The Canadian Jewish community continues to respond to the war in Ukraine, donating funds and preparing to welcome refugees when they arrive here.
As of March 10, Jewish federations across Canada had combined to raise almost $4 million to support crisis response efforts in Ukraine. The funds are going to the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee, which have been using existing relationships with Ukrainian Jewish organizations to get the money to those most in need. For example, they are assisting thousands of people trying to leave Ukraine at the country’s borders, and organizing multiple flights to Israel daily.
“We are acting as one Jewish people. The unique power of the Canadian Jewish federations is rallying our community to act together and empowering us to address this human catastrophe and save lives. We are putting Jewish values into action,” said Steven Shulman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of Canada—United Israel Appeal.
The Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario (JRCC) has also been raising money for Ukraine— around $150,000 in the last few weeks, said CEO Rabbi Mendel Zaltzman. The JRCC has many options for people to decide where they want their money to go—some choose to donate directly to communities, some want to buy food, and others want to support refugees.
There are also options to support specific operations in Ukraine. For example, the JRCC helped evacuate orphanages in Odessa and Zhitomir and secure them flights out of the country and facilitated a donation of over $30,000 to Mariupol from the Jewish community of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.
B’nai Brith Canada is another Jewish organization helping in multiple ways. On top of their emergency relief fund, they will also be hosting a collection drop off at the Promenade Mall in Thornhill for supplies to be sent to Ukraine on March 13, 20 and 27.
Cheryl Landy, director of community engagement for B’nai Brith Canada, said the donations will go directly to B’nai Brith’s partners on the ground in Ukraine to ensure the items are distributed efficiently.
Canadian Jewish communities are also preparing for an influx of Ukrainian refugees. Jodi Block, manager of community engagement for Jewish Immigrant Aid Services for Newcomers (JIAS), said a recent announcement by the Canadian government will greatly hasten the timeline. The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel means refugees from Ukraine will be allowed to enter the country much quicker than the usual refugee sponsorship program.
“The Jewish community has really stepped up in the past for other refugee groups. It’s an incredible thing, but… it can take two years or more for people to actually get here,” Block said.
But now, because of the emergency authorization, she anticipates that people will be arriving in the next month or two.
“We are planning for this to be a community effort. The Jewish community has always been willing and able to mobilize support in times of need and this is no different. We anticipate that there will be great community support to welcome people as they arrive,” Block said.
Block mentioned a number of ways that people can help support the refugees, including financial assistance, filling out forms, welcoming people, introducing them to Canada, and more. JIAS will also be providing information sessions in the coming weeks for Canadians who want to bring their family over, for Ukrainians who need information about how to come to Canada, and for Canadians who want to help however they can.
The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto is starting on their own program to support the incoming refugees. UJA Genesis is launching an initiative for community members to donate essential goods to refugee families.
Sara Lefton, chief development officer at UJA Federation, said many members of Toronto’s Jewish community have offered warehouse space for the supplies being collected. UJA’s Ukraine relief drive will be held March 14, with multiple drop-off locations across the GTA.
Lefton said the relief drive provides a different type of opportunity for people to contribute, one that affords more of a first-hand connection.
“We’ve now raised more than $2 million from the Toronto community alone for the emergency relief fund. And that is very helpful,” she said. “But I think that people are looking for a way to make a direct impact in a more hands-on way, in addition to providing funds.”