ICEJ supports Aliyah winter camps for Ukrainian Jewish youthsPublished on: 11.1.2023
By: ICEJ Staff Writers
The current major wave of Aliyah hitting Israel continues to roll into 2023. More than 73,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2022, the highest numbers since the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. The main causes appear to be the direct and indirect results of the war in Ukraine. The ICEJ continues to assist in many innovative ways in this amazing ingathering, such as assisting with Aliyah winter camps for Ukrainian Jewish youth in the safety of the nearby Baltic states.
Since the beginning of the Russia/Ukraine conflict in 2014, the ICEJ has sponsored flights, ground transportation, and Aliyah preparation activities, as well as immediate and urgent integration needs for thousands of Ukrainian Jewish olim (newcomers) to Israel. Currently, we are assisting with the evacuation of frail elderly Jews and helping with youth Aliyah, especially for displaced families throughout the Former Soviet Union.
This month of January has begun with the ICEJ supporting a wonderful innovative Aliyah Winter Camp for young Ukrainian Jewish youths, ages 12-to-17, together with Jewish children from the Baltic states. There was a jovial atmosphere on the bus as fifty-four youth from Ukraine recently crossed the border into Poland and continued to Riga, Latvia, to join 21 Ukrainian refugee children living in other East European countries along with 45 Latvian Jewish children.
The youth were so excited to stay in a 3-star resort hotel and soon the conference rooms turned into hives of activity as the youngers started making new friends, embracing their heritage, and learning all they could about making Aliyah from Israeli counselors, who shared about the thrilling opportunities that await them in Israel.
The Aliyah winter camp was called “Dacha”, which is the popular Russian name for a country home where people often go for a rest during their summer or winter breaks. The winter respite usually runs from New Year’s Eve to January 10th, when people often say: “I am going to my dacha”.
These Aliyah youth camps have been a huge success over the years, and this year definitely was no different!
Isaac, one of the campers from Lviv, expressed his opinion of the camp by showing a big “thumbs up” sign!
Meanwhile, another youth from near Kyiv simply called it, “Super!”
“This is just one tangible example of the critical work for the Jews of Ukraine, made possible thanks to generous friends such as yourselves”, said Danielle Mor of the Jewish Agency, which organized the camp. “May 2023 be marked by such joy and hope.”
This is the second Aliyah youth camp that the ICEJ has recently supported in the Baltic region. The first such “Dacha” camp was in held in Lithuania in September for more than 100 children.
The vast majority of the 73,000-plus Jewish olim who arrived in Israel in 2022 were from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. There also has been a noticeable increase from other former Soviet republics, such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The ICEJ is well positioned to assist with this upsurge from the Baltic states, as we continue to work closely with the regional Jewish Agency representatives. For instance, the ICEJ is helping with Aliyah flights, airport transfers, Aliyah preparation seminars, and trips to the Israeli consul for visas.
On 18 December, the ICEJ supported a special Hanukkah Day of Israel in Riga and our first sponsored flight was on the 19th of December. The first family was brought from a coastal city to the airport by van with extra baggage for the direct flight to Israel.
The Jewish remnant still in the former Soviet Union now have many concerns about their safety and future. They risk being conscripted for military service in Russia, while in Ukraine men of draft age are restricted from leaving the country. This has led to the separation of family members, some of whom have gone to Israel and others to East European countries. The ICEJ is helping in these situations, as well as with our integration programs and humanitarian help in the Diaspora.
The ICEJ will continue to support Aliyah from the former Soviet republics. Our Aliyah work first began in Vienna in 1980 and since then we have assisted more than 170,000 Jews coming home to Israel, plus many, many more during their integration process.
Thank you for partnering with us in our Aliyah efforts to bring Jews back to their biblical homeland – the Land of Israel. Please support this work by giving at: give.icej.org/aliyah