Jewish Leaders Meet with Members of UN to Evacuate Ukrainians, Help them Resettle

Jewish Leaders Meet with Members of UN to Evacuate Ukrainians, Help them Resettle
By Yehudit Garmaise

After spending several days seeing with his own eyes what is happening in Ukraine and Moldova, where many refugees are fleeing, Yaakov Flitchkin, a worldwide activist who lives in Monsey, decided to arrange a meeting among the leaders of Jewish organizations and representatives of the United Nations (UN) to see how they could better collaborate in helping the millions of Ukrainians running from a war-torn country.

“It is actually much worse than the world thinks,” said Flitchkin, who is returning to Moldova Sunday to work with local rabbis to assist refugees until after Purim. “When we were brought up, we heard so many things about the Holocaust. Those things were hard to believe, but unfortunately, these stories about war are the truth.”

On Friday morning, leaders from Agudath Israel, the Orthodox Union, the Conference of Presidents, and the United Jewish Organization attended the two-hour meeting, with six UN representatives and ambassadors, to create several action plans to continue to evacuate Ukrainians, provide kosher food and other necessities, and help them resettle either temporarily or permanently wherever they land.

Jewish leaders, such as Chanina Sperlin, the executive vice president of Governmental Affairs at the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council and UN reps from Ukraine, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania, Poland, and Hungary shared ideas at the meeting that took place at the Mission of Slovakia at 801 Second Avenue in Manhattan.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine intensifies, the meeting’s participants were laser-focused on helping the refugees get to safety, Flitchkin reported.

“We are helping them to get out of there,” Flitchkin said. “We also are trying to make things easier for the refugees when they get to the borders and the countries in which they are settling: either temporarily, until the war is over, or permanently.”

While Flitchkin said, “It is too soon to say” where the majority of Jewish Ukrainian refugees will settle, “a lot of them are just waiting for the war to end so they can go back home.”

Breslover Jews, for instance, want to go back home to Uman. A lot the less religious Jews are heading to neighboring countries, and also Portugal and Germany. Other Jews want to come to America or go to Israel.

What did Flitchkin see in Ukraine and the surrounding countries?

“I saw people losing everything overnight: families are getting separated,” he said. People have lost their apartments and their life savings. I met a few orphans who are all by themselves. People are starving. There is no kosher food and very little food at all.”

One orphan Flitchkin met was a 13-year-old yeshiva bochur whose father passed away three years ago, and his mother passed away recently from COVID.

“This boy has no family, no passport, no nothing,” Flitchkin said with sadness. “The boy was all by himself. Seeing such things changed my feelings to the next level.”

Flitchkin recounted the unfathomable acts of chesed he has seen in the past few weeks, such as Rabbi Pinchas Zalzman, the chief rabbi of Moldova, who is providing thousands of meals, mattresses, and plenty of emotional support to people fleeing a terrifying situation.

“The way Rabbi Zalzman treats people: who come to him every hour of the day and the night,” he said. “The people are coming to Moldova after being on buses for three and four days, they are scared for their lives, they haven’t eaten, and they come to Moldova needing everything.”

Chabad shluchim, OU volunteers, and others are creating bomb shelters, schools, davening, and coherent days for thousands of Jewish refugees who are temporarily housing in hotels, Flitchkin said.

“They are doing everything,” Flitchkin said. “Like survivors of the Holocaust, these refugees who are running, fleeing, and terrified for family members, will never be the same again.”

What can Boro Park Jews do to help the Ukrainian refugees?

“A lot of prayers are needed,” said Flitchkin, who added that countless Jewish organizations have set up campaigns to raise money for the Ukrainian refugees. “Every dollar counts. The longer the war takes, the more it is going to cost.”

What the refugees need the most is moral support and love.

“Any small act of compassion that shows them we all are there for them: means the world to them,” Flitchkin said.

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