Our Response to the Crisis in Ukraine

March 22, 2022

  • Jewish Community

At the start of the new year, it was unfathomable to think about a war in Europe. Now, millions of Ukrainians are fearing for their lives, the safety of their families and the future of their country.

The images emerging from Ukraine depicting the humanitarian crisis and physical devastation are heart-wrenching and surreal. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that nearly 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, with tens of thousands more leaving each day. 

Beyond the serious geopolitical questions this conflict has raised, this war is a stark reminder of the fragile state of democracy right now. As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address to the European Parliament, “I believe that we today we are giving lives for values, for rights, for freedom, for the desire to be equal.” 

Our work at Schusterman Family Philanthropies has strong ties to the region. After the fall of the former Soviet Union (FSU) in the 1990s, Charles and Lynn Schusterman wanted to support the revitalization of Jewish life following generations of religious repression in the region. We partnered with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to launch the presence of Hillel International, a global organization engaging young Jews on college campuses, in the FSU. Today, there are 24 Hillels across the region, reaching 15,000 students, with five chapters alone in the Ukraine. Sadly, instead of celebrating its 25th anniversary of being in the country, the Kharkiv Hillel’s building was destroyed by Russian strikes.

Several grantees in our U.S. Jewish portfolio are showing up in critically important ways right now, working to provide humanitarian support and relief in Ukraine and the broader region. We share information about their efforts below, as well as other resources and opportunities to give through these organizations. We do so with recognition that there are many organizations doing important work right now that are worthy of support.

To date, we have committed more than $6 million to support relief efforts. This includes rapid response grants to JDC, IsraAID, HIAS, Hillel, Moishe House and Project Kesher, as well as to an evacuation operation led by several members of our ROI Community. It also includes, through Schusterman Family Philanthropies – Israel, support to establish an Israeli field hospital in western Ukraine to serve refugees fleeing for their safety.

Our Chair, Stacy Schusterman, spoke at the send-off of Israel’s medical delegation to Ukraine, sharing her words of support: “To this unbelievable delegation of talented and selfless individuals who are going to the front lines: thank you. You are a true inspiration.”

We will continue to support this work as needs escalate. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine who are affected by this violence and fear for their lives and the safety of their families. As we support our partners, we will continue to pray for calm, safety, peace and democracy to prevail.

Relief Efforts

  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), among many efforts, has staff on the ground in Ukraine and surrounding countries coordinating evacuations, including arranging transportation and accommodations and providing food. In addition, JDC is operating emergency hotlines in Ukraine staffed by Ukrainian and Russian speakers, as well as additional hotlines for Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. As of mid-March, JDC has supported an estimated 7,000 refugees. Support JDC’s Emergency Response Campaign.
  • IsraAID, an international non-governmental humanitarian aid organization based in Israel, has dispatched a response team to Moldova. The team is providing psychological support, hygiene kits and other urgent supplies to incoming Ukrainian refugees. At the Palanca border crossing, one of these services is a “Mother & Baby Space,” a tent with urgently needed supplies such as diapers and baby food. Support IsraAID’s Emergency Response Fund.
  • HIAS, which was working with African asylum seekers in Ukraine before the war, is now helping them leave the country safely amid racism at border crossings. In Poland, the team has coordinated with the Polish Jewish community to provide housing, transportation and food to refugees crossing into Poland. HIAS plans to expand its coordination to Jewish communities in Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary. HIAS has also rushed emergency response funds to its long-time partner R2P based in Ukraine, which continues to assist refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced Ukrainians. Support HIAS’ work.
  • Project Kesher continues to meet the needs of both women and girls remaining in Ukraine and fleeing to other countries by providing transportation and accommodations for those leaving cities under attack. On their website, Project Kesher shared, “A Kyiv-based Jewish travel agent and longtime associate of a [Project Kesher] leader is now using his buses to evacuate Ukrainians from the bombarded city. These buses, supported by Project Kesher have been making evacuation trips for the last 2.5 weeks and have moved 700 people to safety. There is no charge to the passengers and Project Kesher is covering fuel and the cost of the driver.” Support Project Kesher’s Emergency Response.
  • Hillel International, in addition to wrestling with grief from the loss of their Kharkiv chapter, aims to provide critical supplies—such as food, water and medicine—and mental health services to refugees aged 18-36 in Poland and Germany. They will also support Hillel professionals who have been left displaced or homeless and help Hillels in the region convert into temporary housing for displaced Jewish students and young adults. Support Hillel’s Emergency Response Fund.
  • Moishe House, which had a flourishing presence in Ukraine fostering meaningful Jewish spaces for young adults, is focused on providing food, rent assistance and community gatherings for Moishe House community builders, community members and staff impacted by the crisis. Funds not directed toward emergency use will benefit future Moishe House programming in Ukraine. Support Moishe House’s Emergency Response Fund.
  • Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) launched a campaign in partnership with other Jewish organizations to raise $20 million to provide aid to the Jewish community in Ukraine. In less than three weeks, JFNA raised $25 million. These funds will help displaced Ukrainian Jews, purchase satellite phones to help maintain communications across the region, secure Jewish schools and more. Support JFNA’s Emergency Response Campaign.