ICEJ Supports Aliyah Winter Camps for Ukrainian Jewish Youths

By: ICEJ Staff

The current major wave of Aliyah hitting Israel continues to roll into 2023. More than 73,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2022, the highest number since the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. The leading causes appear to be the direct and indirect results of the war in Ukraine. The ICEJ continues to help with this amazing ingathering in innovative ways, such as assisting with Aliyah winter camps for Ukrainian Jewish youth in the safety of nearby Baltic states.

Since the beginning of the Russia/Ukraine conflict in 2014, the ICEJ has sponsored flights, ground transportation, and Aliyah preparation activities, as well as immediate and urgent integration needs for thousands of Ukrainian Jewish Olim (immigrants) to Israel. Currently, we are helping to evacuate frail elderly Jews and assisting with youth Aliyah, especially for displaced families throughout the Former Soviet Union (FSU).

January 2023 started with the ICEJ supporting a wonderful, innovative Aliyah Winter Camp for young Ukrainian Jewish youths, ages 12–17, and Jewish children from the Baltic states. The atmosphere on the bus was cheerful as 54 youth from Ukraine, who had recently crossed the border into Poland and on to Riga, Latvia, joined 21 Ukrainian refugee children living in other East European countries and 45 Latvian Jewish children.

The kids were so excited to stay in a three-star resort hotel. Soon the conference rooms turned into buzzing hives of activity as the youngsters started making new friends, embracing their heritage, and learning all they could from Israeli counselors who taught them about making Aliyah and the opportunities awaiting them in Israel.

The Aliyah winter camp was called “Dacha,” the popular Russian name for a country home where people often go for a rest during their summer or winter breaks. The winter respite usually runs from New Year’s Eve to January 10, when people often say: “I am going to my dacha.

These Aliyah youth camps have been a huge success over the years, and this year was no different! Isaac, one camper from Lviv, expressed his opinion of the camp by showing a big “thumbs up” sign. Meanwhile, another youth from near Kyiv simply called it, “Super!”

“This is just one tangible example of the critical work for the Jews of Ukraine, made possible thanks to generous friends such as yourselves,” said Danielle Mor of the Jewish Agency, which organized the camp. “May [the year] 2023 be marked by such joy and hope.”

This is the second Aliyah youth camp the ICEJ has recently supported in the Baltic region. The first such “Dacha” camp was in Lithuania in September for more than 100 children.

Most of the 73,000-plus Jewish Olim who arrived in Israel in 2022 were from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. However, there also has been a noticeable increase from other former Soviet republics, such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The ICEJ is well positioned to assist with this upsurge from the Baltic states as we continue to work closely with regional Jewish Agency representatives. For instance, the ICEJ is helping with Aliyah flights, airport transfers, Aliyah preparation seminars, and trips to the Israeli consul for visas.

On December 18 the ICEJ supported a special Hanukkah Day in Riga, Latvia, and our first sponsored flight was on the December 19. The first family was brought from a coastal city to the airport by van with extra baggage for the direct flight to Israel.

The Jewish remnant in the FSU is concerned for their safety and future. They risk being conscripted for military service in Russia, while in Ukraine, men of draft age are restricted from leaving the country. This has led to the separation of family members, some of whom have gone to Israel; others have fled to East European countries. The ICEJ is helping in these situations with our integration programs and humanitarian help in the Diaspora.

We will continue to support Aliyah from the former Soviet republics. Our Aliyah work began in Vienna in 1980, and since then, we have helped more than 170,000 Jews come home to Israel—plus many more through the integration process.

Thank you for partnering with us in our Aliyah efforts to bring Jews back to their biblical homeland—the Land of Israel.

The Aliyah process costs around $1,000 per person which helps cover pre-Aliyah preparations, the actual flight, and integration needs. Your gift today will help change a life.