Jewish agency to extend emergency aid to Ukraine's Jewish community
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 Sharansky.
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.