Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), received The Jerusalem Post Humanitarian Award for her organization’s efforts in assisting the Jews of Ukraine, at The Jerusalem Post Group’s “Celebrate The Faces Of Israel” conference yesterday, jointly hosted with the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. Post Editor-in-Chief Avi Mayer, together with Rabbi Shlomi Peles, executive director of the Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JRNU), presented the award to Eckstein.
Following the presentation, Maayan Hoffman, deputy CEO of strategy & innovation for the Post, interviewed Eckstein about her work in Ukraine. Eckstein recalled that at the outset of the war, few predicted that the Russians would try to enter Kyiv.
“That’s when I really started getting worried,” she said. On her return flight to Israel from Ukraine, the Fellowship approved an emergency allocation of $1 million to obtain food, mattresses and medicine. “This ended up saving lives in that first week when no one was prepared,” said Eckstein.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been active in the former Soviet Union for 40 years. Eckstein noted the assistance the organization has received in the FSU from Chabad, the Federation of Jewish Communities, the JDC, World ORT, Tikvah and the Jewish Agency, adding that the heroes on the ground are the ones who really deserve the award.
She explained that the needs of the Jews of Ukraine have changed since the war began. “In the beginning, we were focused on evacuation and humanitarian aid, bringing food and medicine. I remember evacuating 1,500 orphans from inside Ukraine.” Some were sent to Israel, and others were taken to neighboring countries.
Eckstein explained how the Fellowship, in partnership with Zaka and the JDC, helped evacuate Holocaust survivors in the Ukraine who were bedridden and were unable to leave on their own, brought them to Moldova, treated them and transported them on a chartered medical flight to Israel. “I look around, and I say,” said Eckstein, “What other country would do that? To know that we can bring them to Israel is not something that is taken lightly.”
In the past year, the Fellowship has facilitated 28 dedicated charter flights and assisted over 5,000 people to immigrate to Israel, as well as working in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, Nativ and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry to bring thousands more refugees to Israel. The Fellowship remains in touch with these olim and provides them with assistance after they arrive in Israel.