New York, New York, Dec. 8, 2014 – The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s annual Winter Relief program – delivering tons of heating fuel, warm bedding, and clothing to needy Jews across the former Soviet Union – has been critically expanded in Ukraine this year to respond to a harsh winter worsened by the country’s energy crisis, skyrocketing costs, ongoing unrest, and the growing needs of displaced Jews. JDC staff and professionals at the thirty two JDC-supported Hesed social welfare centers in Ukraine are providing extra winter supplies and services to poor elderly, including Nazi victims, struggling families, and displaced Jews who often cannot afford their utility bills or have direct access to heating supplies.
“While winter relief is a lifeline for tens of thousands of Jews in need on any given year, its even more essential in Ukraine where utility prices have soared and the crisis has continued with no end in sight” said Michal Frank, director of JDC’s Former Soviet Union department. “We have proudly stood by the Jews of Ukraine during this period and, together with our invaluable partners, have redoubled our efforts to ensure this winter is imbued with the warmth of Jewish solidarity and mutual care.”
In addition to crippling economic challenges – including devalued local currency and pensions and a 50-80% increase in the costs of food and medicine – a series of energy-saving measures will be enacted in Ukraine this year, leaving many poor and elderly people with little resources to survive below freezing temperatures. Theses include planned power outages and asking citizens to lower heating thermostats to below 60 Fahrenheit.
These circumstances seriously impact the more than 5,000 JDC clients remaining in eastern Ukraine, still suffering under shelling and fear of violence, and more than 2,000 displaced Jews JDC is caring for in different cities away from the conflict. A drastic escalation in services – including window repairs and replacements, the subsidizing of utility payments, and provision of extra fuel – represents a seven-fold increase in the JDC’s Ukraine Winter Relief budget.
In support of relief efforts in Ukraine, JDC is working closely with Chabad, individual donors and foundations, and their partners, including the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Jewish Federations of North America, World Jewish Relief, and the Conference on Jewish Materials Claims Against Germany.