Concern Mounting in Odessa Jewish Community

from The Jerusalem Post:

Odessa Jewish community mulls emergency evacuation

Odessa’s Jews are prepared to evacuate should the violence in the western Ukrainian city get significantly worse, several community leaders told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

… While Jewish community leaders are unanimous in asserting that the violence is unconnected to the Jewish community and that they do not feel specially targeted, they agreed that, should the situation deteriorate, it would be easy for the spillover to affect their constituents.

According to Rabbi Refael Kruskal – the head of the Tikva organization, which runs a network of orphanages and schools and provides social services to the city’s elderly – several of the wounded from Friday’s clashes were Jews, and the community is taking all necessary precautions.

“Over the weekend we closed the [Great Choral] Synagogue,” Kruskal said. “We took all the students out of the center of the city where the violence was, because we were worried it was going to spread. We sent a text message to everybody in the community on WhatsApp that they should stay at home over the weekend.”

… There are a number of evacuation plans, ranging from relocating within the city to sending community members to Kishinev, two-and-a-half hours away in neighboring Moldova.


Update: May 5, 2014 5:00 PM EDT with the following provided by JDC to eJewish Philanthropy:

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.