March 29, 2022
We are living in a time of some of the worst humanitarian crises in history, with over 82 million people forcibly displaced from their homes and over 26 million refugees in the world, primarily from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. And now, the war in Ukraine is creating the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Every day, I see pictures of desperate Ukrainian refugees arriving at the borders with Poland and other neighboring countries. The fear and sadness on their faces is heartbreaking, as they are confronted with this war that is ravaging their country and has sown chaos in the lives of millions of families.
Crises of such world-shaking magnitude are a call to our hearts and as compelling a reminder as we should ever need to fulfill our Jewish commandment to welcome the stranger.
As you know, Federations across North America, including ours in Seattle, are working hard to raise funds for crisis response. Our international partners, including the Jewish Agency for Israel and American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, are providing critical services in Ukraine and in neighboring countries where millions of Ukrainian refugees have fled. Transportation to safety. Aliyah flights to Israel. Housing. Food. Clothing. Medicine. Personal hygiene supplies. Mental health support. Even wi-fi hotspots. And much more.
Your Federation is proudly administering the Seattle Jewish Community Ukraine Challenge, a community-wide collaboration that will match your donations dollar-for-dollar to meet the needs of Ukrainians overseas and refugees resettled in Washington State by Jewish Family Service (JFS). One hundred percent of your donation will be forwarded to our partners on the ground overseas and to JFS.
Federations and Jewish Community Relations Councils like ours in Seattle are complementing humanitarian support through advocacy. We have worked to secure additional funding for refugees and for public policies that are critical for U.S. resettlement of Ukrainians who have fled the war.
At the state level, our advocacy in Olympia was instrumental in securing approval of $28.4 million in this year’s legislative session for resettlement of refugees in Washington State, where thousands of Ukrainian refugees have begun new lives after arriving in the U.S., according to State Department figures.
At the federal level, Jewish communities successfully advocated for extending the “Lautenberg amendment,” ensuring that Jewish and other Ukrainians fleeing the war can find safety in the U.S. Extension of the amendment was included in the fiscal 2022 appropriations package that Congress approved earlier this month and President Joe Biden signed into law on March 15.
The extension was highly significant for the Jewish community. The amendment, named after its sponsor, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, was originally enacted in 1990 to facilitate resettling of Jews from the former Soviet Union. The amendment expires every year, however, and must be reauthorized by Congress. The most recent extension will expedite resettlement of Jewish and other Ukrainian refugees with family ties in the U.S. Following up, hundreds of Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and Federation’s JCRC, signed a letter to the Biden administration asking for swift processing of refugees who have applied for resettlement under the Lautenberg amendment. We were gratified to learn on March 24 that the U.S. has agreed to take in 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Our work responding to the Ukraine humanitarian crisis has only begun. Meeting the needs of innocent people uprooted by the brutal attack on their country, torn from their families, and facing deprivation is an obligation of our people and a test of our democracy. I have no doubt that we will do the right thing and live up to the tenets of lo ta’amod al dam rey’echa. We will not stand idly by.
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs