Jewish Student Union reaching out to Ukrainian refugees


Jewish Ukrainian refugees arrive at a Berlin shelter.

Ukraine, under attack by Russia, continues to seek help from its neighboring allies. One such ally can be found in Germany, a non profit organization called Lauder Yeshurun, a division of the internationally renowned Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.

The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation works to strengthen Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. Based in Berlin, Lauder instills their strong and powerful objectives through a network of educational institutions and initiatives throughout Germany. The Community’s mission is to educate and motivate Jewish teenagers to engage in Jewish heritage and become proactive individuals of their Jewish community. As its closest, fully functioning Jewish community other than Moscow, the Berlin Jewish community is at the forefront in supporting those of Ukrainian Jewish descent. 

Lauder Yeshurun is not well known for assisting refugees; however, as leaders of such Jewish communities, the community leaders of Lauder Yeshurun felt it was imperative to take the initiative and assist in managing the massive influx of Jewish Ukrainian refugees into Germany during a time of need. 

These Ukrainian Jews are filling German schools, joining their synagogues all while showing up with no money and no home. Because of this, Jewish activists of the Lauder Yeshurun have created a fund to provide these Jewish Ukrainian refugees with money to pay for their basic living expenses. Lauder Yeshurun has the virtue of the fact that they are the backbone of the Jewish Community, supporting the Jewish population in East Berlin. 

Lauder Yeshurun is providing these refugees with money instead of housing, food, clothes and other essential items because it believes in making the refugees feel as independent as possible. Giving them money to buy groceries helps them feel as if they are living their own life. Giving them money to pay for a hotel or for rent helps them feel like they are part of their new Jewish community. 

Josh Monk, Olympic Heights Jewish Student Union’s (JSU) southern leadership coordinator and southern JSU director of teen leadership programming, went to Berlin this past month to be a guest speaker at the J Academy for students who are taking a gap year. He found Lauder Yeshurun to be inspiring. 

While in Berlin, Monk saw what was going on and wanted to help, so he decided to further work with this organization and help expand it. “When donating, people usually want to feel a connection to what they are giving which is why they want to send canned goods, clothes and other items, but the people who are experiencing trauma don’t necessarily want to experience a connection. They want to obtain what they need as quickly as possible,”  Monk explains.

Monk realized the difference the Lauder Yeshurun Organization was making in these refugees’ lives and brought the idea back to the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCYS). “I am proud to be helping an organization that is supporting refugees and feel lucky to help change the future of the Jewish community,” Monk said. 

Monk also notes that “Lauder Yeshurun will continue to organize the donations and are waiting for the German government assistance to step in.” He continues to elaborate how this idea is very new because this war is very new, and this organization needs time to expand and grow from what it is. But with time, and the support of NCYS, the mission to inspire the Jewish future and the entire Jewish community, helping the Jewish Ukrainian refugees will be done on a wider scale and more efficiently.