A senior rabbi has called for urgent action in response to the “forgotten Jewish refugee crisis” in Ukraine.
Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism, said: “Thousands of Jews are internally displaced people, refugees, in Ukraine.
“Our community has led the way in responding to the refugee crisis in Europe, and now is the time to redouble our efforts for those fleeing conflict within Ukraine, including Jews. This is our forgotten refugee crisis.”
She called on the community to support World Jewish Relief, which is “leading the effort” to help Jews in the region.
Since the war with Russian separatists began in 2014, 1.8m people have been forced from their homes by the fighting in eastern Ukraine, including thousands of Jews from the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Rabbi Janner-Klausner comments came as she returned from a visit to Kiev where she heard eye-witness testimony from Jews who fled to the Ukrainian capital after their homes in the eastern part of the country were bombed out.
Jewish refugees told the rabbi how they were forced to leave with only the clothes they were wearing and few possessions.
As part of the trip she visited WJR programmes set up to support refugees to settle in their host city.
The charity provides counselling and training, helping IDPs (internally displaced persons) to secure new jobs in Kiev so they can continue to support their families.
Dan Rosenfield, WJR’s chair, said: “We thought the idea of a Jewish refugee crisis was a thing of the past.
“Meeting Jews in Kiev who have lost everything – their homes, their businesses and in some cases their family members – should serve as a wake-up call for our community.
“I am so proud of what our teams are achieving across Ukraine and in Kiev in particular – putting a roof over people’s heads, finding them jobs and helping them through their psychological trauma.
“These interventions cost relatively little but are transformational.”