The Diaspora Affairs Ministry has held dozens of talks and meetings with leaders, heads of Jewish communities and rabbis from across Ukraine to try to understand their needs, even before the war with Russia broke out. But the ministry, headed by Nachman Shai, has not yet transferred funds to the Jewish communities.
In conversations with ministry officials, it seems that one reason is the extraordinary decentralization of the Jewish communities, and the lack of one or even two bodies representing them before the Israeli government.
In Kyiv alone, there are four rabbis who present themselves as the “chief rabbi” of the city of Ukraine itself. In addition, other umbrella organizations such as the Jewish Federation affiliated with Chabad, the JDC, the Jewish Agency, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Nativ and the Foreign Affairs Ministry all have representatives throughout the country – and are not all on the same page.
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Moreover, there are organizations and communities that are not affiliated with the umbrella organizations mentioned.
Thus, in the absence of coordination between all the Jewish communities, the Israeli government has difficulty deciding where to transfer the immediate funds in order to assist its Jewish citizens during this time of need.
Despite the lack of alignment among Ukrainian Jews, the Diaspora Ministry said they intend to make significant decisions on the transfer of aid funds, medicine, food and security assistance to communities, but it has not yet been decided how much and through which organizations this will take place.
The Jewish Agency and the IFCJ have opened an emergency call center for Ukrainian Jews to provide guidance and information regarding the immigration process, but also assistance provided to members of the Jewish communities in Ukraine.
The emergency center will operate hotlines in Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Russian, and is intended for applicants from the members of the Jewish community throughout Ukraine and for their relatives in Israel.
“The Jewish Agency and the IFCJ are spread throughout the country and are prepared to address various needs following the escalation in Ukraine, in coordination with the relevant government ministries,” said Yaakov Hagoel, acting chairman of the Jewish Agency.
Yael Eckstein, president of IFCJ, said her organization “in cooperation with the Jewish Agency and our partners on [the] ground, and in coordination with government agencies, is ready to assist and act to provide a response at any time. We are following developments with concern.”
The emergency phone numbers are:For applicants from UkraineToll free number 0800504603Local numbers4423004783809365171773809609798510638318336380504691840
For relatives from Israel1800228055 Ext. 402-6367714026461447