How You Can Help Jews (and Others) in Ukraine

Updated on March 30

We at JFN have been horrified to watch the Russian invasion of Ukraine and are deeply concerned about the amount of human suffering it is unleashing, as well as its implications for democracy, Europe, and the entire world.

Below you will find information and resources for providing assistance to the people of Ukraine, with a particular focus on its Jewish population, which is one of the world’s largest Jewish communities. Many, particularly the elderly, were already struggling and isolated even before their country was plunged into war. 

We encourage you to support Passover for Ukraine, a JFN partnership with UJA-Federation of New York, which we announced at the JFN 2022 International Conference. UJA-Federation is matching all JFN member donations up to $1.25 million. Learn more here and donate here.

Several Jewish organizations, but none more than the JDC (a JFN member), have been on the ground serving the Jewish community for decades and are playing a critical role in distributing aid now. In addition, the Jewish Agency has opened an emergency hotline to provide Ukrainian Jews with guidance and information regarding the aliyah process, as well as general assistance. Jewish federations throughout North America have created emergency funds for Ukraine, and UJA-Federation of New York just approved $3 million in aid. IsraAID, the rapid response Israeli relief agency with vast experience in emergencies around the world is assisting refugees of all backgrounds in neighboring Moldova. In addition, HIAS is closely monitoring the situation and preparing to step up assistance to people displaced by this war, as well as rushing assistance to its longtime partner on the ground Right to Protection (r2P).

As always in times of natural or man-made disasters, there are some principles of effective philanthropy for funders to follow.

  1. Work with organizations that have a presence on the ground from before the crisis (and that will stay after). Sadly, many organizations “use” the crisis as an opportunity to fundraise given the emotional appeal that the situation has, but they don’t have the structure on the ground to deliver that help. As a vignette: it may be impossible, for example, to wire money to a war zone. Does the organization collecting funds have backup systems to send support?
  2. Many relief organizations are international but are not necessarily enmeshed in the local community. However, knowledge of the terrain is key to being effective and identifying needs as they emerge, so always work with international organizations that have an extensive network of local partners. In the case of armed conflicts, it’s important to work with organizations that have a presence in neighboring countries. You are much better positioned to send support into Ukraine if you have a presence in Poland or Slovakia.
  3. It’s important to work with partners that will focus not only on the emergency response but in the long-time reconstruction efforts. Generally, at the onset of a crisis, when the situation is on every headline, there’s an outpour of solidarity. Three months down the line, people forgot about it but the needs remain. An organization that is in it “for the long haul” can use those resources wisely.
  4. Funders need to combine unrestricted emergency relief (provided the previous two conditions are met) with specific strategic gifts down the line. The height of the crisis is not the time to be specific and strategic: One has to give support to organizations on the ground to act as they see needs emerging, but in the later stages, one has to work with partners to determine specific needs and gaps in the response so as to direct support there.
  5. Communication with other funders is always important to prevent certain things from being overfunded while others go underfunded. JFN can help you connect with your peers in the funding community to “compare notes” and eventually agree on common action.

Many JFN members have inquired how to help in this crisis. All the organizations we mentioned in this letter fulfill the criteria set above, and we recommend supporting them.

To learn more about the needs on the ground, I encourage you to reach out to Elisheva Maisel at the JDC. I also encourage you to reach out to the Jewish Agency, HIAS, and IsraAID.

Let us all hope for a swift end to this terrible war.