The Jewish Federations of North America are proud to announce the creation of a first-of-its-kind central volunteer hub in support of refugees fleeing the brutal war in Ukraine, that will recruit and place hundreds of skilled volunteers over the coming months to provide much-needed services on the ground through our partner aid organizations.
The effort is in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and IsraAID. In addition to recruitment and placement, the hub manages a structured program for volunteers, coordinating lodging, transport, and logistics to ensure that the volunteer force can be focused and effective.
The focus of this initiative is on Russian-Speakers with backgrounds in early childhood education, social work or mental health professions, but there are plans to expand to non-Russian speakers down the road as needs on the ground change.
The initial group of 30 volunteers consists largely of refugees and 2nd generation refugees who are now returning to the same part of the world they or their parents fled from, this time to offer aid and healing. They will fly to the Ukraine border early next week and remain on the ground for between two to four weeks.
Recruitment will focus on the large network of agencies and organizations that are beneficiaries of Jewish Federation grants for programming to engage Russian-Speaking Jews in Jewish communal experiences. Other organizations have also joined the effort to recruit the needed skill sets, including the JCC Association of North America, COJECO, the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, and The Jewish Education Project.
“Jewish Federations are uniquely positioned to create a centralized North American volunteer structure for this crisis, bringing together our extensive relationships with the network of organizations on the ground and our large network of Russian-Speaking Jews across North America,” said Sarah Eisenman, Chief Community and Jewish Life Officer at Jewish Federations of North America. “There is a pressing need for skilled volunteer support, yet in a fast-moving crisis it can be difficult to map the needs and recruit the right people to match those needs. We’ve stepped in to meet the moment and bring together the organizations with those eager to serve.”
Olga Markus, Director of Russian-Speaking Jewish Engagement at Jewish Federations of North America, added, “As a former refugee myself, I am proud to see how Russian-Speaking Jews in North America are responding to the Ukraine crisis through a variety of measures, including volunteering on the border. For refugees from the former Soviet Union, this is a meaningful opportunity to ‘pay-it-forward’ and I am proud to help lead this aid relief.”
Jewish Federations have raised over $40 million for Ukraine aid. Funds have been allocated by both The Jewish Federations of North America and individual Federations through our partner agencies The Jewish Agency for Israel, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and World ORT, as well as United Hatzalah, Hillel International, Nefesh B'Nefesh, HIAS, Israel Trauma Coalition, Hadassah Medical Organization, Chabad, and Shma Yisrael.