The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s annual Winter Relief program -; delivering tons of heating fuel, warm bedding, and clothing to needy Jews across the former Soviet Union -; has been critically expanded in Ukraine this year to respond to a harsh winter worsened by the country’s energy crisis, skyrocketing costs, ongoing unrest, and the growing needs of displaced Jews. JDC staff and professionals at the thirty two JDC-supported social welfare centers in Ukraine are providing extra winter supplies and services to poor elderly, including Nazi victims, struggling families, and displaced Jews who often cannot afford their utility bills or have direct access to heating supplies.
‘While winter relief is a lifeline for tens of thousands of Jews in need on any given year, its even more essential in Ukraine where utility prices have soared and the crisis has continued with no end in sight’ said Michal Frank, director of JDC’s Former Soviet Union department. ‘We have proudly stood by the Jews of Ukraine during this period and, together with our invaluable partners, have redoubled our efforts to ensure this winter is imbued with the warmth of Jewish solidarity and mutual care.’
In addition to crippling economic challenges -; including devalued local currency and pensions and a 50-80% increase in the costs of food and medicine -; a series of energy-saving measures will be enacted in Ukraine this year, leaving many poor and elderly people with little resources to survive below freezing temperatures. Theses include planned power outages and asking citizens to lower heating thermostats to below 60 Fahrenheit.
These circumstances seriously impact the more than 5,000 JDC clients remaining in eastern Ukraine, still suffering under shelling and fear of violence, and more than 2,000 displaced Jews JDC is caring for in different cities away from the conflict. A drastic escalation in services -; including window repairs and replacements, the subsidizing of utility payments, and provision of extra fuel -; represents a seven-fold increase in the JDC’s Ukraine Winter Relief budget.
For the Khomich family who fled fighting in Donetsk and found refuge in Zaporozhe, Winter Relief has taken the form of warm clothing and footwear, in addition to the aid package they are receiving as a displaced family. Their situation is made more difficult because 49-year old Olga must care for her 87-year old mother, Lyudmila, and her 8-year old daughter Polina, who suffers from cerebral palsy, on their meager pensions. With JDC’s help, they have been able to find housing, a wheel chair for Polina, medical care and other basic needs to survive in their new city and bear the winter cold.
‘Our work with the Khomich family and so many others -; undertaken in cooperation with the local Jewish community and groups like Chabad -; wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of our Board, individual donors and foundations, and our esteemed partners, including Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Jewish Federations, World Jewish Relief, and the Conference on Jewish Materials Claims Against Germany,’ said Frank. ‘This is the ultimate expression of our mission and dedication to Jews in need.’
Today, JDC has 4 major offices and operates and supports a network of 32 social welfare centers serving Jews in need in more than 1,000 locations across Ukraine. JDC’s long history of working with Ukrainian Jews includes its work with the American Relief Administration in 1921 to administer an aid program for Ukrainians impacted by war and famine, including the Jewish community. Additionally, Agro-Joint, established in 1924, created Jewish agricultural colonies and industrial schools in Ukraine and Crimea.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters. For more information, please visit .