JERUSALEM – Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan
Sharansky announced this evening (Saturday, February 22) that The Jewish
Agency will extend immediate emergency assistance to the Jewish community of
Ukraine and will help secure Jewish institutions in the country.
“The Jewish community of Ukraine, which counts some 200,000 members, is one
of most vibrant Jewish communities in the world, with dozens of active
Jewish organizations and institutions. Recent events have shown that we must
strengthen these institutions’ security measures. We have a moral
responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s Jews,” said
Speaking to Jewish Agency leadership, including Chairman Sharansky, Jewish
communal leaders in Ukraine have voiced concerns about the community’s
security due to recent events. “We are in constant contact with the
leadership of the Ukrainian Jewish community and are following the events
closely. The Jewish Agency’s assistance aims to increase security at Jewish
communal institutions in Ukraine,” said Sharansky.
The immediate assistance will come from The Jewish Agency’s Emergency
Assistance Fund for Jewish Communities. The fund was established in the wake
of the horrific March 2012 terror attack in Toulouse, in which a Jewish
teacher and three Jewish schoolchildren were murdered. Though most of world
Jewry lives in physical safety, the fund provides financial assistance to
Jewish communities that have security concerns, strengthening security
measures and helping to ensure that Jewish life takes places in safety. The
fund has thus far extended some $4 million in financial assistance, helping
to ensure the security of some 50 communities in 25 countries, including
communities in South Africa, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, and elsewhere. The
fund is now in need of replenishment.
Dr. Misha Galperin, President and CEO of Jewish Agency International
Development, said: “The Jewish Agency had established the Emergency
Assistance Fund for Jewish Communities two years ago. We are seeking to
replenish the fund now in order to extend additional help to the Ukrainian
Jewish communities and strengthen their safety and security measures.”
The Ukrainian Jewish community is one of the largest Jewish communities in
the world, with some 200,000 members. Most Jews reside in the capital, Kiev,
and there are thriving communities in Odessa, Lvov, and Dnepropetrovsk.
During 70 years of Communist rule, Jewish gatherings were prohibited in
Ukraine, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Jewish institutions
began to develop in the country, transforming the Jewish community. Today,
Ukraine is host to a vibrant Jewish community with dozens of communal
institutions, including synagogues, schools, yeshivas, seminaries, and
organizations specializing in extending assistance to the needy and
empowering the younger generation.
The Jewish Agency has long been active in Ukraine, strengthening the
community’s ties to Israel and the Jewish world and assisting those who wish
to immigrate to Israel. Some 2,000 community members make Aliyah (immigrate
to Israel) each year, and tens of thousands participate in Jewish Agency
activities, including Hebrew classes, summer camps, and such Israel
experience programs as Taglit-Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey.
Some 330,000 Ukrainian Jews have made Aliyah since the collapse of the
Soviet Union, including some 2,200 last year.
The Jewish Agency’s activities surrounding the situation in Ukraine will be
discussed by the organization’s Board of Governors, which will convene in
Tel Aviv between Sunday and Tuesday of this week (February 23-25). The Board
of Governors, which is composed of hundreds of Jewish communal and
organizational leaders from Israel and around the world, will discuss the
challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people and will determine the
organization’s activities in light of those challenges.