Six months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the war rages on. A total of more than eleven million people have left Ukraine, although close to five million have since returned. Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest, including those refugees who have fled, as well as those remaining in Ukraine, given that close to seven million have been displaced from their homes but remain in the country. Meanwhile, the most recent Pentagon estimates put Russian casualties in Ukraine as high as 80,000, with thousands of armored vehicles lost.
(For pre-crisis background on the Jewish community in Ukraine, see here).
• On Wednesday, when Ukraine celebrated its main state holiday that commemorates independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia launched missile strikes across Ukraine. At least 25 people were killed and 50 wounded in a strike on the Chaplyne train station in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, according to a report by President Volodymyr Zelensky to the UN Security Council. The European Union has vowed to hold Russia responsible for this “rocket terror.”
• Also on Wednesday, the White House announced an additional aid package of $3 billion to train and equip Ukrainian soldiers on a long-term basis. The drones, weapons and ammunition that Ukraine will receive may not be deployed for a year or two, but will ultimately shore up Ukraine’s defenses during what is shaping up to be a protracted conflict.
• A mortar explosion outside the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant killed an employee and his taxi driver on Tuesday, highlighting the rapidly deteriorating situation at Europe’s largest nuclear plant. The facility, which was captured by the Russians on March 4, is in a standoff between the Russians and Ukrainians, both of whom have accused each other of preparing to stage an attack.
• Also on Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (the UN’s nuclear watchdog) urgently requested access to the plant; it said it was prepared to visit the site within days if given the green light. Ukraine sources close to half of its electricity from nuclear energy, although the meltdown of a reactor can cause catastrophic damage on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 in northern Ukraine. (During the very first day of the invasion, Chernobyl was also captured by the Russians; however, the Ukrainians recaptured it on April 2.)
• On Monday, the US Embassy in Ukraine and the State Department reiterated a call for Americans to leave the country, citing fears of impending Russian attacks on civilians and civilian intrastruture.
• Kyiv vociferously denies involvement in the killing of Russian journalist Daria Dugina with a car bomb near Moscow last weekend. Dugina was the daughter of Alexander Dugin, an ultra-nationalist Russian political figure whose zealous calls for Russian expansion into Ukraine are believed to have influenced Putin’s thinking. Both father and daughter have advocated genocide of the Ukrainians. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) insists that it has traced the murder directly to the Ukrainians.
• Evgeny Roizman, the former mayor of Ekaterinburg, which is the fourth-largest city in Russia, was arrested this week by Russian police. He was one the last remaining major public officials in the country who had not been jailed or exiled despite criticizing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Roizman faces up to three years in prison on charges of “discrediting Russia’s armed forces.”
• Analysts are predicting that the next six months will be a messy quagmire for both sides, especially as the notoriously muddy fall (called the “Rasputitsa”) in Ukraine comes, followed by winter, when progress will be difficult to make.
• The Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine (FJCU) reported on Tuesday that at least 70 Jewish people have been killed in Ukraine since the invasion, although some analysts speculate that it might be at least double that number. Thousands of Jewish people are taking part in the war, including dozens of Israelis.
• FJCU Director Alina Teplitskaya told Ynet that “We rescued 35,198 people — most of them Jews — from 322 population centers in Ukraine in tight cooperation with the Ukrainian military.” Approximately half of the 15,000 refugees who arrived at camps in countries that border Ukraine continued on to Israel.
• IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer has announced a five-year plan to continue and expand a number of key programs in Ukraine, where an estimated 16 million people are desperately in need of humanitarian aid. In addition to Jewish Federations’ core partners, NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief, SmartAID, United Hatzalah, Dream Doctors and other Israeli organizations remain on the ground in Ukraine. (Click the links for articles on the work of these organizations.)
• On Wednesday, Iran performed tests of its combat and reconnaissance drones, fueling concerns that it may furnish unmanned aircraft to Russia to use against Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke outthis week against the proposed restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which he says would give Iran $100 billion that it would inevitably use to foment instability in the Middle East.
• Other critics of the plan to resume the nuclear deal with Iran have cited concerns that Russia would become more involved in trading oil with Iran as a way to gain back ground lost through crippling Western sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine. Bilateral trade between the two pariah nations now totals $4 billion a year, an amount which the two countries are reportedly trying to double.
JEWISH FEDERATIONS AND PARTNERS ON THE GROUND
Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts. Since the launch of the campaign in February, Jewish Federations have collectively raised $73.5 million and allocated 61 million to over 50 NGO’s on the ground.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine and the region, supported by Federation emergency allocations. JDC has served an estimated 40,000 Jewish elderly and 2,500 poor Jewish children and their families through its network of care services and Jewish community programs. According to Elena Proskurnja, who directs the Hesed Michael social welfare center in Zaporizhia, “When you are cowering from the booms and flinching at the sound of breaking glass, you need to focus on something that is so pure and so good that it outshines the darkness of conflict and fear.”
In conjunction with the war’s reaching its six-month mark, The Forward published the story this week of Hanna Pysana, a photographer and filmmaker who had been the director of youth programs at the Beit Dan Jewish Community Center in Kharkiv, who took a JDC bus to Moldova to spend a month helping the refugees who ended up there. “I could offer support to these people,” she said, “to give hope to them.” Now back in Ukraine, she said she feels “between worlds.” She acquired a book during her travels: “What To Do After the Apocalypse.”
Since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, the Jewish Agency for Israel has been on the frontlines, saving the Jews of Ukraine, with workers on the ground, many of whom have risked their lives to rescue the nation’s Jewish community. Six months into the conflict, we continue to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for those fleeing to safety.
The figures below, updated in August 2022, show the range of different kinds of help and services that the Jewish Agency has provided since the war began:
• To date, 12,633 olim (new immigrants) have arrived in Israel from Ukraine. An additional 10% more refugees came through The Jewish Agency’s centers in Eastern Europe, receiving all the same services but decided to stay in Europe and not immigrate to Israel. In addition, since February, 21,772 new immigrants have arrived from Russia and Belarus. In total, we’ve helped welcome more than 34,000 people to Israel in six months.
• Since launching our emergency hotline with The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews at the outset of the war, we have received 128,799 calls and given Ukrainian Jews guidance and information regarding the Aliyah process, as well as general assistance for members of the Jewish community in Ukraine.
• To get Ukrainians out of harm's way, we organized 455 buses which rescued 13,742 people from dangerous zones, taking them to the Romanian, Polish, Hungarian and Moldovan borders.
• The Jewish Agency engaged over 450 volunteers who gave their time and skills – as well as their blood, sweat and tears – to help refugees in our six transit centers in countries bordering Ukraine.
• All our refugee hotels had an on-site doctor and nurse every morning to offer medical care as needed. ~3,000 hours of medical & mental health care were provided for all who needed it – including refugees as well as Jewish Agency staff and volunteers.
• Three meals a day have been provided to all refugees staying in hotels in Eastern Europe, for a total of 290,000 meals.
• Together with the local municipalities in Israel, The Jewish Agency ran a campaign called “Torenu” (Our Turn) through which clothing and toiletries were collected for the Ukrainian refugees. In total, 23,000 boxes – equivalent to 354 tons – of supplies were distributed to refugees in need being housed at our centers.
• $514,800 Emergency Grants were distributed to 95 organizations in Ukraine through The Jewish Agency Emergency Security Fund.
• Throughout the summer, in Israel and across Europe, 3,121 Ukrainian children and teenagers have been served by our summer camps.
Key priorities going forward:
• Continue assisting and rescuing Ukrainian Jews – especially those who are most vulnerable
• Strengthening and supporting Jewish communities and institutions in Ukraine to ensure they survive and rebuild
• Facilitating the Aliyah of Ukrainian Jews as well as those from countries in the former Soviet Union who want to move to Israel
• Aiding in these new olim’s absorption process, providing housing and crucial resources to ease their integration
Jewish Federations continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine closely, and, working with our partners, are offering considerable relief efforts to those most in need.
Some notable figures of impact of Jewish Federations’ emergency campaign over the past six months include:
- 1,212 tons (just over 2.7 million pounds) of medical equipment, clothing, food and hygiene products have been distributed
- 239,851 people have been fed
- 80,817 people have been evacuated away from danger zones
- 399,902 calls for assistance have been received via special hotlines
For more information, please contact: Jewish Federations' Dani Wassner.