HIAS Gives a Humanitarian Response in Ukraine

By Stephen E. Lipken



HIAS presented a Webinar, “The Humanitarian Response in Ukraine” on Wednesday, March 9th with Rebecca Kirzner, HIAS Senior Director, Grassroots Campaigns and introduced President and CEO Mark Hetfield and panelists Melanie Nezer, Senior Vice President, Global Public Affairs; Carrie Taneyhill, Director of Emergency and Humanitarian Programs and Ilan Cohn, Director, HIAS Europe.


“We have really deep roots in Ukraine,” Hetfield began. “HIAS started 120 years ago, specifically to help Jews who were fleeing persecution in Russia, including Ukraine.  HIAS has more clients from Ukraine than from any other country in the world.


“We opened an office in Kiev (Kyiv) to help Jews to leave Ukraine, after experiencing a lifetime of anti-Semitism and discrimination as Jews.  United Nations approached HIAS, saying that they had a population of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Iran and Iraq who got stuck in Ukraine while trying to flee to Europe.


“In 2014, Crimea was occupied by Russian Federation; shortly after that there were political waves of Republics in the East which displaced over 700,000 Ukrainians.  Once again, UN approached HIAS because they were one of few agencies in Ukraine with experience with displacement and asked us to please partner with them to make sure that those displaced would be able to get a place to live, collect their pensions and be treated fairly.”


“HIAS has released funding to Ukrainian partner Right to Protection (R2P) to relocate their headquarters—previously located in Kyiv—to Lviv, which is in Western Ukraine, further from  conflict.  From that office they can continue their work, supporting individuals displaced by the conflict and helping those fleeing Ukraine to obtain resources and documentation needed to cross the border,” Ayelet Parness, HIAS.org added.


Cohn stressed that Warsaw’s Jewish community has hotels to host refugees, including a crisis management group near the Nozyk Synagogue, the only Warsaw shul to survive World War II, noting that a sign “Chesed” (mercy, kindness) was posted at the border.