Friday, September 5, 2014


This week the NCESJ, our national organization, which has issued 47 Briefings on the evermore catastrophic circumstances in the Ukraine, published its Ukraine Update 47. In pertinent part, it read:

"Jewish refugees continue to arrive in Dnipropetrovsk, Cherkassy, Zhytomyr and elsewhere, fleeing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community reported that while they are doing all they can to accommodate the refugees, hundreds more arrive every day, all in need of food, housing, and medical help. Refugees come from every social class and profession: engineers, lawyers, economists, factory workers, pregnant women, families with children, etc.

All community buildings, including a home for the Jewish elderly and boarding schools, have been turned into refugee centers, where refugees receive meals, accommodation, and psychological help. Forty children who fled the areas of unrest are now attending the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish school.

Due to the prolonged crisis, the resources of the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community and the city in general are stretching thin. We have received reports that city's hospitals are overcrowded and unable to manage the influx of the sick and wounded.

The situation for those who stay in the areas of unrest is even more disturbing. Luhansk Jewish community said that the city is cut off from electricity and water supply. Pharmacies and banks are closed; purchasing food is becoming increasing difficult. Those who could leave the city have already done so, but the elderly and sick remain.

The situation in Donetsk is similarly alarming. The city is heavily damaged by shelling. Jewish community representatives reported that the local synagogue is still open, however the remaining Jewish community is shrinking every day, as more people are leaving to find a safer place.

NCSEJ also spoke with the Jewish community of Kharkiv, which is also dealing with an influx of refugees. Kharkiv residents are collecting clothes, food, and medical aid for the refugees, and the local government has organized refugee support programs. Close to 2,500 children from refugee families started their school year in Kharkiv's schools. The Jewish community is concentrating its activities on helping the displaced persons, which requires a significant amount of community funding."
Friends, these are entire communities living under threat. Our...that's OUR...JDC and Jewish Agency are doing their holy work but they are overwhelmed. And, after urging...not committing, urging...our communities to a minor fund raising effort. the Terrorists War on Israel rained down and, apparently, as far as JFNA was/is concerned, its responsibilities, if any, to the Ukrainian Jews were over. This week, as if stirred to action after its own inexplicable inactivity, JFNA has engaged in what passes for its version of FRD -- it meekly called some Large and Large-Intermediate Federation CEOs and begged for a hand-out for the Ukraine. Meanwhile, Yechiel Eckstein's International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been fully engaged on the ground and in bringing Ukrainian Jews to Israel during this crisis -- doing our work.

It appears to this observer that JFNA's lay and professional leaders just don't comprehend that JDC and JAFI are working 24/7 on our behalf. They are performing our sacred responsibilities. And, when JFNA turns its back on the Jewish communities of the Ukraine, it is all of us turning our backs on them. 

This, my friends, is JFNA at its worst, at its nadir of neglect. Not even I can see it getting any lower. You know, JFNA has not even distributed the NCESJ Updates. Ukrainian Jewry...not our problem. Jews will die and the world will not care, but, until now, we always have; but, sadly, not any more.



Anonymous said...

Charles Krauthammer in yesterday's Washington Post column, wrote a brilliant piece "Ukraine Abandoned." Your Post deserves the same title. As you wrote, Richard, our organization abandoned the Ukrainian Jewish community almost immediately after announcing the need to raise funds. Its leaders could not care less that Jewish lives are very much at risk there.

RWEX said...

Now there is a cease fire. so, undoubtedly, JFNA thinks it can move on to do nothing about some other crisis.

But the National Conference wrote today: "The ceasefire agreement doesn't alleviate the need to address the urgent humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. A significant part of Ukraine's population remains at risk. Some are internal refugees who have fled the violence, and are living without guarantees of food or shelter in western Ukraine. Others are still living in the battered cities in the east, where infrastructure is damaged, and militants roam the streets."

So, as JFNA would say: "All's good?"

Anonymous said...

You probably know this but my federation CEO (and, I assume, others) received a call from JFNA asking us to send funds we haven't raised for the Ukraine emergency. There is no effort at JFNA to lift a finger to raise any money other than to dial up CEOs.

A suggestion -- take $1,000,000 OUT OF YOUR BUDGET, the same amount you threw at the last Tribe Fest, as "seed money" for a real fund raising effort for Ukrainian Jewry.

Anonymous said...

Another "cease fire" was announced yesterday. To JFNA this will mean that "our job is done and weren't we great." There is not even an iota of shame for another job not done.

Anonymous said...

JFNA may not be doing enough or talking about this enough but Federations have responded -- I know of a few big cities that have made material supplemental JDC allocations now on top of what was done earlier in the year. I don't think the system has abandoned this issue.

RWEX said...

My friend, your Comment may be true and any money reaching the Ukrainian Jewish communities is vital, but, assuming that federations are sending money for the work of the JDC doesn't that underscore the reality that JFNA is not leading anything here...nothing. There is a continental Allocations Committee whose decisions are presumably based on prioritized needs that is being by-passed by individual communal decisions that may not be, probably aren't, as well-informed as the JFNA Allocations Committee would be. And, what does JFNA do, does it even manage a process -- of course not.

So, while the federations you mention stand for something, our Continental organization (1) doesn't even know what it should be doing; and (2) stands for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Richie, I have noticed that every once in a while your kvetching accomplishes something. Just now I received this from Board Chair Siegal:

"Dear Federation Presidents and Trustees,

Given the serious deterioration of conditions in Eastern Ukraine, The Jewish Federations of North America is reopening its Ukraine Emergency Assistance Fund. Thousands of Jews in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas have been forced to flee their homes, or have been isolated in these war-torn regions. JFNA is asking all Federations to consider the urgent needs resulting from this situation and to respond to the best of their ability.

Attached is a document with a summary and talking points.

Shabbat Shalom,
Michael D. Siegal
Chair, JFNA Board of Trustees"

Then again they NEVER read this thing, do they?