After more than four months (126 days) of fighting, Russia’s control over Ukraine’s east is tightening. As the war continues, 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).
- Yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the UN Security Council, a day after an alleged Russian attack on a Ukrainian shopping mall that killed at least 18 people with dozens more missing and wounded. He called for Russia to be expunged as a permanent member of the Security Council. Zelensky said Russia's war demonstrates the meaning of the word “terrorist state” and the “urgent necessity to enshrine it legally” at the UN.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that his country was behind the strike on the mall, saying that “The Russian army does not attack any civilian site.” Russia's Defense Ministry previously said it only hit military targets, but video from the city of Kremenchuk shows the mall obliterated by a missile.
- At the same time, in a clear signal to Russia, the United States will be bolstering its security presence in Europe. US President Joe Biden announced this week that the US would establish a permanent headquarters for the Fifth Army Corps in Poland, maintain an additional rotational brigade of 3,000 troops in Romania, enhance rotational deployments to the Baltic states, send two additional F-35 fighter jet squadrons to the United Kingdom and station additional air defense and other capabilities in Germany and Italy.
- Meanwhile German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that NATO allies would continue to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia for “as long and as intensively as is necessary.”
- The situation in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk remains “very difficult” as it suffers increased bombardments from Russian forces trying to conquer the strategic town. “There is no central water supply, no gas, no electricity,” the head of the Luhansk regional military administration said. Russian forces attempting to storm the city — where some 15,000 people remain — are maintaining “constant shelling.”
- The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report this week about the human rights situation in Ukraine as a result of the ongoing war. The UN documented 10,000 civilian casualties since the conflict began on Feb. 24, among them, 4,731 civilians killed, and also warned that casualty numbers are “considerably higher” as the report only highlights the figures the UN was able to independently verify.
- The UN Human Rights Council says that some 8.01 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since the beginning of fighting. More than 2.84 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.
The staff of the Israeli Embassy in Ukraine, headed by Ambassador Michael Brodsky, reopened the country’s Embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv for consular services last week, for the first time since the beginning of the war. Over 100 people have already received consular service from the staff in the reopened diplomatic mission. “An Israeli diplomatic presence in Kyiv is very important to us and is another sign of Israel's support for Ukraine,” Ambassador Brodsky said. The Embassy’s temporary facilities in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, located further away from the fighting, will continue to operate on a limited basis.
The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security has published an article on the impact of the war in Ukraine on Israel’s relations with Russia and China. See here for more.
Ukraine continues to criticize Israel for what it perceives as the Jewish state’s reluctance to openly side with Ukraine, provide support and more. Despite many clear statements by Israeli leaders supporting Ukraine, alongside significant aid efforts, President Zelensky and Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk continue to publicly call on Israel to do far more.
In one example this week, Ukraine said it is considering blocking Israeli citizens from entering the country in retaliation for what the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel calls “restrictions that Israel imposed in the wake of February’s invasion by Russia.” Ukrainian officials are currently holding discussions with the Israeli foreign and interior ministries and while it is not setting an ultimatum, if talks are unsuccessful Kyiv will "consider reciprocity” prior to the Jewish holidays. (Every Rosh Hashanah, thousands of Israelis take part in an annual pilgrimage to the central Ukrainian city of Uman, the site of the tomb of the revered Hasidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav). Ukraine is upset that many Ukrainian seeking asylum in the Jewish state are rejected or deported.
Similarly, Ukraine’s Embassy in Tel Aviv criticized Israel over its immigration policy in a new tweet, claiming Jerusalem unilaterally decided to walk back on previous agreements and bar entry to women and children from Ukraine who don’t have an electronic visa. “This decision endangers lives. Meanwhile, Russian and Belarusian oligarchs are able to enter Israel freely,” the embassy tweeted.
In an address to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his country is disappointed by the level of material and diplomatic support it has received from the Israeli government. See here for more.
Israel, for its part, has been trying to support Ukraine while not being overly hostile to Russia, the dominant military force in Syria (where Israel needs freedom to act against Iranian interests). See here, an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post entitled, “Zelensky needs to lay off Israel.”
Meanwhile, Russia has also lashed out at Israel in recent days, partially due to the perception that Israel is siding too heavily with Ukraine. Last week, Russia circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution condemning the bombing of the international airport in Damascus, which Russia has blamed on Israel, saying that “the attack violates Syria’s sovereignty and undermines stability,” and adding that “the perpetrators must take responsibility.”
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. For full details about Federations’ response to the crisis in Ukraine, please see here, and for details about the impact that Federations work is having on those fleeing, see here.
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.
Learn about the critical impact of Federations in Ukraine through this blog post on The Life Saving Work of Federations’ Core Historic Partners: The Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, and World ORT. The post shares detailed current statistics on our partners’ work on behalf of Federations and describes how Federations were prepared to respond immediately and effectively to the crisis because we were on the ground in Ukraine and surrounding countries before the crisis, through the work of our core historic partners
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 efforts, over 800 Ukrainian Jews are set to take part in more than 20 JDC summer activities in Ukraine and Europe, where communities are opening their summer camps to Ukrainian refugees.
In Estonia, refugee children have already joined the community's April spring camp, which was held just two months after the war began. Estonia's summer day camp staff includes a Jewish Sunday School teacher, herself a refugee from Ukraine.
In Poland, the community's annual family camp will feature a tri-lingual program – in Polish, Russian, and English – to better facilitate communication between refugees and Polish-speaking campers. Poland will also host a day camp for some 60 Ukrainian children, ages 7-17. The camp will combine fun activities with academic classes in Polish, English and math to prepare campers for the Polish school system they will be entering in September.
In Ukraine itself, JDC plans on hosting three Family Retreats in quieter areas of the country. JDC is also organizing summer activities for some 400 Jewish children and teens through its Active Jewish Teens initiative. Lastly, over 100 members of the Odessa community will be traveling to Romania, which is hosting Odessa's JCC Migdal annual Family Retreat.
The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to coordinate mass relief efforts and enable Aliyah for the Jewish community in Ukraine.
Following a remarkable journey of survival that began in Kyiv in February, passed through Belarus and finally ended in Israel in April, Yakov Poluden, 28 and Malka Burkeeva, 21, refugees from Ukraine, plan to marry on July 10 in Tiberias, a city on the shore of Israel’s Lake Kinneret. The two made Aliyah through the Jewish Agency. The wedding will take place thanks to the support of many individuals and organizations — including a $15,000 donation to help pay for the ceremony from Altneu, a new congregation in New York’s Upper East Side. Read the full story here.
At 2:00 pm ET today, (Thursday, June 30), Dr. Christoph Gassenschmidt, Associate Professor of History, Philosophy and the Ancient World at the American College of Greece will speak about the historical relationship between Russia and Ukraine, including Tzarist antisemitism in both parts of the Russian Empire. Sponsored by the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation. Register here.
OTHER UKRAINE NEWS
- In an interesting development, Russia will face off against Ukraine in a women’s beach volleyball match at next week’s Maccabiah Games, the “Jewish Olympics,” in Israel. Read the full story here.
- Sadly, a teenager who escaped the war in Ukraine and fled to Israel drowned Sunday off the coast of Acre in northern Israel. The Magen David Adom rescue service said a boy, 16, was pulled out of the water unconscious off Acre’s Argaman Beach earlier this week. Medics attempted to save the teen, but in the end pronounced him dead at the scene.
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.