As Russian troops massed in Crimea and four Russian warships entered the harbor of Sevastopol, Jewish organizations began taking steps to protect Jews in Ukraine.
The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ moved quickly to shore up its financial commitments to its partnership community of Cherkassy, in central Ukraine, and to the Tikva Children’s Home in Odessa, providing the young people’s facility with an emergency grant of $20,000.
“Federation has acted decisively and quickly during this crisis in Ukraine. We all hope and pray that the crisis in Ukraine will end peacefully in a way that respects the sovereignty of Ukraine and welfare of its Jewish communities and all its people,” said federation executive vice president/CEO Max Kleinman.
“The situation in Ukraine is beyond troubling, and we are all so concerned about our extended family in Cherkassy and Odessa,” said Paula Saginaw of Caldwell, chair of federation’s Overseas Committee.
“It gives me great pride that in less than 24 hours of receiving a request for help, Greater MetroWest was able to approve and wire emergency funds for our sister communities in Ukraine. This is what we do. We help Jews in need wherever and whenever they need us,” she said.
To Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, the Greater MetroWest UJA Campaign chair, the quick response was a source of pride. “The Tikva Children’s Home is the largest Jewish school in Ukraine,” she said. “There is a need to make sure the security is up to speed for the 1,000 students it serves in Odessa and to make sure they are fed,” said Rosenthal, a South Orange resident.
An additional $30,000 from the federation’s contingency reserves, available because of the annual campaign, has been set aside to deal with the crisis. That money was augmented by international organizations, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, World ORT, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
The JDC said Sunday that it has activated emergency plans to help needy Jews in Crimea, which is home to about 17,000 Jews who live in and around Simferopol, Sevastopol, Feodosia, and Yalta. The assistance includes delivering food and medicine to the homes of the elderly and poor, establishing emergency phone chains, and increasing security around Jewish community centers.
“The Joint Distribution Committee was on the ground in Ukraine two weeks ago, before there was unrest, and that meant they could respond when the unrest began last week. They were on the ground because of our dollars,” said Rosenthal.
“This is why I get up in the morning and do this work,” she added. “We help make the Jewish world better, stronger, and safer. That is why I ask people for money every day.”