It started in November with peaceful protests against government actions to strengthen political ties with Russia instead of the European Union. It snowballed over the next few months into violent confrontations between police and protestors, resulting in dozens dead, hundreds injured, and scenes of destruction that have gripped the world. Fugitive ex-President Yanukovych has fled to Russia, avoiding mass murder charges. Russia has invaded and is in de facto control of the autonomous region of Crimea; in response, the new Ukrainian government has mobilized its troops.
Although the estimated 300,000 Jewish residents in the capital city of Kiev and throughout Ukraine are not outright targets of violence, it has touched them like everyone else. Some Jews in Kiev live close to Independence Square, site of protest encampments and some of February’s deadliest clashes, and are afraid to leave their houses. On February 23, the Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, 250 miles southeast of Kiev, was firebombed. There are concerns about deepening divisions in the country and the rise of the radical right.
Here's what our partner agencies are doing:
- JDC has activated its emergency response network to ensure continued home deliveries of food, medicine, heating and cooking fuel, and sustained life-saving care at home for the elderly. It has increased security at select Jewish communal institutions and Hesed social welfare centers. With the threat of war looming in Crimea, JDC has also activitated special emergency plans for the region's estimated 17,000 Jews.
- The Jewish Agency has tapped its Emergency Assistance Fund, started in 2012, to bolster security at Ukraine’s many Jewish institutions, including synagogues, yeshivas and community centers.
- World ORT has launched a campaign to raise $200,000 to fund increased security at four of its schools in Ukraine. Each school has several hundred students, many of whom travel to class through now-dangerous areas; the father of a student at the Chernovtsy school was killed during clashes in Kiev on February 20. Plans include hiring additional security guards and installing closed-circuit TV and alarm systems on school grounds.
These efforts, and so many more, are being funded by Jewish Federation dollars through the Annual Campaign. But as the crisis worsens, more dollars are needed to make sure these services stay in place. You can help by making an additional gift directly to the Ukraine Assistance Fund through the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley. 100 percent of the money you donate will be used to support this effort.