Jewish Federation volunteers bring holiday joy to refugees in Poland

A group of seven Russian-speaking volunteers from the U.S. and Canada will lead high holidays activities for hundreds of Ukrainian refugees of Jewish descent in Poland, bringing a message of unity and hope at the start of the Jewish New Year. The initiative is coordinated by Jewish Federations of North America's Global Volunteer Hub, in partnership with JDC (the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The volunteers, who are all former refugees who fled the Former Soviet Union decades ago and serve primarily as educators or members of clergy in their local communities, will be placed in Krakow, Warsaw and Lodz. Special Rosh Hashana meals and programming will take place in Warsaw in partnership with the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Poland. Concerts led by McGill professor of Yiddish and musician Yuri Vedenyapin will incorporate holiday themes and traditional liturgy. In Krakow, Russian-speaking reform rabbi Ilana Baird and artist Marina Paz will lead a Rosh Hashana meal and educational programming for Ukrainian refugees, in partnership with JCC Krakow. Jewish Federations are also supporting the distribution of holiday aid packages and food for thousands of elderly Jews, coordinated by their partner JDC.

“It is our collective duty as a Jewish people to ensure that Ukrainian refugees who are far from their homes and still uncertain about their future will have the opportunity to celebrate the Jewish New Year in joy and comfort,” said President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut. “I am so proud of our Federation system for the tremendous response to this crisis and the unwavering commitment to Jews in distress around the globe.”

Since March, Jewish Federations’ Global Volunteer Hub has placed 90 Russian and Ukrainian-speaking skilled North American volunteers in Poland and Hungary to support Ukrainian refugees. In addition to volunteer support, Jewish Federations have raised $74 million for humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees since fighting broke out on February 24th.