Julie Platt

We are supporting Ukraine with a whole heart

New olim from Ukraine
Credit: Olivier Fitoussi for the The Jewish Agency for Israel
New olim from Ukraine

Co-authored by Jewish Federations of North America President & CEO Eric Fingerhut

We are far from the only ones to note that we just marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. The impact of the war is heart-rending, with countless deaths, unimaginable destruction and millions displaced. But we should also use this anniversary to acknowledge the incredible response of the Jewish community as a whole, and especially our amazing Jewish Federation system.

In this past week’s Torah reading, Terumah, the Lord commands for “everyone whose heart inspires them” to bring gifts for the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary where God will dwell as he accompanies the Israelites in their long journey through the wilderness.   [Exodus 25: 1-2].

The Hasidic masters teach that a gift given with a whole heart, as the Torah portion describes, is “lifted up” in a way that elevates and ennobles both the recipient and the giver. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z’’l reflects, “You lift it up, then it lifts you up. The best way of scaling the spiritual heights is simply to give in gratitude for the fact that you have been given.”

Thanks to the generosity of so many, we’ve truly scaled the heights. The total contributions of Jewish Federations across North America is impossible to capture in numbers alone, yet the numbers are breathtaking: Every single community in the Federation system came together and raised a total of $85 million in emergency funds above and beyond the annual support that keeps our Jewish rescue and relief system in place and ready to respond – nearly a quarter of a million dollars per day. Thanks to their generosity, half a million people received some form of humanitarian aid, 700,000 meals were distributed, 65,000 made aliyah, 130,000 received medical care, 4,000 medical and mental health professionals were trained, and 180,000 Ukrainian newcomers to the US were supported by our political advocacy.

Credit: Eyal Warshavsky, Jewish Federations of North America

Through our innovative Volunteer Hub, we have also already sent more than 100 volunteers to enable Ukrainian refugees in Europe to access basic needs like childcare and trauma counseling. Through our refugee resettlement initiative, we have empowered our local partner agencies to help thousands of Ukrainians resettle in North America. And we dried more tears, held more babies, and gave more hugs than anyone could possibly count.

It’s moments like this that remind us who we are and why we’re here.

The war is far from over and neither is our work. There are millions of displaced people. Much of Ukraine is in ruins. We are bracing for a possible new wave of Russian Jewish refugees. And there are too many who need daily help to make ends meet or to receive the food and medicine they need to survive.

We will not abandon them.  And we will continue to help not just out of obligation, but out of gratitude for the fact that we can help. We will do so with our whole heart, and we will be lifted up by this work as much as those who receive our help are lifted up.

Julie Platt is the Chair of the Board of Jewish Federations of North America
Eric Fingerhut is the CEO & President of Jewish Federations of North America

About the Author
Julie Platt is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America and immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and serves as Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Prior to serving as Board Chair at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Ms. Platt served as their General Campaign Chair, Chair of their Ensuring the Jewish Future Strategic Initiative, and Chair of the Federation’s Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy. She was honored with the Ruby Award for her commitment to leadership and community service, presented by Women’s Philanthropy. Ms. Platt’s lifelong connection with the Jewish community began at Camp Ramah in Ojai, and today she is a driving force behind shining a bright light on the transformative impact of a Jewish camp experience and raising funds for the field. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Platt serves on the Board of Trustees as well as Penn Hillel's National Board of Governors.
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