The Jewish community in Canada has now raised $4 million for Ukraine—and it’s preparing for the imminent arrival of refugees
March 11, 2022
By Alex Rose
The Canadian Jewish community continues to respond to the war in Ukraine, donating funds and preparing to welcome refugees when they arrive here.
As of March 10, Jewish federations across Canada had combined to raise almost $4 million to support crisis response efforts in Ukraine. The funds are going to the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee, which have been using existing relationships with Ukrainian Jewish organizations to get the money to those most in need. For example, they are assisting thousands of people trying to leave Ukraine at the country’s borders, and organizing multiple flights to Israel daily.
“We are acting as one Jewish people. The unique power of the Canadian Jewish federations is rallying our community to act together and empowering us to address this human catastrophe and save lives. We are putting Jewish values into action,” said Steven Shulman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of Canada—United Israel Appeal.
The Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario (JRCC) has also been raising money for Ukraine— around $150,000 in the last few weeks, said CEO Rabbi Mendel Zaltzman. The JRCC has many options for people to decide where they want their money to go—some choose to donate directly to communities, some want to buy food, and others want to support refugees.
There are also options to support specific operations in Ukraine. For example, the JRCC helped evacuate orphanages in Odessa and Zhitomir and secure them flights out of the country and facilitated a donation of over $30,000 to Mariupol from the Jewish community of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.
B’nai Brith Canada is another Jewish organization helping in multiple ways. On top of their emergency relief fund, they will also be hosting a collection drop off at the Promenade Mall in Thornhill for supplies to be sent to Ukraine on March 13, 20 and 27.
Cheryl Landy, director of community engagement for B’nai Brith Canada, said the donations will go directly to B’nai Brith’s partners on the ground in Ukraine to ensure the items are distributed efficiently.
Canadian Jewish communities are also preparing for an influx of Ukrainian refugees. Jodi Block, manager of community engagement for Jewish Immigrant Aid Services for Newcomers (JIAS), said a recent announcement by the Canadian government will greatly hasten the timeline. The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel means refugees from Ukraine will be allowed to enter the country much quicker than the usual refugee sponsorship program.
“The Jewish community has really stepped up in the past for other refugee groups. It’s an incredible thing, but… it can take two years or more for people to actually get here,” Block said.
But now, because of the emergency authorization, she anticipates that people will be arriving in the next month or two.
“We are planning for this to be a community effort. The Jewish community has always been willing and able to mobilize support in times of need and this is no different. We anticipate that there will be great community support to welcome people as they arrive,” Block said.
Block mentioned a number of ways that people can help support the refugees, including financial assistance, filling out forms, welcoming people, introducing them to Canada, and more. JIAS will also be providing information sessions in the coming weeks for Canadians who want to bring their family over, for Ukrainians who need information about how to come to Canada, and for Canadians who want to help however they can.
The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto is starting on their own program to support the incoming refugees. UJA Genesis is launching an initiative for community members to donate essential goods to refugee families.
Sara Lefton, chief development officer at UJA Federation, said many members of Toronto’s Jewish community have offered warehouse space for the supplies being collected. UJA’s Ukraine relief drive will be held March 14, with multiple drop-off locations across the GTA.
Lefton said the relief drive provides a different type of opportunity for people to contribute, one that affords more of a first-hand connection.
“We’ve now raised more than $2 million from the Toronto community alone for the emergency relief fund. And that is very helpful,” she said. “But I think that people are looking for a way to make a direct impact in a more hands-on way, in addition to providing funds.”
Canadian Jewish federations have raised over $1 million for Ukraine (with donations still arriving)
March 4, 2022
By Alex Rose
When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 23, Canadian Jewish federations, like other philanthropies around the world, set up emergency fundraising as soon as the fighting started.
As of March 3, well over $1 million had been raised, and that number is still climbing every day.
But what set the Canadian Jewish community’s efforts apart from many other initiatives, was the existing philanthropic infrastructure between Canada and Ukraine.
According to Steven Shulman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of Canada—United Israel Appeal (JFC-UIA), the Jewish federations here, working with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), had been helping to support Jewish federations in Ukraine for years.
“It’s important to have that context. Of course, it’s a situation where you mobilize from a crisis, and you mobilize differently, but it wasn’t from a standing start. It’s from a running start, because infrastructure already exists through those two prime partner organizations: The Jewish Agency and the JDC,” Shulman said.
That infrastructure is in large part made possible by the annual fundraising campaigns of federations across the country, which allowed for the quick response when it was most needed.
“That is really what puts our partner organizations in the best possible position in the most trying of circumstances to save lives and do everything possible to address… every emergency need imaginable arising out of this crisis,” Shulman said. “They’re saving every single life, every single situation, every family, in the most organized way possible in the most chaotic situation imaginable.”
Donations from the Canadian Jewish community are helping with everything including food, temporary shelter, transportation, help at the border, assistance with aliyah for those who wish to go to Israel, medical needs, an emergency hotline, and more.
Shulman, who was speaking on the phone from Jerusalem, also noted a big difference for the Ukrainian Jews who are caught in this conflict compared to the many Jews throughout history who have faced similar circumstances.
“The biggest change for so many Jews who are in harm’s way… (is that) for those who wish to leave the country, there is an Israel, there is a Jewish homeland they can go to. Nobody will stop them from going there. And that’s being facilitated,” Shulman said. “That’s not something to be taken for granted given Jewish history.”
Shulman’s main takeaway from the response he’s seen, both the running start afforded by the existing partnerships and the donations to support the emergency efforts, is how strongly it reflects the sense of Jewish peoplehood amongst the Canadian population.
“It doesn’t have to be explained that all Jews are responsible for one another. People are acting in accordance with that,” Shulman said. “Even in the face of tragedy, by coming together as one Jewish people, we can actually strengthen the Jewish people… people can take action not just individually, but they’re part of something larger that will make a difference in the lives of people they have never met, they will never know, but they know they have changed lives.”