18 March 2022
Early Monday morning, I arrived in Poland to take part in The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) humanitarian mission to Ukraine’s border. I was honored to represent our community on the ground amidst this crisis.
As we have seen in the news, this is a massive and widespread emergency with over 3 million refugees, almost all women and children. Ukraine continues to defend itself against the Russian attack, creating a deep, palpable anxiety and uncertainty about the future. What will the next couple of weeks look like? What about the next few months and years?
On Monday, we visited a hotel taken over by the Jewish Agency for Israel to meet the needs of those seeking to make aliyah (immigrate) to Israel. In close collaboration with others, including the Israeli government, families are provided food and a warm place to stay as new procedures are implemented to work with families and grant immediate entrance visas for those eligible
On Tuesday, I visited a center staffed by JDC providing critical support to families of all faiths who need food and a place to stay as they consider their next steps amidst all of the uncertainty.
We then traveled to Medyka, Poland, one of the largest entry points for refugees, and watched as hundreds if not thousands of people walked across the border after waiting in line for 10, 14, or even 18 hours. They were greeted in Poland by a sea of tents, hundreds of volunteers from around the world, and of all faith communities, providing food, clothing, and basic assistance. Many left their homes days earlier with only 15-30 minutes to take their most critical possessions, including papers, pets, and perhaps some memories. They entered Poland not knowing when — or if — they would be able to return home.
The scale and level of trauma this community is going through is almost unimaginable. And for many, the devastation will last for much longer. Aspirations to return home soon may not be possible, and even if it is, the need to rebuild will be tremendous. But just as we have seen the worst in humanity over the past three weeks, we have also witnessed some of the best. Polish citizens taking refugees into their homes, bringing food to help people in need, and the sheer desire to help another person who is struggling is inspiring. My hope is that even as this crisis continues to unfold for so many people, that we continue to stay focused in our support.
In this video, I share some further reflections and footage of the border.
As the situation unfolds, I know that the challenges and the needs will only continue to grow. I am also deeply grateful for the way our community continues to care for our Jewish family overseas. As of today, we have collected $1.4 million to support Ukraine’s Jewish community. Together with our global partners, Jewish Greater Washington is making a life-saving difference for Ukrainians — aiding those fleeing the horrors of war and others who remain in peril. We should be proud of all that we have done.
- 5,000+ Jewish refugees have been evacuated, including an additional 650+ Jewish Ukrainians who have recently arrived in Israel
- 23,000+ callers have been helped through global support hotlines.
- 7,000 refugees have received on-the-ground support in Ukraine.
Though I was unable to join Federation’s live webinar earlier this week, I thank my colleagues, Amira Ahronoviz, CEO & Director General of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and Ariel Zwang, CEO of JDC, for taking the time to share their insightful updates with our Greater Washington Jewish community. I encourage you to watch the recording.
The support that you are providing is truly saving lives every day. Thank you all for everything that you have done.
P.S. I continue to share the story of Federation’s efforts in and on behalf of Ukraine with the media. You can watch or listen to some of my recent interviews at the links below.
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