(JTA) — A charity organization funded by Christians has pledged over $1 million in emergency funding for Ukrainian Jews.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, made the announcement about the extra funding for Ukraine during a trip he concluded on Thursday to the Eastern European nation.
“We’re pledging $10 million and possibly $12-13 million just for the Ukraine this year,” Eckstein told JTA. Normally, he said, his organization spends approximately $8 million annually on aid programs for Ukrainian Jews out of $20-25 million it spends on helping Jewish communities in the entire former Soviet Union.
Eckstein’s group is one of several organizations worldwide that responded to the plight of Ukrainian Jews.
In the Netherlands, the Hague-based Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, or JHF, this month pledged a total of $32,000 in emergency funding to eight Ukrainian Jewish organizations, including $10,000 earmarked for the Reform Jewish community of Kiev.
Extra funding is necessary because “local businessmen who used to match donations from outside Ukraine are no longer able to do this,” Eckstein said. In addition, communities are spending thousands of dollars on security, at the expense of religious and cultural activities.
He explained that the revolution which ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych last month following months of rioting and instability has worsened the economic crisis that existed before the upheaval.
Last week, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews sent $1 million to the Jewish Agency for Israel “to help with aliyah from Ukraine,” Eckstein said. “In case there’s a growth [in immigration to Israel] I want the Jewish Agency to have the funds available.”
Founded in 1983, the fellowship has sent approximately $150 million to the former Soviet Union. Eckstein said 99 percent of its 1.3 million donors are Christian. The average donation is $73.
Currently, the fellowship pays for food packages that are delivered eight times a year to 2,500 families. But because of the crisis, there are currently over 20,000 Jewish families in need of assistance, he said.