While thousands of Ukrainian Jews have fled the country, most of the 200,000 strong Jewish community is still sheltering within its borders.
Because our partner agencies, the Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, and World ORT, have been working steadily in Ukraine for generations – we’ve been able to be on the ground responding to emergency needs from day one of the conflict.
Already, an estimated 10 million people have been displaced, making this the largest number of displaced people in Europe since WWII.
The needs are many and urgent. For all those streaming over Ukraine’s borders, they include food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies, safe passage, and help to make aliyah or to resettle in another safe haven.
All those staying behind are also in dire need of your aid. For the tens of thousands of homebound elderly, many of whom are Holocaust survivors and those living with disabilities, humanitarian supplies, medicines, and ensuring regular contact are necessary to survive.
Providing support to tens of thousands of homebound elderly, many of whom are Holocaust survivors, and the disabled to survive, through the provision of humanitarian supplies, medicines, and ensuring regular contact. Special assistance is being provided to women and children, who are especially vulnerable at this time. We are also helping the Ukrainian health system and NGOs in the country to deal with a population that is suffering from severe psychological trauma.
Safely transporting Ukrainian Jews from within the war zone has become a major challenge, with humanitarian corridors open only for short periods, public transport limited and gas not always available. We are supporting hotlines to coordinate the movement of refugees; bus services; temporary housing within Ukraine; and food and other emergency supplies for the harrowing journey.
Many thousands of Jewish refugees and millions of non-Jews have fled Ukraine and crossed into Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. We are supporting temporary housing, humanitarian support, psychological support and respite activities for Jewish refugees, many of whom are choosing to remain in the surrounding countries in the hope that they will be able to return to their homes, or be reunited with draft age (18-60) male relatives who are currently unable to leave.
The Jewish Agency has already received almost 10,000 Aliyah applications, with the numbers expected to continue rising. JFNA is supporting the efforts to bring to Israel those who are eligible for Aliyah as quickly as possible and to facilitate their effective absorption (klitah) in Israel.
How many Ukrainian refugees are expected to arrive in the US?
On March 24th, the Biden Administration announced that the United States will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Then, on April 25th, the Administration launched the Uniting for Ukraine program to help Ukrainians who want to come to the U.S. do so through an expedited process. The program allows U.S. residents who want to resettle a displaced Ukrainian in the U.S. apply to become sponsors. The U.S. reviews applications on a case-by-case basis. Refugees will come from a diversity of faiths, ages, and backgrounds and resettle all over the country. At least 24,000 refugees are also expected to arrive through the Lautenberg program, which allows members of historically persecuted religious groups in Eastern Europe, including Jews, to apply to seek refuge in the United States.
Who are the Ukrainians coming to our community? Will they be Jewish?
Ukrainians arriving to the U.S. will have different religious identities, including Orthodox Christian, Catholic, and Jewish. Since many Ukrainians arriving may have family members in the U.S., it is reasonable to expect they will mostly, though not exclusively, resettle in cities with major Ukrainian American populations. The 10 metro areas with the largest populations of Ukrainian Americans are: New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Seattle, Sacramento, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Portland, and Cleveland. Ukrainians arriving through both the United for Ukraine and Lautenberg program processes are vetted by the U.S. government using biometric and biographical screening methods.
The Jewish community was proud to resettle Jews from the Former Soviet Union. Are there any important differences between this wave of refugees and that initiative?
While there are many differences between the resettlement effort for Soviet Jewry then and for Ukrainians today, there are a few worth highlighting. First, as families have been split apart in the fighting, many displaced Ukrainians are eager to reunify and have expressed interest in staying in Europe rather than immigrating to the United States. Additionally, whereas over 400,000 Jews came to the U.S. following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is likely that Ukrainian Jews will comprise just a small fraction of the 100,000 displaced Ukrainians who will arrive in the United States.
Who are the Ukrainians who need help?
Prior to the Russian invasion, 60,000 Ukrainians were already in the United States. Due to the advocacy efforts of Jewish Federations and hundreds of other organizations, they are eligible to remain under Temporary Protected Status. There are also 20,000 Ukrainians who came to the U.S. through the southern border, and up to 100,000 more who will arrive through the Uniting for Ukraine program. An additional 24,000 Ukrainians have applied to the Lautenberg program. Many of these Ukrainians will need help and support. Lastly, it is also important to remember that Ukrainians who have fled the crisis or who are fighting in the crisis may have family members in the United States who may need additional services and support. If you are a Russian and/or Ukrainian speaker interested in volunteering in support of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, please complete this application. If you are interested in virtual volunteer opportunities, please fill out this application to be considered for future virtual placements. Fluency in Russian and/or Ukrainian is not a requirement for virtual volunteer applicants.
What do Ukrainian refugees need in the short term? In the long term?
Ukrainians in the United States have many needs housing, cash assistance, help with filing legal paperwork, enrolling children in school, accessing government benefits, psychological counseling, and more. Alongside partner organizations, Jewish Federations are working to mobilize Federations and Jewish human service agencies in target communities with the highest populations of displaced Ukrainians to ensure that they can access the services and resources they need to resettle successfully.
Community members can help support the needs of Ukrainian newcomers and Ukrainians already in the U.S. in two main ways. If you are located in a target community and want to volunteer in-person, you may consider joining a Volunteer Circle. A Volunteer Circle is a group of private citizens who have come together to support a Ukrainian newcomer by dividing the responsibilities of resettlement. If you are interested in sponsoring a Ukrainian refugee or joining a volunteer circle, please click here. .
Additionally, if you are a Russian and/or Ukrainian speaker interested in volunteering in support of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, please complete this application. If you are interested in virtual volunteer opportunities, please fill out this application to be considered for future virtual placements. Fluency in Russian and/or Ukrainian is not a requirement for virtual volunteer applicants.
In the longer term, Ukrainians who are looking to remain in the United States beyond 2 years may need legal assistance filing for status adjustments. Additionally, like for any newcomer, finding community will remain a long-term need as displaced Ukrainians adjust to life in a new place.
When will Ukrainian refugees arrive in the U.S., and what are Federation communities doing to prepare?
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, over 80,000 Ukrainians have sought refuge in the United States through a variety of pathways. These include 60,000 Ukrainians who were in the United States prior to the Russian invasion, 20,000 Ukrainians who came across the southern border, and approximately 7,000 Ukrainians who have arrived through the Uniting for Ukraine program. Tens of thousands more Ukrainians will begin arriving in the coming weeks and months.
The Federation system has already been actively mobilizing to support newcomers, including by helping them reunite with family members across the country, identifying housing, providing cash assistance, and helping to file legal paperwork. To further prepare, Federations can connect with their local Ukrainian churches and local refugee resettlement agency to better understand the needs of those who may be arriving in their community.
If I'm not interested in sponsoring a Ukrainian, are there other ways I can help?
Resettling newcomers takes a village, and volunteers are an essential pillar of support. There are two main ways to sign up to volunteer. The first is by joining a Volunteer Circle, which is a group of private citizens charged with helping to resettle Ukrainian newcomers. Volunteer Circle members divide the day-to-day, in-person tasks of resettlement to ensure success. These could include opportunities like driving newcomers to appointments, helping them navigate public transit, introducing them to community members, setting up a bank account, file legal paperwork, or other activities. To join or learn more about Volunteer Circles, click here.
The second is by signing up to volunteer remotely. If you are a Russian and/or Ukrainian speaker interested in volunteering in support of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, please complete this application. If you are interested in virtual volunteer opportunities, please fill out this application to be considered for future virtual placements. Fluency in Russian and/or Ukrainian is not a requirement for virtual volunteer applicants. One of the most critical factors to newcomers’ success is feeling a sense of belonging and inclusion in their new community, so no act of welcome is too small.
Can community volunteers help find housing for a displaced Ukrainian family?
Yes. Sponsors are responsible for finding housing for Ukrainian beneficiaries, so many will likely be searching for available units. Community volunteers can play a crucial role in connecting Ukrainian beneficiaries to vacant housing. Those who are interested in opening up their home(s) can register on the Ukraine Take Shelter website or through airbnb.org, the non-profit arm of the company. If you own a vacant property and you feel comfortable leasing to Ukrainian refugees, please contact your local Jewish Family Service agency or local refugee resettlement agency to let them know.
Once Ukrainians arrive in the U.S., what can Federations do to help?
There are three ways that Federations and those in the Federation network can help. First is through philanthropic giving. Second is by registering to volunteer remotely. If you are a Russian and/or Ukrainian speaker interested in volunteering in support of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, please complete this application. If you are interested in virtual volunteer opportunities, please fill out this application to be considered for future virtual placements. Fluency in Russian and/or Ukrainian is not a requirement for virtual volunteer applicants. Virtual volunteering opportunities could include: accepting calls from people within Ukraine who require assistance; phoning members of the Ukrainian Jewish community; giving online lectures, classes, and seminars; mental health support; or other. Third is by sponsoring a Ukrainian newcomer through a Volunteer Circle, a group of private citizens who come together to divide the responsibilities of resettling a refugee amongst themselves. These in-person, day-to-day opportunities could include driving newcomers to and from appointments, helping them navigate the city, create a budget, or integrate into their new community. To sign up to join a Volunteer Circle, click here.
What is a Volunteer Circle? How can I join?
A Volunteer Circle is a group of private citizens charged with helping to resettle Ukrainian newcomers. Volunteer Circle members divide the day-to-day, in-person tasks of resettlement to ensure success. These could include opportunities like driving newcomers to appointments, helping them navigate public transit, introducing them to community members, setting up a bank account, file legal paperwork, or other activities. To join or learn more about Volunteer Circles, click here.
What is the process for sponsoring a Ukrainian refugee or family?
Those interested in applying to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee through the Uniting for Ukraine program must file a Form I-134 here. You must provide the following information in the application: the name of the Ukrainian you intend to sponsor; information about your income and assets; information about the income and assets of the Ukrainian; and the length of time the Ukrainian intends to stay in the U.S. The form helps demonstrate to the federal government that you can financially support a Ukrainian for the duration of their stay in the U.S., up to two years. Once you file the form, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will vet the application to protect against exploitation and abuse. If approved, you will be notified in writing. Currently, applications are taking 1-2 weeks to process. You can apply to sponsor more than one Ukrainian; however, you must fill out one Form I-134 for each Ukrainian refugee you wish to sponsor. Groups and organizations can also apply to collectively sponsor a Ukrainian, however one individual must be listed as the primary sponsor on Form I-134. Groups or organizations then must provide additional supporting materials demonstrating the identity of additional sponsors, financial resources, and a statement explaining the intent to share responsibility. To get help getting matched to a Ukrainian in need,click here.
Can I help bring a Ukrainian relative to the U.S.? How about a stranger?
Yes. There are multiple pathways to help a displaced Ukrainian (family or otherwise) come to the United States. On April 25th, the Biden Administration launched the Uniting for Ukraine program, which allows people to apply to sponsor Ukrainians, whether they are relatives or not. The Uniting for Ukraine program is the fastest way to bring a Ukrainian to the United States. Sponsors are financially liable for the beneficiary Ukrainian for up to two years. To sponsor a Ukrainian through the Uniting for Ukraine program, you must provide the name of the Ukrainian you intend to sponsor in the application, as well as information about your income and assets, information about the income and assets of the Ukrainian, and the length of time the Ukrainian intends to stay in the U.S. To file an application to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee, click here. To get help getting matched to a Ukrainian in need, click here. Additionally, If you have a Ukrainian relative who wants to resettle in the U.S., he or she may be eligible to come through the Lautenberg program, which was designed for members of historically persecuted religious minority groups like Jews and some Christian denominations. Currently, the Lautenberg program is severely backlogged and Jewish Federations are advocating for measures to help address it. Lautenberg applications must be filed by local refugee resettlement agencies. To contact your local resettlement agency to file a Lautenberg application on behalf of a relative, click here to find your nearest agency.
Can groups or organizations apply together to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee through the Uniting for Ukraine program?
Yes. In instances where a group of multiple sponsors wants to support a refugee, one person must file Form I-134 as a primary sponsor, even if that person is filling out the form on behalf of a group or organization. Then, that individual can attach supplementary documents with information on the other sponsors. This information should include: identity verification documents, financial records, and a statement explaining the intent to share responsibility with the group. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which vets applications, will assess these materials collectively.
The process is similar for organizations who also wish to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee. One individual must file Form I-134 as a primary sponsor and then attach additional materials indicating how sponsoring organizations are going to support the Ukrainian beneficiary. This collective data will also be taken into account by the U.S. Government when considering the application.
What if I want to sponsor a Jewish refugee?
So much of the American Jewish story, including the personal stories of so many American Jewish families, is rooted in Jewish refugees fleeing Eastern Europe. In today’s Ukraine crisis, Ukrainians arriving to the U.S. will have many different religious identities, and Jewish Ukrainians are expected to comprise just a small portion of the overall group. Federation-supported Jewish family service agencies support all clients, regardless of faith. For Jewish Ukrainians who do want to resettle in the U.S., sponsors are responsible for identifying them through NGOs or word-of-mouth and providing their names on the Uniting for Ukraine application. Jewish Federations are working with international aid and resettlement organizations to implement a matching system for U.S.-based sponsors and may be able to provide matches for Jewish families. We will share more details soon, but reach out to your local Federation to express interest. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
What is the Lautenberg Program, and how is that process different?
The Lautenberg Program exists to help members of historically persecuted religious minority groups in Eastern Europe seek refuge in the United States, including Jews and some Christian denominations. Refugees who come through the Lautenberg Program have access to full benefits and a pathway to permanent residency. Importantly, they also have work permits from the moment they arrive, whereas those coming through the Uniting for Ukraine program must apply and wait for their work permits. The Uniting for Ukraine program also provides greater resources to process Lautenberg program applications overseas. This will, in theory, expedite the process and help clear the backlog of about 24,000 applications. To see if you may be eligible to file a Lautenberg application to help a family member come to the U.S., please contact your local resettlement agency.
What kind of benefits will Ukrainian refugees be eligible for?
The benefits available to Ukrainians depends on the pathway through which they arrive and the state in which they settle. Recently, an act of Congress supported by Jewish Federations extended certain federal benefits to Ukrainians through the Uniting for Ukraine program. These include Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, SSI, job training, and English language programs. Ukrainians will also be able to attend public school and register for health care through the exchanges. Ukrainians coming through the Uniting for Ukraine program are not eligible to begin working immediately. Instead, they must file for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), otherwise known as work permits. Sponsors should be aware that the current work permit backlog means refugees may not receive work permits for 6-12 months. Ukrainian refugees coming through the Lautenberg Program will have access to full benefits, an immediate work permit, and a pathway to permanent residency.
What must sponsors provide for Ukrainian refugees?
- Sponsorship through the Uniting for Ukraine program means you are financially responsible for a Ukrainian refugee for the duration of their stay in the country, up to two years. Ukrainian beneficiaries will have a variety of needs, and sponsors and their wraparound support networks are responsible for meeting them. These include finding a home, getting a job, enrolling kids in school, enrolling in benefits programs, legal assistance including status adjustments, and integrating Ukrainians into the communities where they resettle. Sponsors could have access to wraparound support, including through Volunteer Circles, Jewish family service agencies, local refugee resettlement agencies, and other community volunteers.