CEO April 2014 Update

Samuel H. Asher CEO

We are our brother’s keeper’

Nathan Shor, president of the JCFR, has often been quoted as saying, “We are our brother’s keeper.” 

So, it is no surprise that the JCFR opened a JFNA mailbox to collect funds for the Ukrainian Assistance effort. On March 10, the JCFR Executive Committee committed $10,000 for the Assistance Effort to respond to the needs facing the Ukrainian Jewish community.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), an agency that receives funding from The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, is taking aggressive action.

In response to food shortages, metro service suspension and a growing sense of fear among Jewish elderly, JDC activated its emergency network in the Ukraine on March 6. This effort is focused on vulnerable elderly Jews and will allow emergency mobile units to deliver food, medicine and other necessities.

JDC also is providing daily and overnight home-care services. Ukraine stands as the third largest Jewish community in Europe (300,000 Jews), and the fifth largest in the world. JDC has been working to support Ukraine’s poorest Jews and revitalize Jewish life since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Mark Sisisky, JDC Executive Committee member and chair of its FSU Committee, sent the following report from JDC staff in the Crimea. This is particularly important as the Crimea voted to secede from the Ukraine in a recent election.

“Transportation is disrupted or difficult, the banking system is unstable, and the prices of necessities like food and gas have sharply increased – JDC’s Hesed social welfare center has continued caring for the most vulnerable among the community’s 9,000 Jews.”

Here are excerpts from the report:

In all the locations of Crimea the situation is rather tense. Roads remain blocked. Trains run irregularly; Ukrainian airlines do not fly to Simferopol.

The majority of the Ukrainian military bases continue to be occupied by Russian military.

In Kherson, pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian groups gather in various central locations of the city; on March 13 – when Kherson celebrated the anniversary of its liberation from the Nazis – anti-Semitic leaflets spread around the city.

In Donetsk, during violent fights between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian supporters, at least two people were killed, and more than 50 were wounded.

The former head of the Kharkov Administration M. Dobkin and Kharkov Mayor G. Kernes were called to the General Prosecutor’s Office and both were placed under house arrest. They claim all accusations are a matter of settling political scores.

During a demonstration in Kharkov to support Kernes, about 10,000 people expressed their support for the mayor in the central square. The Ukrainian government stopped broadcasting the main Russian channels on Ukrainian TV and most TV-providers have already done so.

Banks and finances

The banking systems are working but with some limits. In the country, except the Crimean peninsula, there are no lines at ATM machines. In Crimea, ATM machines allow cash withdrawal of a maximum 300 UAH. Privat Bank is not allowing their customers to withdraw savings and credit accounts.

Food and medications

Ukrainian pharmacies and supermarkets are at-risk of closing in the Crimea due to the danger of losing control over their businesses. Most grocery stores and supermarkets have enough food products in stock though the choice of imported goods is worsening.

Most pharmacies have a regular stock of Ukraine-produced medications but the prices for them are increasing steadily. The choice of imported medications is shrinking. This influences our clients’ ability to choose the necessary medications.

Heseds report increases in requests for medications and hospitalization for heart issues. Costs of gas increased dramatically in Crimea by 20-30%. Fortunately, Heseds bought in advance vouchers that can be enough for another quarter if the petrol chain continues to exist and will have supplies.

Heseds and clients

In the Crimea, Heseds tend to receive more calls from the clients who are very anxious. Hesed staff members keep on providing psychological support by telephone and at regular visits to try and ease the stress that clients are now in. The uncertainty of the future of this territory and the personal results it might bring is the main reason for this stress.

The Heseds teams in Crimea are working in full capacity. All workers are highly devoted to their work regardless of being Jewish, Tatar, Ukrainian or Russian. It is very clear that the team is under a very serious stress.

Citizens of Crimea have started to arrive in Kiev and other regions of central & western Ukraine. 265 Crimean families are expected to arrive in the Rovno region in the nearest days. People have begun to create lists of volunteers ready to host people from Crimea at their apartments.

JCFR will keep you posted as more information becomes available.  To donate to help our fellow Jews in the Ukraine, please visit and contribute to the Ukrainian Assistance Fund.

Please remember, “We are our brother’s keeper.”

As always, call (804) 545-8622 – or write me, email me at  or text me and let me know if you are interested in joining us.


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