Standing by Our Cousins in Ukraine

We are all watching with alarm and anxiety as political forces threaten to bring more chaos and bloodshed to Ukraine. As home to one of the world's largest and most isolated Jewish communities, Ukraine is very much on our minds. Our Federation is already actively involved through its direct support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and its on-the-ground efforts to serve the Jewish communities of Ukraine. Along with other federations, we have contributed additional funds to ensure the safety and care of Ukrainian Jews; meanwhile, we continue to monitor the situation there and maintain frequent contact with JDC's leaders. Your annual campaign contributions are currently at work throughout Ukraine, helping at-risk seniors and families, providing resources for isolated community members, and keeping on top of local needs as they arise. If additional resources are needed, we will be sure to reach out to our Bay Area community with specifics.

If you are looking for other ways to be involved locally, please contact the Federation's Russian Jewish Community Coordinator, Irina Klay, at


Given the deeply concerning events in Ukraine over the last few days, we want to share with you an update on JDC's work on the ground from JDC FSU Director Ofer Glanz: With increasing unrest and violence in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, I want to brief you on our continuing emergency efforts in those areas of the country. Rest assured that our remarkable colleagues – from JDC staff to Hesed employees to homecare workers – are tirelessly working around the clock to ensure the well-being of our clients and Jewish communities where they live and work. During this critical time, we have:

  • activated our emergency contact system, communicating with clients on a 24-hour basis to assess their needs and address them immediately;
  • established situation rooms around the country that are regularly reporting in on changes on the ground;
  • constantly adjusted our contingency plans to reflect these changes.

Above all, we are providing stepped-up support with extra food, medicine, homecare, and counseling, just as we have done since this crisis began.

In Odessa – which is the site of ongoing violence and 46 deaths last week – our Hesed social welfare center cares for approximately 7,000 Jews (out of the city's 40,000 person Jewish population). Services for the elderly and poor have continued uninterrupted during this chaotic time. For other JDC-supported Jewish institutions and programs around the city – including the flagship Beit Grand JCC and our Metsudsa young leadership training program – some workshops and classes have been cancelled for security concerns.

In Eastern Ukraine – where continued unrest and fear have gripped the local population – JDC serves more than 6,000 Jews in the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk, Mariupol, Kramatorsk, and Sloviansk. Our staff in these cities continue to provide increased services and support, constantly adjusting to an ever-changing and concerning situation.

In the days ahead, we will continue to keep you updated on JDC's critical work in Ukraine, especially in those areas that remain in flux. None of this work would be possible without the support of our partners, who have supplied us with emergency funding during this time of crisis.

We thank Ofer and our FSU team, especially those in Ukraine, as they carry out our sacred work. In typical JDC fashion, they are ensuring that wherever a Jew is in need, we are there. And they do this in places where they and their families are as personally affected by the crisis as those in their care. Their service speaks to the essence of who we are and what we do at JDC.


May 20, 2014