Representatives of the Jewish National Fund have traveled to the Ukraine border to provide aid.
Representatives of the Jewish National Fund have traveled to the Ukraine border to provide aid. (JNF)

As the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, JNF-USA’s volunteers have traveled to the Ukrainian border to support local Jewish communities in need.

When Jerusalem Post Political Analyst and Chief Political Correspondent Gil Hoffman crossed through four countries in early March to cover Russia’s war on Ukraine from Moldova, he saw throngs of women and children passing through the border. Many of the little girls carried pink backpacks stuffed with as much of their precious belongings as they could carry. 

Gil Hoffman
Gil Hoffman

“I really felt like I was traveling back through time, to a different era that I never thought I would see for myself,” said Hoffman in an interview with the JN from his home in Jerusalem. “These little girls probably did not have much time to decide what was put in those backpacks, and they left not knowing if they would ever come back.” 

Hoffman, who covers the war and ensuing refugee crisis through an Israeli lens for the Jerusalem Post, will be the keynote speaker at Jewish National Fund-USA’s Midwest Breakfast for Israel, held virtually 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 6.  The free virtual breakfast intends to update the American Jewish community on JNF’s efforts on the ground and in Israel to provide aid and support for Ukrainian refugees. Register to attend the free virtual event at jnf.org/BFImidwest or contact Kim R. Levy, Executive Director, Midwest at klevy@jnf.org or (847) 656-8880, ext. 763.

Hoffman will discuss how Israel has ended up leading the way in the war in its humanitarian and diplomatic efforts and will give a behind-the-scenes perspective on how this happened. 

“The war ended up putting Israel in a very strange position to be among the leading countries in the world that feels the responsibility to try to end the conflict (it is not directly involved in) as opposed to being part of a conflict as a combatant,” Hoffman said. 

“Israel made very clear (to Ukrainian President Zelensky) that it would provide humanitarian aid but not defensive weapons aid. That has to do with the sensitivities of Russia being here on our border in Syria. It has to do with the sensitivity that there are tens of thousands of Jews, both in Ukraine and in Russia, who want to move to Israel.” 

As the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, JNF-USA’s volunteers have traveled to the Ukrainian border to support local Jewish communities in need. 

JNF recruited Ukrainian and Russian-speaking volunteers to facilitate finding shelter for women and children, distributed food, baby formula and blankets, diapers and toys to refugees fleeing Ukraine. 

In Israel, JNF is preparing for the absorption of immigrants and refugees from Ukraine by lining up volunteer families who will welcome them into their homes. Because they are escaping from a war zone, Jews making aliyah from Ukraine are eligible to receive a larger government aliyah grant, according to reports from the Jerusalem Post. 

Hoffman saw the on-the-ground humanitarian work of organizations like JNF and others as he visited activities on the Ukrainian border on a trip funded by  the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an organization aimed at building cooperation between the two religions and support for Israel. 

“I left (Moldova) hopeful because I got to see incredible humanitarian efforts by many Israeli and Jewish agencies, including JNF, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and IsraAid,” Hoffman said. “These were the first tents, from these Israeli organizations, right at the border, tents full of toys, games, baby food and diapers to help the women with small children and babies and provide them with a safer, warmer space.” 

According to Kim Levy, Jewish National Fund-USA executive director, Midwest, “Jewish National Fund-USA is supporting Ukrainian refugees and providing immediate aid during this crisis.

“JNF-USA is also planning to support these refugees in the long term after the Ukraine crisis is no longer in the news. We will be there for the long haul, ensuring that they have a home and a community where they can prosper.” 

To learn more how JNF is providing relief to Ukrainian refugees, go to jnf.org/Ukraine.

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com