As the crisis in Ukraine worsens, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has stepped up its emergency response as more Jews flee cities in eastern Ukraine and critical aid is delivered to those who stay behind in areas of unrest. The organization has been providing a robust emergency response for Ukraine’s most vulnerable Jews since the crisis began.
JDC has provided a comprehensive aid program to more than 1,000 Jews who have fled violence in some areas of eastern Ukraine and found new homes in places like Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Odessa and even Rostov in Russia. This includes accommodation and rental subsidies, food and clothing, Jewish community connections like family summer camps, and post-trauma counseling services. Through its network of Hesed social welfare centers, JDC has also resumed services for clients who went from one place to another and have also been aiding Jews living in refugee camps.
In the east, where many Jews remain, JDC staff and volunteers are delivering food, water, and medications to the elderly and families at risk in Donetsk and Lugansk. In Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, previously under fire, JDC’s food card program has resumed and the need for aid packages has dissipated.
“People are staying for several reasons: fears for their safety if they try to leave or loss of their properly. Many others are too physically fragile or are hoping for a quick outcome to the crisis. It’s our job to be there for them. We are aware — especially with news that the hryvnia has hit its lowest value – that the economic side of this crisis will soon rise and we will need to further address unanticipated needs,” said JDC CEO Alan H. Gill.
JDC’s work in eastern Ukraine is part of its months-long Ukraine-wide emergency response addressing increased needs among the most vulnerable poor Jewish elderly and families. Stepped-up delivery of extra medications and food, upgraded home care services, and counseling services for stress-plagued staff members and clients alike are features of this work. JDC mobile units have delivered critical supplies throughout the emergency in place from Kiev to Odessa to Kharkov; JDC staff and local Jewish community volunteers risked getting food packages to homebound elderly in areas of unrest; homecare workers have spent nights in the homes of their most frail clients; and special operating hours and call centers at Hesed social welfare centers have ensured round-the-clock care.
JDC has also maintained Jewish community connections in the midst of the crisis, continuing its work in Jewish Community Centers throughout the region and operating its family summer camps. During Jewish holidays that have fallen during the crisis, JDC provided nearly 53,000 boxes of matzah for Passover, organized community seders for thousands of participants, and delivered Passover holiday packages to the poor Jewish elderly and families in its care. This is in addition to Purim gift baskets deliveries and ongoing Jewish educational and cultural opportunities and social events held by JDC or through JDC-supported facilities and Hesed social welfare centers.
Today, JDC has 4 major offices and operates and supports a network of 32 Hesed social welfare centers serving Jews in need in more than 1,000 locations across Ukraine. JDC’s long history of working with Ukrainian Jews includes its work with the American Relief Administration in 1921 to administer an aid program for Ukrainians impacted by war and famine, including the Jewish community. Additionally, Agro-Joint, established in 1924, created Jewish agricultural colonies and industrial schools in Ukraine and Crimea.