Jewish federations across Canada have launched emergency fundraising appeals to support Ukrainian communities under attack after a Russian invasion began Feb. 23.
“The entire country faces chaos, scarcity and political violence and members of Ukraine’s Jewish community are especially vulnerable,” UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Montreal’s Federation CJA, said in an email to community members. “Serious security threats—like the potential for looting or violence now loom over Ukrainian Jewish institutions.”
Funds will be directed to Jewish organizations that are already working in Ukraine and the region, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which is providing food and medical relief.
Money will also be distributed to the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is providing grants to ensure the community is protected from looting, as well as arranging evacuation and flights to Israel for Ukrainian Jewish refugees.
About 200,000 Jews are estimated to live in Ukraine, with more than half living in Kyiv, the federations said.
The Jewish Federation of Ottawa has launched a similar appeal. CEO Andrea Freedman recalled participating in marches for Soviet Jewry as a teenager and then a trip she took to Kyiv 20 years ago, as part of Federation CJA.
“So it was a profound and moving experience to be on the ground in Kyiv and to witness the flourishing of Jewish life even visiting a matzah factory—a symbol of freedom and hope,” Freedman wrote in Ottawa’s emergency appeal for funds.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), like other advocacy groups, has joined the world in condemning the invasion and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas.
“CIJA stands with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the people of Ukraine in opposing (Russian president) Vladimir Putin’s military aggression and violation of Ukrainian sovereignty,” a statement issued Feb. 25 read.
The World Jewish Congress has indicated that while the situation “remains precarious for Ukrainians, there is not a specific Jewish dimension to the conflict and no distinct threat to the Jewish community of Ukraine—beyond the threat to all Ukrainians from the invasion,” CIJA stated.
The WJC is working with other agencies in the region, including in Romania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Moldova, to assist Jewish refugees.
Former justice minister and international human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler, who was instrumental in securing Natan Sharanky’s release from the former Soviet Union was blunt about the threat posed by Russia:
At JIAS, which supports immigrants and refugees once they arrive in Canada, clients and former clients have been calling and asking the agency to help their family members in Ukraine, executive director Elise Herzig said in an email.
“JIAS is pursuing all avenues to help support the needs of Ukrainian Jews—currently and as the situation develops in ways still unknown.”
In the meantime, the settlement agency encouraged people to donate to UJA federations’ emergency campaigns.