"U CRY NOW" for Ukraine
Commemorating the one-year anniversary of the war and a look at JDC's relief efforts.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It’s hard to believe that since February 24, 2022, there’s been ongoing fighting and violence that has led to 300,000 people killed and wounded, and nearly 10 million Ukrainians displaced.
Private organizations and government sponsored agencies worldwide are providing aid both through volunteer efforts and financial support. From what I’ve seen, no Jewish organization has done so much for Jews and others in need in Ukraine as The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or “The Joint”), an organization close to my heart. That is why I’m highlighting their work in this week’s drop. **I receive no commission for writing this; I just believe JDC deserves more recognition for the amazing work it does.** I am involved in their young professional initiative, JDC Entwine, but you’re going to have to continue reading to learn more about that!
JDC is the leading Jewish humanitarian organization, having provided aid to 70 countries since 1914. From Eastern Europe, to Mumbai, to Casablanca and beyond, JDC strengthens communities and saves lives. Some examples of JDC’s work:
Provided elderly isolated Jews in the former Soviet Union with smartphones and homecare during COVID-19. Watch this moving video!
Helping Jewish communities thrive, like engaging 25,000+ alumni at a Jewish summer camp in Hungary.
Led Operation Solomon in 1991, the largest humanitarian airlift in the world, which rescued 14,000 Ethiopian Jews and brought them to Israel.
Provided medical supplies to victims of the devastating 2021 earthquake in Haiti.
Connecting Jewish young professionals to Jewish values of global responsibility and action through immersive travel experiences and transformational leadership development opportunities with its initiative, JDC Entwine, of which I am a participant.
These are just some of the many examples of The Joint’s incredible work. Check out their website for more.
JDC’s Ukraine Response
Since the invasion of Russia, JDC has evacuated Jews in danger, provided medical supplies, activated emergency hotlines, set up a volunteer corps, deployed psychosocial support, and offered life-saving services. JDC helped 40,000 refugees with basic needs, and delivered 1.6 million pounds of humanitarian aid. JDC has been operating in Ukraine and throughout the former Soviet Union for three decades, providing humanitarian assistance and Jewish community-building programs.
Today, JDC continues to operate its volunteer system there, as it is still needed. Entwine has deployed over 80 volunteers to bordering countries, one of whom I interviewed about his experience.
Dan S. of New York City, Entwine Volunteer in Poland
What's your connection to JDC?
JDC supported my family when they emigrated from Kiev to the United States in the late 80's. JDC was instrumental in ensuring that my family was supported throughout their multi-year immigration process and had the resources they needed to thrive in the United States. Once the war in Ukraine broke out, I was inspired by JDC's work on the ground in Poland and on the border with Ukraine. I therefore knew that there was no better organization to volunteer with and give back to.
Where did you volunteer? What did you do and how long were you there for?
I was in Krakow, Poland for two weeks. I transported medical equipment (see photo above), supported food packing and distribution at the JCC, and also spent time with Ukrainian seniors at a day care center.
What compelled you, as a Jew, to drop everything and volunteer there?
Growing up in a Jewish household and having attended a Jewish school, I always identified with the quote from Pirkei Avot: "It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to avoid it.” Given my particular connection to Ukraine and JDC as an organization, I felt compelled to volunteer my time and language skills and support those that had been displaced by the war.
Any story that stands out to you while you were in Poland?
I was incredibly inspired by a group of Christian high school students and teachers that I met on one of the days at the JCC. They were visiting Poland as part of a class on antisemitism they were all taking. Their curiosity, knowledge, and sensitivity to the atrocities and antisemitism that occurred in Poland before, during, and after the Holocaust was both surprising and reassuring for me to see and know that there are well-informed members of younger generations that will continue to sanctify this challenging history for years to come.
Has this experience made you feel more connected to the global Jewish community?
Absolutely- it was inspiring to see a Jewish organization bring together Jews and non-Jews to support a humanitarian crisis of such size and scale.
Are you inspired yet? JDC Entwine also sent out a Shabbat guide for facilitating conversations at your Shabbat table around Ukraine. It includes:
An overview of the current situation in Ukraine and neighboring countries
Relevant Shabbat prayers, a song and reflections on the impact of JDC’s work in the field
A series of photos with personal stories that can be shared with family and friends
Wherever you are this Shabbos, I encourage you to light an extra candle for the victims of all the senseless suffering.
My JDC Entwine connection: I went to India with them in 2019 and met the Mumbai Jewish community. The experience changed the way I understand Judaism’s diversity. I was also a community rep with them last fall, which inspired me to start this blog. And now for my other exciting piece of news I’ve teased: I’m going to Finland & Estonia with them this summer! I will learn the history of Jewish soldiers in the Finnish Army during WWII and Estonia’s Jewish rebirth after WWII and the Soviet era. I can’t wait to share that journey with you. Until then… Shabbat Shalom xx
FO SHO - “U CRY NOW”
This Ethiopian-Jewish Ukrainian hip-hop trio of sisters (pronounced ‘fo shaw' - “sho” meaning “what” in Ukrainian) performed as semi-finalists in the 2020 Eurovision contest. They sing of self-love and activism.
Golem - “Chevrona Ruta”
Here’s a video of my favorite klezmer band, Golem, performing a traditional Ukrainian folk song in Times Square!