The Jewish Agency opened a new center in Ukraine last week, meant to offer assistance to Jews who fled the eastern part of the country over the fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists.
The crisis in Ukraine and the sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks have prompted hundreds of the country’s Jews to seek ways to immigrate to Israel.
The Jewish Agency’s center, which includes a Hebrew-language course, has been set up in Dnipropetrovsk, southeast of Kiev, an area where many Ukrainian Jews have fled to.
“We hold Hebrew classes almost every day,” Jewish Agency envoy to Ukraine Max Loria said Wednesday. “The Jewish refugees learn to speak Hebrew and they also learn about Israel’s history and about the customs in Israel today, with the aim of preparing them for life in Israel.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who was born in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, said, “Growing up in Donetsk, no one could have ever imagined a war between Russia and Ukraine. Today, things have spun out of control and many Jews have become refugees. Our challenge now is to help them and to convince them that Israel is the best place for them.”
Last week, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski, the leader of Donetsk’s Jewish community, described the affects of fighting on the city as “a humanitarian crisis,” adding that the exodus of the city’s Jews was a “churban”—the Hebrew term for destruction. “We need everyone’s prayers,” he said.
Donetsk’s Jewish community once numbered 10,000 people, but it is believed that only about 1,000 Jews remain in the city. According to the U.N., some 2,600 people have been killed and more than 340,000 people have been displaced since the crisis in eastern Ukraine began in April. The area was once home to more than 25,000 Jews, but thousands have fled the region since the hostilities began.