San Francisco - In San Francisco, a major Jewish philanthropic organization has fundraised $3.2 million, with more donations still coming, to provide emergency relief to Ukrainians staying in Ukraine, and those that are fleeing as refugees.
"One of the things our Federation does best is being able to respond to emergencies on behalf of the Jewish community in the Bay Area. We were able to mobilize immediately when the war in Ukraine started," Joy Sisisky, the interim CEO and chief philanthropy officer of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund said.
Sisisky traveled to Warsaw and the border of Poland and Ukraine last week with the Federation's board chair, Arthur Slepian, and the other Jewish community professionals from across the country to "both bring solidarity and support from the Bay Area Jewish community, and to bear witness to the atrocities taking place at the border," Sisisky said.
"The moment you step into Warsaw, you feel the energy of what's happening. The refugees, many who have landed in Poland, have changed the landscape," Sisisky said.
The Federation's longstanding partner that has teams on the ground in Poland is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, better known as the JDC. The JDC booth is one of the first things refugees see when they cross the border into Poland. They're offered emergency supplies, food, water, medicine, transportation, and housing, provided by JDC.
Sisisky came to Poland with bags full of donated toiletries, including feminine hygiene products, provided by Bay Area mothers in her friend group to distribute to refugees.
"This is a crisis that impacts women disproportionately," Sisisky noted, as able-bodied Ukrainian men ages 18-60 are required to stay in Ukraine and fight.
In the weeks since March 3, when Sisisky emailed her community contacts, launching the Federation's emergency relief fund for Ukraine, Bay Area residents have donated more than $2 million to the fund, which goes to supporting the JDC's humanitarian aid efforts.
Seven-year-old Gemma of San Francisco was one of the earliest donors, giving $9, her savings from her allowance. To date, more than 1,100 people have donated.
The largest single donation was $500,000 from the Alexander M. and June L. Maisin Foundation headquartered in San Francisco.
The Federation's donor-advised fund program has mobilized an additional $1.2 million.
The funds are already being put to use, sustaining home care services for elderly and home-bound residents in Ukraine, helping others evacuate to safety in neighboring countries, and providing emergency supplies to refugees.
"They need medical help, they need food, they need water," Sisisky said of the refugees she met. "Many of the folks we met traveled from Kyiv, and it took them five days to come."
Now back in San Francisco, Sisisky is prepared for a marathon, not a sprint when it comes to the humanitarian crisis unfolding across Eastern Europe. She says the Federation is laying the groundwork for long-term aid.
"Because so many people want to go back to their homes, there will be a long rebuilding effort for many years to come," Sisisky said. "And we'll be there to support the Jewish community and others in that effort."