Amidst widespread power loss, destroyed infrastructure and housing, and a surge in humanitarian needs, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is critically expanding the size of its annual winter relief program in Ukraine to support tens of thousands of vulnerable Jews, including internally displaced people (IDPs) and the new poor. This urgent JDC work is generously supported by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and local Jewish Federations, as well as the Claims Conference, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, individuals, families, corporations and foundations.
JDC staff and volunteers will provide essential, life-saving support to an initial 22,000+ people, more than double the amount served with winter aid from previous years. To adapt to the worsening situation on the ground, the organization is now including portable heaters and cooking stoves; sleeping bags that can withstand subzero temps; rechargeable flashlights, and nonperishable foods in addition to what it regularly supplies for the winter, including warm blankets and fleece-lined clothing; wood and coal, and subsidies for higher utility bills. JDC has also made contingency plans to retrofit its local social service and Jewish community centers to act as warming centers and provide hot meals, and will evacuate people to these facilities or other parts of the county as needed. This comes as JDC continues uninterrupted its life-saving care for more than 35,000 throughout Ukraine and thousands of refugees in Europe.
“As a new stage in the Ukraine crisis has begun, we have moved from a program of winter relief to winter survival. Among the tens of thousands of Jews we care for in Ukraine, we are seeing a drastic uptick in needs, from sources of sustainable warmth to covering the costs of living every day,” said JDC CEO Ariel Zwang. “Our staff and volunteers have not stopped our life-saving services within Ukraine, along with those for refugees in Europe, and will continue to ensure that Jews and Jewish communities have the supplies they need to survive the coming months.”
The majority of Ukraine’s vibrant 200,000 person pre-war Jewish community remained in the country throughout the conflict, with many returning after fleeing to neighboring countries. JDC, which has worked in Ukraine and across the former Soviet Union since the 1990’s, cares for tens of thousands of needy Jewish elderly and poor families, builds Jewish community life, and trains new generations of Jewish leaders.
JDC’s decades of experience in the region enabled it to deploy a full-scale emergency response effort in Ukraine since before February 2022. To date, JDC has provided more than 600 tons of humanitarian aid, rescued close to 13,000 Jews out of conflict zones, and delivered life-saving services to tens of thousands of people in Ukraine and refugees in border countries.
In addition, JDC’s Jewish community programming and volunteer work in Ukraine continues. During the Jewish High Holidays, JDC hosted numerous in-person and online events, reaching thousands of people in Ukraine, Poland, and Moldova. Programs included emergency holiday food aid as well as online and in-person cooking classes, ceramic classes, virtual lectures, and community gatherings to celebrate the holiday season safely together.