Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Jewish Families of Ukraine

As conflict and separatist fighting continues along with severe currency depreciation, Ukraine’s economy is on the brink of collapse. Due to grim political and economic realities, thousands of Ukrainian Jews, most of whom were able to support themselves prior to the conflict and economic fallout, now find themselves vulnerable, destitute, and in need of basic necessities, like food, fuel and medicines. Of these thousands of Ukrainian’s in need the most vulnerable are young families and the elderly – which make up a majority of the country’s population.

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County and our global partners at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) are committed to caring for the Jews of Ukraine. As of May 5, the JDC reported that their aid recipient list – individuals and families receiving critical relief, financial support, and many other life-saving services – has grown. To date, JDC is serving 2,700 new clients. JDC reports that thousands more have left their homes in eastern Ukraine, relocating to places like Kiev, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Odessa – becoming internally displaced in their own countries.

Below are the stories of two families, who are relying upon the assistance of JDC, and your generosity.

When fighting broke out in Donetsk between the government and separatist forces last year, Raisa Libenson believed she could stay with her family in their home by the airport. It wasn’t until her apartment sustained a direct hit from a mortar shell, tearing through the walls and furniture, and rendering the 78-year-old temporarily deaf, that she realized she had to leave.

“Shell fragments were all over my bed,” she recalled. “There was smoke in the apartment. I rushed into the room and it felt like something hot flew over me. I froze with fear. I could not realize how I would survive.”

Since then, Libenson and her husband of 56 years have been staying in Pavlograd, a city a few dozen miles from the frontline.

Roman Dubovskoy and his family relocated from Lugansk to Zaporozhye when violence erupted in their hometown last August. Now, all eight of them (Dubovskoy and his wife, their four children, and his wife’s parents) live together under the same roof. Roman, who is a psychologist, had to come out of retirement to provide for his extended family. Luckily, he found employment at the local JCC where he treats fellow displaced Jews from the east.

Roman Dubovskoy and daughter.
JDC helps Ukrainian Jews like the Dubovskoys and Libensons pay the rent and provides them with clothes, footwear, and a monthly stipend for food, medicine, and other essentials. During the winter months, displaced Ukrainians are being sent items like blankets, socks, and pajamas to help cope with a cold, unforgiving reality.

Libenson said she was deeply grateful for the meat, cheese, sour cream, and oil JDC gives her through the Hesed – JDC’s relief centers.

“Maybe, it is not for long, but it’s like a breathing period for us,” she said. “We would not survive during these eight months in Donetsk without Hesed.”

Such life-saving aid is due to your generosity. Thank you for all that you do.

The Jews of Ukraine still need your support. Click here, to make a gift today.

Click here, to read the full stories of these families and to learn how JDC is working to keep thousands of Jews on their feet during this time of crisis.


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