Jewish communities providing humanitarian aid to refugees from Ukraine: Romania
Jewish communities bordering Ukraine have stepped up to help the refugees entering their countries. As of March 13th, an estimated 400,000 Ukrainian citizens entered Romania since the conflict began, according to Romanian border police, and thousands continue to come each day. Jewish groups mobilized immediately.
“If not us, then who?” Eduard Kupferberg, the Executive Director of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Romania said in a phone interview with the NOA Project. “This is our responsibility as Jews. It is our moral obligation… We have to help them. It’s not even a choice.”
Now, the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Romania has two welcome centers on the borders with Ukraine: One at Siret, which is the main border crossing, and one at Sighetu Marmatieti. All their efforts are made in partnership with JDC Romania (the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). The Jewish organizations have a welcome tent at each border point, open for all refugees regardless of ethnicity or religion. They are serving 2,000 hot meals per day, and volunteers are distributing clothing and blankets. They also have a 24/7 helpline available in English, Russian, and Hebrew.
The Federation of the Jewish Communities of Romania has carried out at least 30 transports from the border, either to other places of accommodation throughout Romania or to the airport. The skies are closed over Moldova, meaning that the refugees who crossed into Moldova from Ukraine then need to reach Romania before boarding planes to further destinations.
In addition, the Jewish Federation is currently taking care of approximately 2,000 Jewish refugees, providing accommodation, food, and medical care. “We have hundreds of calls every day, we are guiding them for everything that they need,” Kupferberg explains. “But we even do it with pleasure.”
Still, there are many logistical challenges. The border with Ukraine is a remote part of Romania. It can reach minus 10 degrees at night, and those working at the welcome tents often go 36 hours in a row without sleep. “It is a challenge for us because we are not a big community,” says Kupferberg. “And we are not a young community. But we are managing to do everything. A lot of people are involved. And they are doing their best.”
A NOA (Networks Overcoming Antisemitism) profile on Jews creating an inclusive Europe: www.noa-project.eu