As millions of displaced Ukrainians head to the borders of Poland for safety, JCC Krakow is there to help them. A long-time partner agency of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and the largest local Jewish organization in Poland, JCC Krakow has increased its capacity to meet the overwhelming need created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To have a Jewish agency welcoming Ukrainian refugees – both Jew and non-Jew – is a watershed moment in Poland’s history. Once the site of wartime atrocities against the Jews, Poland had the highest number of concentration camps during WWII.

The attempted annihilation of a people was once met with blind eyes, but times and hearts have changed dramatically.

How JCC Krakow is aiding Ukrainians caught in the crossfire

JCC Krakow Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein reported to Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County that, as of early March, his agency has transformed into a key provider of emergency services, a strategic partner, and a convener, having already helped – directly and via its partners – more than 5,000 Ukrainians.

“We have completely mobilized our JCC and turned our building into a collection/distribution/information point, open seven days a week, for food, medicine, hygiene supplies, toys, and clothing,” he said. “Refugees are coming in and being helped by JCC Krakow Ukrainian speakers and are able to take whatever they need and are provided with social services. Over 2,000 Ukrainians have received supplies in our building.”

JCC Krakow is also sending tons of supplies to other places in Krakow, to the border and inside Ukraine.

“We are currently directly housing and feeding approximately 170 Ukrainians, Jews and non-Jews in hotel rooms and apartments in Krakow, (which) we have secured for that purpose. This number is growing all the time. We are keeping in touch with all of them and providing them with support,” he said.

YouTube interview with Holocaust Museum LA (March 11, 2022; 45 minutes) Jonathan discusses the situation on the ground in Poland. Hear from Jonathan Ornstein, Executive Director of JCC Krakow, live and on the ground.

JCC Krakow addresses growing needs, as the war continues

JCC Krakow has also:

  • outfitted and opened a mother-and-child safe space with a local partner to provide day care for young children, Polish and English classes, psychological counseling, and job training for mothers in a warm, cozy environment.
  • partnered with four local NGOs to run and equip one of the major information points for Ukrainians coming to Krakow. Staffed by Ukrainian speakers, it also houses 100 refugees on-site providing food for all the residents.
  • financially supported an organization that brings supplies to the border and into Lviv for distribution all over Ukraine, and brings people to Poland.
  • partnered to purchase and erect tents on the Ukrainian side of the border, where those waiting to cross, often for two or three days, receive warm food, medical care and a heated place to wait.
  • opened Frajda, our Jewish preschool, to Ukrainians coming to Krakow and currently have two little girls enrolled.
  • organized and paid for transportation for over 100 Ukrainians to cities across Europe and to Israel, including a bus for 45 children with autism going to Vienna.
  • hired 10 new full time staff members, including four Ukrainians, to increase capacity.
  • purchased truckloads of medical supplies and are sending them, via a local partner to Lviv, where they are sent onward.