With more than 4.2 million Ukranian refugees fleeing the country since February 24, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has expanded its long-standing efforts aiding the Ukrainian Jewish community ahead of Passover next week.
The group will reach thousands of Ukrainian Jews struggling to observe the holiday of freedom and deliverance while sheltering in place in war zones or in refugee centers in neighboring countries.
In keeping with its 100+ year history of providing Passover supplies to Jews in need, JDC has shipped more than two tons of matzah, more than 400 bottles of grape juice and more than 700 pounds of kosher for Passover food for use by refugees in Poland, Moldova, Hungary and Romania. The organization will also host a series of communal seders, in partnership with local Jewish communities, for refugees in those countries. JDC will also be providing Hebrew and Russian language Haggadot (the traditional holiday prayer book used for the seder) for refugees attending these seders.
In Ukraine, JDC is providing nearly 16 tons of matzah to tens of thousands of people, in addition to special holiday material assistance for food, and will host online and some in person Passover programming. The distribution of matzah, carried out by JDC’s Hesed social service centers and Jewish volunteer corps, is supported by JDC’s partnerships with the Claims Conference, Jewish Federations and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
JDC’s Passover activities, both within Ukraine and among refugees in surrounding countries, is supported by UJA-Federation of New York.
“The holiday of Passover celebrates the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom and new hope—themes that right now feel supremely relevant,” said JDC CEO Ariel Zwang. “This year especially, we are privileged at JDC to help alleviate the suffering of our Jewish family from Ukraine while they face an uncertain future. Nonetheless, they can be certain that we are here to help them on their journey from terrible darkness back to light.”
JDC has evacuated more than 11,900 Jews fleeing towns and cities under fire, including Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Chernikiv, organizing caravans to make the days-long journey to Moldova and bring them to safety. This Passover, JDC will provide meals for more than 2,300 refugees and Jewish community members in neighboring countries.
Ukraine’s vibrant Jewish community is one of the largest in the world, home to an estimated 200,000 Jews. Since the collapse of the USSR, JDC has worked in Ukraine, and across the former Soviet Union, to care for tens of thousands of needy Jewish elderly and poor families; rebuild and innovate Jewish community life; and train a new generation of Jewish leaders.
To help global audiences to create a moment for the Ukraine crisis during their own Seders, JDC has created two special supplements. The supplements are to be read together, right after breaking and raising the matzah, before Maggid- the retelling of the story of Exodus. The first supplement is a special reading acknowledging Ukraine’s Jews and our responsibility for each other, with the second supplement featuring voices from JDC’s Ukraine response efforts.
For more information on JDC’s emergency efforts in Ukraine, including videos of staff members on the ground in the country and at border crossings, please visit jdc.org/disasters/ukraine-response.