One Year In, ICEJ Still Rescuing Ukrainian Jews from WarPublished on: 28.2.2023
By: Annaliese Johnson
Last Friday (24 February) marked one year since the dramatic escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which triggered the largest wave of Jewish immigration to Israel in a generation. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem assisted 1,392 Ukrainian Jews in making Aliyah to Israel last year, including 1,160 sponsored flights, while also helping hundreds more in the integration phase. With another 7,000 Jews already moving to Israel in January alone, it looks like 2023 may even top last year’s banner numbers for Aliyah.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the mass Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ICEJ hosted a webinar last week with Danielle Mor, Director of Christian Friends of the Jewish Agency, to talk about the surge in Aliyah. She recounted the life-changing efforts of the Jewish Agency, in partnership with the ICEJ and other organizations, in assisting Jewish people from Ukraine to make the journey from excruciating circumstances to their brand new lives in Israel. Mor first noted that the conflict in eastern Ukraine actually has been going on since 2014, meaning Aliyah requests from Ukraine have been trending upward for more than eight years with no expected drop in near sight.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Jewish communities in the region had been “finding their voice and finding their way to connect with their faith and with their roots,” explained Mor. This freedom from seven decades of religious suppression meant finally being “allowed to practice their Judaism or to live a Jewish life,” she added. The restored connection with their Jewish identity also encouraged hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to make Aliyah to Israel, their historic homeland.
Now, with a war uprooting many of the remaining Jews still in the region, she said that Jewish Agency workers and Christian volunteers assisting these latest olim (newcomers) have been acutely aware of the harsh impact of the conflict, and much progress has been made in bringing them home to Israel, in large part because of generous donations from Christians. “This has been a true mission out of faith, and especially out of love and human compassion,” said Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive, Major Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog.
From 2014 through 2022, a total of 60,330 Jews from Ukraine and 128,428 Jews from the other former Soviet republics made Aliyah. Through your generous donations, the ICEJ assisted 3,821 and 18,927 of these olim, respectively.
Mor also thanked the ICEJ for being a “major part” of helping JAFI during the initial evacuations of Jews from the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in 2014, when the conflict first started. These Jewish families left behind all they knew to start over in the land of their forefathers.
Mor also noted that the Aliyah numbers from Ukraine nearly tripled between 2021 and 2022, from 3,129 to 10,974, due to the increased tensions and havoc of war in the region. She added that JAFI fully expects another significant increase of Aliyah from Ukraine this year, and described the ICEJ as playing a prominent role in this mission, “especially in advocacy, raising awareness and support, and giving generously for this rescue.”
Nina Diakovska, a JAFI official in Odessa in southern Ukraine, also explained the importance of what the Jewish Agency has been doing in Ukraine in the education sector. For Jewish youth ages six to eighteen, Nina organized camps that gave these children hope and stronger identities as Jews, even amid the air raids and ravages of war. She said this young generation has gone through atrocities but also has experienced miracles and gained hope for the future because of their connection with Israel and Jews worldwide.
As we go through 2023, the ICEJ is committed to bringing more Jews back to their homeland of Israel. This includes supporting pre-Aliyah events like summer and winter camps to aid children in the education process of making Aliyah, plus special Passover events, transportation, and the actual Aliyah flights, as well as integrating these Jewish immigrants into Israel once they arrive. For instance, 17 of the Ukrainian Jews we assisted with Aliyah last year were Holocaust survivors who are now housed in the ICEJ’s retirement home for survivors in Haifa, where they are comforted and loved by our team of Christian volunteers. Thank you for your generous donations that are turning uncertain futures into a future of hope for so many new Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. Please continue to support the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts by giving at: give.icej.org/aliyah
Photo credits: JAFI