Refugees Themselves, East Ukraine Chabad Emissaries Strive On

A Chanukah meal for families in Mariupol; its Jewish community, including a kindergarten and daily minyan at synagogue, continue to function despite the war.

By Dovid Margolin [This is the second of two articles on Jewish life in war-torn eastern Ukraine. The first, "Scattered Among States, Donetsk Jewish Community Inches Into 2015," can be found here.] The fighting was heavy when Maya and her family fled this summer from Lugansk, Ukraine. When she recently returned after three months in Moscow, her pantry was empty. Hungry neighbors had raided her home, taking any food products they could get their hands on. Canned goods, preserves, tea; all of it was gone. Nothing was spared, not even a few bunches of dill she had been drying to use for seasoning. “The only thing left in her kitchen were two forks,” recalls Svetlana, a friend of Maya’s who works for the Lugansk Jewish community, and asked that she be identified by a pseudonym due to the … [Read more...]

1st IFCJ Ukraine Flight Arrives in Israel

photo courtesy International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

226 new olim arrived in Israel [yesterday] from the Ukraine in the first aliyah flight organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ - Keren L'Yedidut), under the “Fellowship Aliyah” program. The flight is being organized in conjunction with the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, The Jewish Agency, the global Ezra movement and Nativ. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the Fellowship, recently announced his intention to assist in the mission of bringing more Jews home to Israel, while further strengthening other agencies active in the field. The IFCJ will give grants of $1,000 to every adult and $500 for every child in addition to funding their immigration. This support comes in addition to the absorption package and benefits which every new immigrant to Israel is … [Read more...]

Expanding Conferences Help FSU Jews Gain Mainstream Communal Acceptance

Limmud FSU Canada, October 2014; photo by Yossi Aloni.

Despite challenging times, Limmud FSU opened their annual festival in Ukraine today. By Alina Dain Sharon and Sean Savage JNS.org An American Jewish astronaut who learned to speak Russian while training with cosmonauts walks into a lecture hall filled with Russian-American Jews. No, it’s not a priest-and-rabbi-style joke, but a real-life event that exemplifies the spirit of the Limmud FSU educational conferences. At Limmud FSU’s 2010 conference in New York, former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman addressed the crowd in Russian - to the audience’s delight. Many of the young FSU-immigrant Jews living in the United States still “have a strong cultural affinity for being Russian” and speak Russian when they get together, even though they may live in the same apartment buildings or work in … [Read more...]

Jewish Agency Response to IFCJ Aliyah Initiative

The Jewish Agency has released the following statement (below - in full) in response to yesterday's announcement from the International fellowship of Christians and Jews: "The Jewish Agency for Israel is the body tasked with bringing new immigrants to Israel. As part of its activities, The Jewish Agency works with various government ministries and other organizations interested in aiding its efforts to bring immigrants to the Jewish state. "While The Jewish Agency certainly welcomes the involvement of any organization interested in helping to promote and facilitate Aliyah, we view the recent announcement by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews as unfortunate and ill-advised. The Jewish Agency is the only organization with the infrastructure, the proven experience, and the … [Read more...]

IFCJ Ups The Aliyah Game

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The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) will dramatically increase its efforts to bring more olim to Israel from the Former Soviet Union and countries in crisis across the world. The project will be led by former Director General of Aliyah and Absorption at The Jewish Agency, Eli Cohen, who will join The Fellowship as Vice President for Immigration and Absorption. Cohen served in a series of senior positions at The Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization and is finishing his term as Deputy CEO of Mekorot, Israel's National Water Carrier. Cohen will initially be tasked to build a strategic plan for aliyah and absorption. … [Read more...]

First Jewish Refugee Camp Opens in Ukraine; Many Still Trapped in East

Jewish refugees from Lugansk and surrounding towns arrive at a family refugee camp in the western city of Zhitomer.

by Dovid Margolin When Tatyana fled the beleaguered eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk late last week, she felt relieved just to have made it out alive. “It was a horror. We boarded the train under heavy bombing,” explains Tatyana, 50, who escaped together with her daughter, son-in-law and 7-year-old grandson. “It was relatively calm until July 13; there was some transport around the city, some stores were open. But then the real fighting began, and everyone ran to buy tickets to leave the city; we were lucky to purchase tickets for July 24. Anyone still there can no longer leave because the central train station was bombed, and trains cannot leave the city. People are dying in Lugansk, and it is getting worse each day.” Tatyana, who declined to give her last name, and her family, are among … [Read more...]

The Jewish World Responds

A child victim of terror participates in a Jewish-Agency-run respite camp; photo courtesy The Jewish Agency.

On July 7th, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge and the Jewish world immediately mobilized to provide a range of services to soften the war's impact, particularly on the lives of children and families. Following is a partial list of initiatives underway (culled from list-servs of the various organizations). JDC / The Joint Since the crisis began, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) immediately activated its network of programs for the most vulnerable Israelis to quickly ensure the needs and safety of the elderly, people with disabilities, and children and youth throughout the country as rockets rain down from Gaza. JDC’s emergency response includes: For the Elderly: JDC’s Day Centers for the Elderly in Netivot, Merchavim, Sdot Negev, and Rahat delivering … [Read more...]

JDC To Honor Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein With Wallenberg Award

Rabbi Eckstein together with Elie Weisel, a past recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Award; photo courtesy JDC.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will bestow its prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Award on Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (ICFJ). JDC is honoring Eckstein for his contribution to the Jewish people as founder and president of ICFJ, an interfaith group that has brought Christian and Jewish communities around the world together and raised over $1 billion for Jews in need in the former Soviet Union and Israel. Additionally, Rabbi Eckstein serves as dean and member of the executive committee of Limmud FSU. Eckstein will be the fourth recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Award, joining the ranks of Donn Weinberg, Edgar Bronfman, and Elie Wiesel. The prize is named after Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who used his diplomatic status to … [Read more...]