Israel’s oldest social services organisation prepares for refugees from Ukraine

March 7, 2022 by J-Wire
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Israel’s Aliyah (immigration to Israel) and social organizations are preparing for the thousands of Jewish refugees who are expected to arrive in Israel and make Aliyah in the coming weeks, fleeing Russia’s invasion of their former home.

Israeli citizens and Ukrainian refugees arrived from Ukraine to Ben Gurion international airport. Lod, Mar 3, 2022. Photo by Shalev Shalom/TPS

Many of the thousands of Jewish refugees are choosing to move to Israel where organizations are preparing to receive them. Among the organizations preparing itself is Colel Chabad, which is focusing on providing families with food and basic necessities upon arrival.

As Israel’s longest continuously running social services organization since 1788, including numerous welfare and support services, Colel Chabad is able to rely on the international Chabad network which is known to be extremely active in Ukraine.

“Our team in Israel is in regular contact with our emissaries across the war-ravaged region to help us identify those making the journey and make sure they know that they have a response in place as soon as they arrive in Israel,” explained Rabbi Mendy Blau, Israel Director of Colel Chabad.

The system being put in place has the Israeli Chabad representatives in direct touch with the Ukrainian Chabad rabbis in the various communities to verify any specific needs.

Current estimates are that within the next two weeks, over 4,000 people will be in need of immediate assistance but everyone admits that that number could skyrocket with little advance notice.

“These are not people who had any advance notice that they were about to lose everything they had ever known, and tragically, most of them had to leave their husbands and fathers behind to fight,” Rabbi Blau said. All men aged 18-60 have been pressed into service in the Ukrainian army.

Among the immediate goals of the campaign will be the absorption of 130 orphan children from the town of Zhytomyr, outside of Kyiv, who are being brought to Israel to ensure their safety. In addition to ensuring they have adequate clothing and supplies, Colel Chabad will be providing three healthy meals a day for the entire group for the time being.

“Since the end of World War II, we have not seen such a painful crisis where large numbers of Jewish families are being torn apart and literally running for their lives,” said Rabbi Sholom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad. “The blessing is that Israel is here and the Jewish world is an altogether different place so that we can give these children and adults the assurance that they are being cared for and will get what they need.”

Similarly, the Bnei Akiva youth movement has established a special emergency headquarters over the weekend to provide the most comprehensive assistance possible.

Bnei Akiva’s activity is divided into several branches that include living accommodation in Israel for the refugees, a support team for the absorption of immigrants in localities and cities throughout the country, the collection, packaging and transfer of equipment to humanitarian teams leaving for Ukraine, a reception checkpoint at Ben Gurion Airport for families coming to the country, and the coordination of transportation for immigrants throughout Israel.

The hotline started operating over the weekend and the flow of requests has not ceased since continued all the time.

On the night between Thursday and Friday, members of the youth movement packed food boxes and humanitarian aid flown to refugees in the countries bordering Ukraine. In addition, equipment was collected and transferred to families who immigrated and arrived in Israel with almost nothing.

Every few hours, members of the movement came to receive the refugees and make the landing at Ben Gurion Airport happier.

Bnei Akiva Secretary-General Yair Shahal stated Sunday that “we are in an emergency – and we must all mobilize and get under the stretcher to help as much as possible.”

“We appeal to anyone who needs assistance – both overseas and in Israel – to contact us and we will try to provide a quick and comprehensive response as possible,” he said.


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