Jewish Agency: Emergency Assistance to Ukrainian Jews Could Be Increased

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The scenes at Independence Square during anti-government protests in Kiev last month prompted fears for the security of Ukraine's Jews. Credit: Reuters

The Jewish Agency is poised to increase emergency assistance to the Jewish communities of Ukraine and even undertake more “drastic measures” if necessary, a senior official at the organization told Haaretz on Sunday.

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“We have our finger on the pulse and are prepared for every possible situation, though we hope we won’t have to resort to anything drastic,” said David Shechter, the Jewish Agency spokesperson for the Russian-speaking media.

Last week, the Jewish Agency announced its intention to extend $150,000 in emergency assistance to ensure the physical safety of the Jews in Ukraine and their religious and cultural institutions.

On Monday, agency officials are to convene in Jerusalem to decide how to allocate the money. “If it turns out that additional funding is necessary, we will increase this sum,” said Shechter. “We have been in touch with the heads of the various communities over the past week in order get an idea of exactly what their needs are, and now we have all that information.”

Asked if the Jewish Agency is contemplating airlifting Ukrainian Jews to safety in Israel, he said: “Meanwhile, no.”

According to reports received by Jewish Agency officials in Jerusalem, he said, “The Jews in Ukraine are all very afraid because they don’t know what is going to happen.”

The Jewish community of Ukraine numbers about 200,000, including those who are not considered Jews by halakha but are rather their offspring or spouses. Another 340,000 Ukrainian Jews have immigrated to Israel since the early 1990s.

Most of the Jews of Ukraine reside in the capital, Kiev, with large concentrations also in Odessa, Lvov and Dnepropetrovsk. In recent years, an average of 2,000 Ukrainian Jews have immigrated to Israel annually.

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