As the flow of refugees from Ukraine increases seemingly by the hour with international observers saying the number now exceeds over a million, many are fearing that the prospect of returning home is becoming ever-more elusive. Many of the thousands of Jewish refugees are therefore choosing to move to Israel where organizations are actively working to respond to the demand. Among the organizations working at the forefront of the absorption response 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, made up of numerous welfare and support services, Colel Chabad can rely on the international Chabad network which is known to be extremely active in Ukraine.
“Our team in Israel are 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,” explains 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, more than 4,000 people will need immediate assistance, but everyone admits that this number could skyrocket with little advance notice.
“These aren’t 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 says.
Among the immediate goals of the campaign will be the absorption of 130 orphan children from the town of Zhytomyr, outside of Kiev, who are being brought to Israel to ensure their immediate 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 haven’t 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.”