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A Jewish social service agency helped resettle young Ukrainians. Now the beneficiaries are giving back.

(New York Jewish Week) – On a sweltering July afternoon, 15 Ukrainian young adults gathered in a meeting room at the Jewish Community House in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. They toss a small ball to each other as an ice breaker — a way to indicate who should introduce themselves next. 

As the ball flies around the room, each volunteer shares the Ukrainian city or town they are from, how they found the program and what their volunteering assignment is. 

All of the participants left a country riven by war, were resettled in Brooklyn by the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst and are now giving back as part of the second cohort of a volunteer program entirely made up of Ukrainian refugees run by Repair the World Service Corps. 

The relationship between the two organizations is reciprocal: The Ukrainian young adults are learning from Repair the World how to best give their time and labor to nonprofits and social services like the JCH of Bensonhurst, a community center and social services agency that has been helping to resettle them for the last year. 

“This was a seamless integration of having an already-present population of young adults who are really interested in giving back to the community that’s helping them in their resettlement efforts by volunteering in different aspects in that community center,” said Michaela Slutsky, the Northeast regional director at Repair the World, who conceived the partnership six months ago. The national Jewish nonprofit mobilizes young Jewish adults for volunteering and community service.

Most of the participants so far are not Jewish — in fact, for those who lived outside Odessa or Kyiv, this is likely the first time they have interacted with Jewish institutions. But for volunteer Margaryta Monastyrska, a 21-year-old from Kyiv who is Jewish, it has been gratifying to see her peers learn about Jewish values.

“Nobody even asked me if I was Jewish or not,” Monastyrska told the New York Jewish Week through a translator. “They just helped me because they knew the situation in Ukraine. They helped me find a place to work and to find a community.” 

“It’s really important that [the other Ukrainians] I volunteer with understand that they are not at any organization, but a Jewish organization,” she added. “I want them to understand that Jews are not some close community which helps only other Jews, that the Jewish people help everyone from any part of the world.”

For the first session of the summer, the group introduced themselves and talked about the Jewish concept of tzedakah over pizza at the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, July 6, 2023. (Julia Gergely)

Yehor, 19, who also participated in the first cohort of Repair the World’s Ukrainian Services Corps from March to May, said the best part of the program has been “eating pizza,” which they have at the end of every learning session. On a more serious note, he also said he enjoyed “having conversations about volunteering.”

A refugee from Kherson, Yehor came to New York in November with his parents and little brother. After a few months, he and his family — who are not Jewish — got connected with the JCH through their refugee resettlement program. Yehor went to the teen services department to ask about applying to colleges, boosting his resume, English classes and a part-time job. He was directed to the newly formed Ukrainian service corps. 

It was teenagers like Yehor who helped inspire the partnership between Repair the World and the JCH. Since February 2022, when Russia launched its invasion in Ukraine, there has been an increasing number of Ukrainian young adults arriving at the JCH looking for jobs and career guidance. They also needed something to do and somewhere to meet other refugees who had been through the same experiences. 

Repair the World provides a stipend to members for 10 to 12 weeks. Participants are matched with a volunteering project in the community they live in and meet weekly to learn about community service and Jewish values.

Slutsky has a lifelong connection with the JCH: Her great-grandparents volunteered there when they left the Soviet Union some 50 years ago, and the family has been deeply involved ever since. Slutsky herself had worked as the program director of the teen services department at the JCH for many years. Although the JCH and Repair the World have worked together to organize standalone projects and volunteer days, this is their first long-term partnership. 

For the Ukrainian cohort, the Repair the World curriculum has been translated entirely into Ukrainian, and changes have been made to teach about Jewish values for those who may have never interacted with Jews before.

“There’s no way that our Repair staff would be capable of launching this cohort without working with JCH as a true partner,” Slutsky said. “JCH was a perfect fit because they get services here, they find community here, they find friends here. They feel integrated. The goal is when Repair walks away from running the cohort one day, these young adults will still have a place here in this community.”

Yehor’s first volunteering assignment was working in the JCH’s social services center, where he helped refugees like himself and others in need find jobs, attend career workshops and English classes, and get help resettling. This summer, he is working as a counselor at the Jewish Community House’s day camp, which enrolls 700 children. 

Around 100 of the campers are Ukrainian refugees, and to have counselors who speak their native language, as well as understand their fears and anxieties about being in a new place, has been “a really big deal, it really helps the kids adjust,” said Gelena Blishteyn, the chief operating officer at the JCH. “We have a child who spent a long time in a shelter and is afraid of enclosed spaces. To have somebody there who speaks Ukrainian and knows exactly what this child has been through and can adjust the programming is really important.” 

Some of the Ukrainian volunteers work in the JCH’s after-school program, where they are able to help out with the influx of Ukrainian-speaking children, while others work in senior centers and deliver meals to the elderly. Others work in the same social services department that initially helped them.

During the spring, the first cohort of volunteers planned a weekend excursion to the East Village to attend a Ukrainian Festival. (Courtesy Michaela Slutsky/Repair the World)

For the past 30 years, the JCH has been resettling Jews from the former Soviet Union and fostering a community of Russian-speaking Jews in Brooklyn. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they have resettled more than 7,000 refugees who have arrived in Brooklyn. And though the JCH works with anyone in New York — including the large Chinese population of Bensonhurst — many of their staff speak Russian or Ukrainian, as many of them are immigrants or first-generation Americans themselves. 

For now, the Ukrainian volunteers are bonding with each other and getting to know their new city. At the same time, they are being exposed to community service through a Jewish lens. In a session attended by the New York Jewish Week, they spent time talking about tzedakah and tikkun olam — charitable giving and social action. Yehor said learning about Judaism has been one of his favorite parts of the experience so far. 

“The main thing they try to accomplish is just get to know one another, form bonds and to create a community,” Blishteyn said. “Many of them come here completely alone. They don’t know anyone. So the most important part of this project, beyond professional success and financial aid, is to really get to form a community.”

Indeed, half of the first session service corps members applied to be a part of the second session. Yehor met his best friend in New York, Artem, a refugee from Kyiv, through the program — the two said they now see each other five or six times a week. Like other young New Yorkers, they hang out in Prospect Park, travel to Manhattan to see the sights and go to the beach together. Artem met his girlfriend, Diana, through the cohort as well — though they are only 19, they live together in an apartment in Flatbush because their families decided to travel back to Ukraine.

“When I arrived in New York, I had no friends in New York, so they helped me to find new friends, gave me the opportunity to make some money and let me try something new,” Yehor said. “I really love my job.”


The post A Jewish social service agency helped resettle young Ukrainians. Now the beneficiaries are giving back. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Nearly One in Five Young People Sympathize With Hamas, 29% Say US Should Reduce or End Alliance With Israel: Poll

Illustrative: Thousands of anti-Israel demonstrators from the Midwest gather in support of Palestinians and hold a rally and march through the Loop in Chicago on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo: Alexandra Buxbaum/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

A greater proportion of young Americans sympathize with the Palestinian people and government than with the Israeli people and government, while almost one in five sympathize with Hamas and a growing number want the US to end or reduce its alliance with the Jewish State, according to a new poll.

The national poll — released by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School — was of Americans aged 18-29. It found that while 52 percent of young people sympathize with Israelis, 56 percent sympathize with the Palestinian people.

The story remained the same when it came to governments: 32 percent of respondents said they sympathize with the Palestinian government, and only 29 percent said they sympathize with the Israeli government. The question did not make clear whether it was referring only to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, or both the PA and Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that rules Gaza.

According to the poll, 17 percent of young Americans said they support Hamas; however, when asked with the added context that Hamas is an “Islamist militant group,” support dropped to 13 percent.

Meanwhile, 29 percent said they believe the US should either no longer be an ally of Israel or reduce its allyship toward the Jewish state, and 32 percent said Israel’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre — when the terror group invaded southern Israel, murdered 1,200 people, and took more than 250 hostages — was not justified. For both of these questions, though, a plurality of respondents said they were unsure.

Notably, support for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza was strong among young people — with 51 percent supporting it and just 10 percent opposing it. Only 6 percent of Democrats said they do not support a permanent ceasefire.

The question did not distinguish between a permanent ceasefire on the condition of the release of the hostages versus an unconditional permanent ceasefire, which would allow Hamas to keep all of its captives.

The Harvard poll was consistent with others on the opinions of young people regarding Israel and its war with Hamas. Traditionally, support for Israel has been strong among the American people. However, a greater proportion of young people are now questioning that support — and, in some cases, explicitly siding with enemies of the United States and Israel, such as Hamas.

A Harvard-Harris poll from October found young people (ages 18-24) were split almost down the middle when asked, as a binary choice, whether they support Israel or Hamas in the war. Additionally, a majority of young people have said they believe Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack was justified on the basis of legitimate grievance. Another poll found 51 percent said that Israel should be “ended” as a country and “given to Hamas and the Palestinians.”

These extreme views have manifested as concrete action, with large pro-Hamas protests occurring on college campuses. Most recently, at Columbia University in New York, anti-Israel demonstrators set up an encampment in the middle of campus. Protests that accompanied it — some off campus — included chants of “Al-Qassam [Hamas], you make us proud, kill another soldier now!” and “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” Individuals also proclaimed, “We are all Hamas,” and one person yelled at two Jews, “Never forget the 7th of October. That will happen not one more time, not five more times, not 10…100…1000…10,000…The 7th of October is going to be every day for you.”

“Never forget the 7th of October. That will happen not one more time, not five more times, not 10…100…1000…10,000…The 7th of October is going to be every day for you.”

Protestors screamed this at two Jewish @Columbia students right outside campus gates tonight. pic.twitter.com/VYp0tFudGj

— Jonas Du (@jonasydu) April 19, 2024

The latest Harvard University poll was conducted from March 14-21 among 2,010 young Americans and has a margin of error of +/-3.02.

The post Nearly One in Five Young People Sympathize With Hamas, 29% Say US Should Reduce or End Alliance With Israel: Poll first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Police Stop Anti-Zionist Agitators From Accessing Florida University President’s Home as Students Revolt Nationwide

Illustrative: Pro-Hamas students rallying at Harvard University. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

An extremist anti-Zionist group on Thursday was prevented by local police from marching to the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential House at Florida International University (FIU), which is the home of school president Kenneth A. Jessell.

According to the campus newspaper Panther Now, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) planned the action as part of “Palestinian Prisoner Day,” an event held by the group to honor terrorists who are detained in Israel. As the demonstrators approached Jessell’s home, a blockade of police formed to obstruct their path.

Despite the aggression displayed in marching a mob to someone’s residence, the students complained that the police’s response was disproportionate to any threat they may have posed.

“Take a look over there. Do you know how many cop cars are there? All these cops for a bunch of students who are just chanting,” SJP co-president Zuhra Alchtar was quoted by Panther Now as saying when the police arrived on the scene. “The ivory tower gets so shaken when a bunch of people speak. They can’t stand it. They have to call the big guns; they have to call the priority response team.”

The demonstration came as anti-Zionist students across the US have been recently crossing the line from peaceful expressions of free speech to riotous behavior, flagrantly violating school rules, disrupting business, and even exposing Jewish students to racist and antisemitic rhetoric unlike any uttered publicly in the US since the 1950s.

Earlier this month, Vanderbilt University suspended and expelled several protesters who occupied an administrative building and proceeded to relieve themselves and perform other private functions inside. To infiltrate the building, the students “assaulted a Community Service Officer” and “pushed” officials who suggested having a discussion about their concerns, according to school officials.

At Columbia University, students were reportedly suspended — although it has recently been alleged that the university reduced their penalties to probation — for inviting to campus a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group that has committed airliner hijackings and mass shootings. This week, two days of protest convulsed the campus and resulted in the arrest and suspension from school of US Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) daughter.

In several documented cases, anti-Israel protesters resorted to verbally abusing Black officials with racial epithets and violated their personal space. The Vanderbilt protesters told a Black police officer that his racial identity demanded his being an accessory to their machinations, according to video of the scene, and at Pomona College earlier this month, the school’s president reported that protesters called a Black administrator a racial slur.

A similar incident took place at George Washington University when US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield visited the campus last week. An SJP spinoff, formed after the school’s chapter was suspended, distributed pamphlets describing the ambassador as a “puppet” and a “Black body” who is “used … to carry out repression and dissent.” After the event concluded, a protester approached GW dean Colette Coleman and clapped her hands in the official’s face.

Such incidents have occurred alongside an unprecedented surge in antisemitic incidents and extreme anti-Israel activity on US college campuses that have upended the lives of many Jewish students.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) new annual audit, there were 922 antisemitic incidents on college campuses in 2023, a “staggering” 321 percent increase from the previous year. Across the nation, 8,873 incidents added up to the most ever counted by the ADL since it began tracking such data in 1979. Most of the outrages occurred after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel and amid the ensuing war in Gaza.

In California, an elderly Jewish man was killed when an anti-Israel professor employed by a local community college allegedly pushed him during an argument. At Cornell University in upstate New York, a student threatened to rape and kill Jewish female students and “shoot up” the campus’ Hillel center. In a suburb outside Cleveland, Ohio, a group of vandals desecrated graves at a Jewish cemetery. At Harvard University, America’s oldest and, arguably, most prestigious university, a faculty group shared an antisemitic cartoon depicting a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David dangling two men of color from a noose.

Other outrages were expressive but subtle. In November, large numbers of people traveling to attend the “March for Israel” in Washington, DC either could not show up or were forced to scramble last second and final alternative transportation because numerous bus drivers allegedly refused to transport them there. Hundreds of American Jews from Detroit, for example, were left stranded at Dulles Airport, according to multiple reports. At Yale University, a campus newspaper came under fire for removing from a student’s column what it called “unsubstantiated claims” of Hamas raping Israeli women, marking a rare occasion in which the publication openly doubted reports of sexual assault.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Police Stop Anti-Zionist Agitators From Accessing Florida University President’s Home as Students Revolt Nationwide first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Ilhan Omar Silent After Daughter’s Arrest, Suspension for Role in Columbia University Anti-Israel Protest

Anti-Israel demonstrators clash with New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers during a protest on April 18, 2024. Photo: Reuters Connect

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of Israel’s most hostile critics in American politics, has remained silent about the arrest and suspension from school of her daughter following an eruptive anti-Israel protest which convulsed Columbia University in New York this week.

Omar’s daughter, Barnard College junior and sociology major Isra Hirsi, was one of over 100 protesters whom New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers took into custody for staging a riotous and unauthorized demonstration in which students, as well as non-students, declared solidarity with Hamas and called for the destruction of Israel. On Thursday, Hirsi announced that the school has suspended her for her role in the pandemonium.

Omar’s office did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment for this story, and the congresswoman has been silent on social media about the arrest and suspension.

Hirsi is a member of Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) — a spinoff of a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter that the university suspended for numerous violations of school rules — which recently invited a terrorist to campus.

“Those of us in Gaza Solidarity Encampment will not be intimidated. We will stand resolute until our demands are met. Our demands include divestment from companies complicit in genocide, transparency of Columbia’s investments, and FULL amnesty for all students facing oppression,” Hirsi, the only member of her family to comment publicly on the matter, said on X/Twitter. “I’m an organizer with CU Apartheid Divest at Columbia SJP, in my three years at Barnard College I have never been reprimanded or received disciplinary warnings. I just received notice that I am of 3 students suspended for standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide.”

Until this week, it was not widely known that Omar’s daughter was an active purveyor of falsehoods about Israel nor that she was a member of anti-Zionist groups that have been accused of antisemitic discrimination and harassment, including physically assaulting Jewish students and stealing missing persons posters of Israelis who were abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Responding to the news of Hirsi’s suspension, US Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) — a member of the so-called “Squad” of far-left lawmakers along with Omar and others — accused Columbia University of punishing the student as revenge for a brief exchange that Columbia President Minouche Shafik had with Omar on Wednesday during a congressional hearing about antisemitism on campus. Omar accused Shafik of suppressing “anti-war” protesters and denied that anyone at Columbia was targeting “Jewish people.”

“The day after Ilhan Omar questioned Columbia’s leadership commitment to free academic expression, the school suspended her daughter? It’s clear what is happening here,” Bowman said on X/Twitter. “Our educational institutions should not be in the business of political reprisals.”

Columbia University began exploding into a welter of anti-Israel protests on Wednesday while Shafik was in Washington, DC testifying before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce about antisemitism on the New York campus, where law enforcement had to be called to pacify the ongoing demonstrations on Thursday.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!” they shouted, words that reinforced the theme of Wednesday’s US congressional hearing: “Crisis at Columbia.”

On Thursday, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the education and workforce committee, said that restoring decorum at Columbia was imperative, both for the sake of the school’s credibility as well as for the welfare of Jewish students. Several news outlets reported on Thursday that a Jewish student was assaulted and told to commit suicide by a protester.

“For Columbia to correct course, the events of the past 36 hours must become a turning point,” Foxx said in a statement. “Columbia must take the bold and difficult actions necessary to address the pervasive antisemitism, support for terrorism, and contempt for the university’s rules that have been allowed to flourish on its campus. This includes real discipline that matches the severity of offenses by the students, faculty, and staff responsible, including suspension, expulsion, and termination.”

Foxx, who has been leading an investigation into antisemitism at Columbia, said the protest has “underscored” why the school drew the scrutiny of lawmakers.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Ilhan Omar Silent After Daughter’s Arrest, Suspension for Role in Columbia University Anti-Israel Protest first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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