Political unrest in Ukraine has become extremely intense over the last week. With thousands taking to the street to protest the government and facing off against armed police, hundreds have been injured and many left dead in the violent clashes. The Jewish community in the Ukraine, which numbers around 200,000 members, has been caught in the middle of the anti-government protests.
The Jewish Agency announced on Saturday that it would provide emergency aid to the Jewish community spread across Ukraine. According to the Jewish Agency, the aid is meant to provide emergency assistance to the Jewish community and Jewish institutions of Ukraine.
Most Jews in Ukraine reside in the capital of Kiev. However, there are sizable Jewish communities in Odessa, Lvov, and Dnepropetrovsk. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, around 330,000 Ukrainian Jews have made aliyah to Israel.
The Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharanksy stated, “We have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s Jews.” Leaders of the Jewish community in Ukraine have expressed numerous security concerns revolving around the increased fighting and fear that violence will overflow against the Jewish community.
“We are in constant contact with the leadership of the Ukrainian Jewish community and are following events closely. The Jewish Agency’s assistance aims to increase security at the Jewish communal institutions in Ukraine,” said Sharansky.
The emergency assistance will be sent from The Jewish Agency’s Emergency Assistance Fund for Jewish Communities. The fund was established in March 2012, after the terror attacks against a Jewish school in Tolouse, France.
According to The Jewish Agency, “though most of world Jewry lives in physical safety, the fund provides financial assistance to Jewish communities that have security concerns, strengthening security measures and helping to ensure that Jewish life takes place in safety.” Over the last two years, the fund has granted over $4 million in financial assistance to 50 communities in 25 countries.
Michael Freund, Chairman of Israel Returns, works closely with Jewish communities around the world to bring Jews home to Israel. Commenting on the outburst of violence in the Ukraine, Freund stated:
“The Ukraine is in a state of unrest and the country is saturated with widespread anti-Semitism. History has unfortunately shown that when the Ukraine teeters on the brink of chaos, the Jews inevitably become targets. Now is the time for Israel to offer refuge to Ukrainian Jews and to encourage them to come home to Zion. As the prophet Jeremiah foretold (31:8), ‘See, I will bring them from the land of the north…’. Ukrainian Jewry needs our prayers, and they need Israel to bring them on Aliyah.”
Israel Returns has been an instrumental organization in helping to bring Ukrainian Jews and descendants of Ukrainian Jews to the safety of Israel. “At Israel Returns (Shavei Israel), we have been working closely with the Subbotnik Jewish community in the Ukraine, trying to help them overcome Israeli bureaucratic obstacles which have been preventing them from making Aliyah,” Freund Said. “I urge the Israeli government to take action, cut the red tape, and bring the Subbotnik Jews of the Ukraine on Aliyah.”