United Jewish Federation is turning 50! And, what has become so well-defined to me is the importance to adapt and re-imagine all organizations based on communal needs. Every local organization has done so over the years, and this speaks to our ability to look to the future while remembering and honoring our past.
UJF continues to be the driving force behind communal initiatives that unite the entire community. It does so through the New Jewish Voice, our community newspaper which highlights events and successes of all our agencies and synagogues. It does so by leading the efforts related to the Harold Grinspoon LIFE & LEGACY program. It does so by employing a Community Security professional through our partnership with Secure Community Network (SCN). It does so by sending over 525 free books to Jewish homes every month through our PJ Library program. It does so by distributing grants annually to strengthen and grow our local and global Jewish institutions.
I could go on and on.
One year ago, Federation fulfilled one of its vital roles by jumping into action when the war in Ukraine broke out. Through emails and briefings, we kept our community educated about the ongoing needs of the Jewish community. As a collective group, led by UJF, our community raised over $400,000 and sponsored four planes bringing Jews from Ukraine and Russia to Israel. Our Federation system collectively across North America also raised 85 million dollars. Just think - because we came together, the impact was amazing. In fact, three lay leaders traveled to the border to bear witness along with me, transporting hundreds of pounds of medical supplies. And, a local Russian and Ukrainian-speaking volunteer traveled with us to assist on the ground for a few weeks.
Approximately 13,500 olim (new immigrants) have arrived in Israel from Ukraine, and about 28,500 new immigrants have arrived from Russia and Belarus. To get Ukrainians out of harm’s way, we organized 455 buses that rescued 13,742 people from dangerous zones, taking them to the Romanian, Polish, Hungarian and Moldovan borders. True to the collaborative efforts, The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) focused on rescue, aliyah (immigration to Israel), and absorption.So in total, we’ve helped welcome more than 40,000 people to Israel. Once rescued, these new immigrants received support not just from this emergency campaign, but from funds received through our Annual Campaign.
UJF is here to help people, and our efforts surrounding the war in Ukraine is just one example of that.
But, a year into the devastating crisis, Ukraine’s Jews are still in distress. A deteriorating economy and brutal winter temperatures have led to a surge in humanitarian needs, The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has continued its life-saving care for tens of thousands of Ukraine’s most vulnerable Jews. Leveraging deep expertise in crisis response built over more than a century, we are providing aid to Jews remaining in Ukraine, those still seeking to evacuate, and the thousands of refugees that now span across Europe and other countries.
JDC continues supporting vital needs as European Jewish communities absorb those who have fled Ukraine, including food, medicine, and accommodation, alongside workforce opportunities and refugee integration into local Jewish institutions and programs with the support from UJF’s Annual Campaign.
One communal organization coming together to raise funds to make a meaningful impact. That is what collaboration is all about!
This message by Diane Sloyer, UJF’s Chief Executive Officer, appears in the April edition of The New Jewish Voice.