tension mounts:
In the past few weeks, from Odessa to Dnepropetrovsk, from Kharkov to Simferopol, there have been first signs of growth of Aliyah numbers, with the average growth doubling since last year. We have increased the work of Jewish Agency Aliyah coordinators and sent additional staff from Israel in order to meet the demand, and we cooperate daily with all relevant forums of the Israeli government including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Ministry of Absorption. Telephone conferences between Jerusalem and our centers throughout Ukraine are conducted every morning and evening. While all flights from Simferopol to Kiev have been canceled as of March 11, we are looking for immediate solutions to transfer new olim from this region.
Additionally, the Jewish Agency’s Emergency Assistance Fund, which grants funds for security measures for Jewish institutions, has approved grants totaling $347,000 to 108 community institutions in 35 Ukrainian towns and cities.
But despite the uncertainty, there have been no changes in our work in Ukraine, and no plans to cancel any activities. We continue to do as we have always done:
After a short break in mid-February, regular work has resumed and has been continuing since then. In spite of the holidays on March 8-10 in Ukraine, The Jewish Agency main offices remained open in Kiev, Odessa, and Simferopol. Na’aleh entrance exams are scheduled to take place in the Jewish Agency’s representative offices in Kiev, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa in the end of March; Hebrew ulpan classes are continuing as well as Limudiyah and Sunday schools; about 50 youth counselors (madrichim) will celebrate Purim on the premises of the Jewish Agency in Dnepropetrovsk; preparations for the summer camp season are in full swing; and a meeting of potential new olim with the mayor of Israeli town of Yokneam is planned for Sunday, March 16 in Kiev -- we have plenty of positive activity to look forward to.
Thank you for your continued partnership and support during times of peace and times of difficulty. We will continue to update you on our work in the field as the situation develops.
Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach,
Chairman of the Executive, The Jewish Agency for Israel