Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh.
All of Israel is responsible for one another.
In these moments of fear — as we pray, or lobby or donate in support of our siblings in Ukraine — let us also take a moment to kvell. The infrastructure that the Jewish community has built, supported and funded has acted swiftly in the face of the humanitarian crisis precipitated by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The life of every Ukrainian forever changed on February 24. The toll of death and destruction grows every day. With the oncoming advance of larger numbers of Russian troops, artillery and tanks, the immediate future there looks bleak. There is a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of people flee the fighting. In many areas, food and water are in short supply.
But the war has also ignited an extraordinary amount of unity and determination among the Ukrainians and millions of others around the world. An international coalition is providing much-needed financial support, sanctions, military and humanitarian assistance.
The Jewish world quickly mobilized to come to the aid of the roughly 200,000 Jewish Ukrainians — 60,000 of whom are elderly and unable to leave their homes. The Jewish Federations of North America, including our own Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit, immediately started fundraising to raise money for organizations on the ground in Ukraine, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Agency for Israel and World ORT.
The Joint and World ORT have already been in Ukraine for decades, caring for the most vulnerable Jews and helping to support a vibrant Jewish community there. Since the invasion, the needs have changed and grown vastly: food, water, warm clothing, medicine, toiletries, housing, transportation, psychological services, as well as the enormous task of processing the increasing numbers of displaced people and refugees that this brutal war has created.
The Jewish Agency has set up hotlines to help assist Jewish Ukrainians seeking to flee to Israel. There are now processing stations on the Ukrainian borders with Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary. Thousands more refugees are expected in the coming weeks, and these agencies are scaling up to meet the urgent needs of the situation.
The majority of Ukrainian Jews live in Kyiv, where the situation grows increasingly dire each day. As Russian forces advance towards the capital, the sounds of sirens are constant. Members of the Jewish community and their neighbors seek shelter in subway stations or basements, if they are physically able to get there. In Kharkiv, another major center of Jewish life, the residents are seeing heavy rocket fire across residential buildings.
Ukrainians have been inspired by the leadership of their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who, along with his Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense, is Jewish. But President Zelenskyy has made clear that his country will need the help of the rest of the world as he faces off with one of the most powerful military powers on earth.
The Jewish world can be proud that they have stepped up. The Jewish world is doing extraordinary things to help fellow Jews. At this very moment, there are armies of volunteers and professionals working overtime to comfort, feed, clothe and shelter Jews in need. They see first-hand that this crisis is real, horrific. They see that there is an urgent need to help Ukrainian Jews right now.
For the duration of this war and its aftermath, it is our shared responsibility to act to support the Jews of Ukraine. This is what it means to be a people — to be responsible for one another.