THE Sydney Jewish community has come together to support Ukrainian refugees arriving in the country, with the formation of the Jewish Ukrainian Support Group.
JewishCare, together with Rabbi Mendel Kastel from Jewish House, Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (FREE)’s Rabbi Eli Schlanger, Sabina Kovadlo from COA Sydney and communal member Kevin Kalinko, sat down to work out how to better coordinate the response to the crisis.
Currently a small number of Ukrainian Jewish families are fleeing the conflict and need local support, but those numbers could increase if the Australian government approves more temporary humanitarian visas. Those would allow Ukrainians to remain in the country for up to three years.
The support is felt as soon as the refugees arrive in Australia, with a group of individuals waiting at the airport to personally greet them and help them settle in. Accommodation is being provided through communal members and Jewish House, while COA are organising meals. JewishCare is providing Coles and Woolworths vouchers, in addition to cash, and also arranging English lessons.
Rabbi Kastel is engaging with an immigration lawyer to assist with visa issues and ensure the new arrivals benefit from all the support services on offer.
Rabbi Yehoram Ulman of FREE said the outpouring of generosity by the community “has been remarkable”.
“It’s simply inspirational. We are blessed to be able to assist in some way to our brethren in times of war,” he said.
Rabbi Schlanger said he has been humbled by the generosity of the community and said he has a room full of brand new donations and supplies for those in desperate need.
“Coming together to assist fellow Jews is essential to the preservation of our nation and makes Hashem proud to call us his people,” he told The AJN.
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent us to Sydney over 30 years ago to be here for the Jewish community that were fleeing the Soviet Union. It’s incumbent upon us to be ready for any refugee fleeing war-torn Ukraine and service them with anything they can possibly need.”
JewishCare CEO Gary Groves said the current crisis is a poignant reminder of the role the Jewish community has played in the past.
“It is very rewarding to be part of this partnership in which the Jewish community is working together to benefit Ukrainian arrivals who have, in most instances, arrived with nothing more than a suitcase,” he said.
“It is a poignant reminder of the role JewishCare played in helping thousands of refugees from post-war Europe to settle in Australia.”