Eastern Ukraine Jews to get $650,000 in emergency funding

(JTA) — The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews pledged $650,000 in emergency funding for Jews in the battle zones of eastern Ukraine.

The emergency funding will provide Jews from cities such as Donetsk and Mariupol, who are caught in the crossfire between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists, with medicine, food, housing and security, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFJC’s founder and president, said Sunday in a statement to JTA announcing the extra funds.

“We will do everything in our power and means so no Jew will be left homeless or starved,” he wrote.

The funding will ensure thousands of food and medicine packages, as well as three months of operating soup kitchens and providing security for Jewish synagogues and institutions in Donetsk, Lugansk and Mariupol.

Mariupol has about 7,000 Jews living there, according to Mendel Cohen, a Chabad emissary who has served as the city’s rabbi for the past nine years. But the city has lost 15 percent of its Jewish community following the worsening of fighting in the city in Jan. 24, when Mariupol was struck by dozens of rockets that killed 30 people and wounded over 100.

“The community will remain, but the events of the past few months will have a lasting effect on all the Jewish communities in the fighting zones,” Cohen told JTA on Monday. “They are becoming greatly reduced. The people who fled to Israel, many of them will not be coming back. The fellowship’s aid is a lifeline for those who stay.”

IFJC spends $20 million to $25 million annually on aid to communities in the former Soviet Union, with approximately half going to Jews in Ukraine, where the fighting and political instability have plunged the economy into a recession accompanied by drastic inflation of the national currency, the hryvna.

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