Devastated by what is happening in Ukraine, the reality in Hungary is that there is a lot to do.
As of March 14, more than 250,000 Ukrainians have made their way to Hungary; most refugees arriving are women, children, and seniors (many elderly are disabled), and most are showing up without extra pairs of clothes and basic necessities to get through each day. Ukrainian men are required to stay in Ukraine and fight—families are separated and completely broken, the reality for new Ukrainian refugees is terribly painful.
While the Hungarian government has made steps to help Ukrainian refugees, the real work is being done by NGOs and civilians. Each day, hundreds of people are putting their day jobs to the side and volunteering: Rushing to the railway stations to help with travel coordination and accommodation, hosting refugees in their own homes, and doing anything and everything they can to help.
NGOs are experiencing massive pressure. And, of course, it was never a question for the JCC in Budapest to do its part. Since the war started, the JCC Budapest team has been working around the clock to help its Ukrainian friends.
Here is a summary of what
the JCC has done so far.
The JCC has initiated cooperation between Jewish organizations that are active in Hungary. The goal is to organize and coordinate the efforts of the Jewish community, to make it more efficient, which has resulted in the cooperation of more than 50 organizations to help its Ukrainian Chaverim. This coalition is led by the JCC and includes JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee), MAZSIHISZ (The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities), the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the WJC (World Jewish Congress).
Results of the cooperation so far include:
• Helping refugees at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border travel to Budapest or another country of their choice.
• After arriving in Budapest, the refugees are provided with accommodation in hotels, community shelters, or in the homes of community members.
• Information desks were established throughout the city, at the hubs where refugees are most likely to arrive in large numbers.
• A network of almost 100 volunteers, some of whom are brand new volunteers and some who have been helping in various programs or partner organizations.
• A website was created—jewsforukraine.hu—to organize information for refugees and provide opportunities for the people who want to offer help.
Besides initiating a broader coalition, the JCC’s most significant role is in coordinating and managing the cross-organizational volunteer network of the community, including channeling in all the smaller NGOs and private individuals, creating a central resource database of the entire community and serving as a drop-off point for multiple organizations collecting donations.
MAZSIHISZ and the JCC Budapest also jointly organized an event “Prayers and Songs” a charity concert for Ukraine and all those suffering. All benefits will be spent on aid for these Ukrainian friends.
What is happening within the JCC?
As housing refugees is getting harder each day, the JCC has been transformed to temporarily house refugees free of charge.
The JCC also provides help to several partner organizations collecting donations; serving as a drop-off point and helping promote their efforts to reach a wider audience. Three ongoing campaigns are:
• Adománytaxi (DonationTaxi) collects necessary items and ships them to Transcarpathia.
• Hashomer Hatzair collects donations for people who decided or had to stay in Ukraine. They send weekly transports with donations to sealed-off cities in Ukraine.
• A community member, Nelli Teszter collects donations for the Ukrainian Jewish families in Budapest. The families can come into the JCC building and collect any items they need.
The JCC also hosted a program for its local community, “Thoughts about the Ukrainian Crisis”—an educational lecture by Ungváry Krtisztián (member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) to better understand the current situation.
United Jewish Federation of Tidewater supports the JCC Budapest.
This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign.