After 148 days of fighting, the fighting in Ukraine continues. As the war enters its fifth month at the beginning of next week, Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest, including both refugees who have fled, as well as those remaining in Ukraine.
(For pre-crisis background on the Jewish community in Ukraine, see here).
- Russia says that its forces have now established “full control” of Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian-controlled city in the eastern Luhansk region. In effect, Moscow now controls the entire Luhansk region and more than half of the Donetsk region that lies just south, and which together comprise 75% of the Donbas. Russian forces are trying “around the clock” to break through Ukrainian lines in Donetsk, but have not been successful, according to Ukrainian officials.
- However, the Donbas region has not been “lost yet” to Russian forces, according to Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. “The bottom line is the cost is very high, the gains are very low, there is a grinding war of attrition that is occurring in the Luhansk, Donbas region,” Milley said. “Is the Donbas lost? No, it's not lost yet. The Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain.”
- Neither Ukraine nor Russia release official numbers of soldiers killed in the fighting. According to CIA Director William Burns, the United States estimates that Russian casualties in Ukraine so far have reached around 15,000 killed and 45,000 wounded. The Ukrainian government has said that 100-200 Ukrainian soldiers are killed each day, suggesting a Ukrainian death toll of 15,000- 30,000.
- Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky removed Ukraine’s general prosecutor and the head of the Security Service of Ukraine following allegations that their offices were “riddled with officials who were collaborating with Russia.”
- See this piece in TIME magazine on where the war currently stands, and what could happen next.
- The UN Human Rights Council says that 9.57 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 3.8 million refugees who initially fled Ukraine have since returned. See here for an overall mapping of the situation of Ukrainian refugees in the neighboring countries. For details on where Ukrainian refugees have been fleeing to, see here.
- Around two-thirds of refugees from Ukraine expect to stay in their host countries until hostilities subside and the security situation improves after Russia's invasion, a survey by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has found. For more extensive details about Ukrainian refugees, their numbers and stated plans, see here.
- Israel sent additional defensive equipment to Ukraine including 1,500 helmets, 1,500 protective vests, hundreds of mine protection suits, 1,000 gas masks and dozens of hazmat filtration systems. Israel had previously sent some 100 tons of humanitarian aid and set up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks earlier this year.
- In the early months of the war, many suggested that Israel’s leadership was playing a “good cop-bad cop” game, where then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would express a more neutral tone on the war, hoping to keep favor with Russia, while then Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke more strongly in favor of Ukraine and against Russian aggression. (Israel needs the cooperation of Russia, the dominant military power in Syria, in order to take action against the Iranian presence in Syria; as well as over concerns for the Jewish community in Russia). Now that Lapid is Prime Minister, Russia appears to be taking a tougher stance against the Jewish state, perhaps in “retaliation” against Lapid. According to a report on Israel’s Channel 12 news, Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov has said in closed-door meetings that Lapid becoming prime minister could “cause problems” in the Moscow-Jerusalem relationship. See here for further details as well as this opinion piece on Israel’s dilemmas in the war that argues that the country should take a stronger pro-Ukrainian stance.
- According to Israel’s Aliyah and Integration Ministry, in the first six months of 2022, 11,906 Ukrainians immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return – nearly four times the number in all of 2021. But the number of Russians who came during that same period was nearly 40 percent higher than the number of Ukrainians — totaling 16,598. It was also more than double the number of Russian olim who came in all of last year. The figures show that Ukrainian Aliyah peaked in March, the first month of the invasion, and has dropped significantly every month since. By contrast, Aliyah from Russia has been relatively stable, averaging 3,500-4,500 new arrivals every month since the war began. The explanation given in this piece in Ha’aretz, is that there are large sections of Ukraine that are relatively safe at the moment, so many people are staying. By contrast, Aliyah from Russia is still going strong because “people there aren’t fleeing war, but rather, a regime that is starting to look more and more totalitarian.”
- The Bank of Israel has announced that it will look into helping immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union gain access to their funds currently in Russian banks, but stressed it would not allow banks to circumvent international sanctions. The move was prompted by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who asked for regulatory relief that would enable Israeli banks to approve bank transfers from Russia to citizens not under sanctions. There are currently some 57,000 retirees in Israel who receive Russian pensions, another 30,000 new immigrants, as well as businesspeople who are unable to transfer funds to Israel.
- Former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy criticized Israel for not admitting refugees who lacked the right credentials, comparing it to the way Jews seeking shelter from Nazi Germany were treated. At a conference in Jerusalem, Halevy described the decision to turn back refugees from Ukraine as “terrible, disgraceful and criminal,” saying “it makes my blood boil.” Also speaking at the conference, Member of Knesset Yomtob Kalfon, who heads the special Knesset committee responsible for the Law of Return, countered that only “a few” Ukrainian refugees had been turned away. See more here.
- According to this opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post, the war in Ukraine may present a new opportunity for the East Mediterranean region, including Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece. The recent EU decision to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas has created the need for alternative sources, and the Eastern Mediterranean, led by Israel, is an obvious choice for those energy needs.
REFUGEES, FEDERATIONS, AND PARTNERS ON THE GROUND
Jewish Federations continue to raise money for Ukraine relief efforts, and have collectively raised more than $71 million since the fighting began.
JFNA recently released a series of blog posts providing background information on Jewish Federations’ investments before the war in Ukraine and fundraising and allocations since the crisis began; information on the collective impact of Jewish Federations’ emergency allocations; and details on the lifesaving work of Federations’ core historic partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, and World ORT.
Through both directed and collective grant making, Federations are supporting numerous NGO’s that are operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries. This includes Jewish Federation partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and World ORT; as well as United Hatzalah, Hillel International, Nefesh B'Nefesh, HIAS, the Israel Trauma Coalition, Hadassah Medical Organization, Chabad, Shma Yisrael, Project Kesher, JCC Krakow, Jewish Community Vienna, the Emergency Volunteer Program, Magen David Adom, Global Surgical Medical Corps, Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rescuers Without Borders and others.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues to help Jews in need across Ukraine and the region, supported by Federation emergency allocations.
Among many JDC projects, hundreds of refugees have received trauma relief through the organization and hundreds more are expected to receive long-term care. This aspect of JDC’s work is in response to the hundreds of thousands of victims suffering from trauma and PTSD in Ukraine.
Over the past few months, JDC has assisted people suffering from anxiety, depression, and other severe traumas. This impacts both emotional and physical functioning – “making it harder to breathe and at times even move.” In response, JDC runs a trauma hotline for older adults, displaced people, and strained JDC staff in Ukraine. The hotline serves to connect those in need of deeper assistance with those equipped to help. More than 1,500 people have been served by the trauma hotline so far.
JDC is also preparing for the longer term, as the effects of trauma can last far into the future. The organization is planning to open trauma centers across Ukraine that will offer group and individual assistance, catering to older adults who never imagined being caught up in a war like the current one, and parents struggling to help their children work through deep-seated anxiety. While the majority of traumatized and displaced Jews remain in Ukraine, many are refugees in Europe. Since day one, JDC has also offered psychological first aid to distressed refugees. Today, JDC works hand-in-hand with local Jewish communities across the region, ensuring they have the capacities for long-term care.
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine.
The Jewish Agency and JDC were among the leading Jewish aid groups who “worked well together in responding to the humanitarian crises caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, collaborating with one another instead of competing and helping ensure that Jewish refugees were well cared for,” according to a survey published last week. See more here.
OTHER UKRAINE NEWS
- In this extensive, if troubling, piece, JTA looks at how decades of work rebuilding the Ukrainian Jewish community is unravelling due to the war and the departure of so many strong members of the community. “We are back to square one,” one local prominent rabbi laments.
- President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine (FJCU), Rabbi Mayer Tzvi Stambler, has written a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in which he thanked Hungary for taking in Jewish refugees from Ukraine, and at the same time expressed hope that peace would be restored in Ukraine shortly. Read more here.
- Refugees from Ukraine “just want to work,” according to this new opinion piece on the state of those escaping the conflict.
- American Rabbi Barbara Aiello is reviving a small Italian region by restoring Jewish roots, bringing Ukrainian refugees with Jewish backgrounds to the region. See here for more.
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.
For more information, please contact: JFNA’s Dani Wassner.