Two families, the Raices and the Levinsons, who serve as shluchim in Kharkov, Ukraine, the second biggest city in the country after Kyiv, arrived safely at JFK Airport Sunday night to a large and joyous welcome: filled music, dancing, and tears.

Among the group of 30 well-wishers were family members, a busload of bochurim, and many high-ranking NYC Jewish officials, such as Fred Kreizman, the commissioner of the Mayor Adams’ Community Affairs Unit, Joel Eisdorfer, a senior advisor to the mayor, and Inspector Richie Taylor, who is the highest ranking police officer to wear a kipa.

"It was a beautiful scene to be part of," Inspector Taylor told BoroPark24. "We saw that no matter how dark the world can get, we can be a source of light to each other."

Rabbi Yaacov Behrman of Operation Survival and Rabbi Lazer Avtzon of the Association of Crown Heights Shuls also joined in the celebratory welcome at JFK Airport.

Rabbi Yossi Rapp of Chabad of the Airport helped the Raice and Levinson families to pass quickly through border security and into the arms of loved ones who played music and danced as they were reunited upon the families’ escape from a war-torn country, Crown Heights Info reported.

Rabbi Levi Raices, who originally hails from Brooklyn, has served the Jewish community, along with his wife and 10 children in Kharkov since Chanukah 1993.

“We experienced just plain fear, but mostly we were focused on helping other people get over their fear because people are scared, and they come to us,” Rabbi Raices said on TorahCafe before Russia invaded Ukraine, but the threat hung in the air. “We help Jews to live as Yidden in whatever ways we can.”

Last night, when he and his family arrived, Rabbi Raices briefly spoke to the crowd that had assembled, he thanked everyone for their tefillos, however, he pointed out that many thousands of Jews remained in danger in Ukraine.


Cryptocurrency analysts say at least $13.7m (£10.2m) has so far been donated to the Ukrainian war effort through anonymous Bitcoin donations. Researchers at Elliptic, a blockchain analysis company, say the Ukrainian government, NGOs and volunteer groups have raised the money by advertising their Bitcoin wallet addresses online. More than 4,000 donations have been made so far, with one unknown donor gifting Bitcoin worth $3m to an NGO.

The median donation is $95. On Saturday afternoon, the official Twitter account of the Ukraine government posted a message: "Stand with the people of Ukraine. Now accepting cryptocurrency donations. Bitcoin, Ethereum and USDT."

It posted addresses for two cryptocurrency wallets which collected $5.4m in Bitcoin, Ether and other coins within eight hours.

The Ukrainian Digital Ministry says the latest call for donations is to "help Ukraine armed forces", but would not elaborate on how the money would be spent.

Elliptic founder Tom Robinson told the BBC: "Whereas some crowdfunding and payments companies have refused to allow donations to be made to groups supporting the Ukrainian military, cryptocurrencies have emerged as a powerful alternative."

Are crypto-currencies the future of money?

On Friday, fundraising platform Patreon announced that it had suspended the donation page for "Come Back Alive", a Ukrainian NGO that has been raising money for Ukrainian forces in conflict zones since 2014.

Patreon said the page violated the company's policies, saying in a statement: "We don't allow Patreon to be used for funding weapons or military activity."

Cryptocurrency fund raising is becoming an increasingly prominent part of modern conflicts around the world.  Scammers appear to be also be taking advantage of the current situation in Ukraine, though, by tricking unsuspecting users.

Elliptic says at least one social media post was found to copy a legitimate tweet from an NGO, but with the author swapping the Bitcoin address, presumably for one of their own. --BBCi


The number of civilians killed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine is rising by the day. By Sunday, Ukraine's human rights commissioner put the number of civilian victims alone at 210, including several children. A seven-year-old girl died in an attack on a kindergarten, there have been fatalities in the capital Kyiv, and 10 members of Ukraine's ethnic Greek community were killed when their villages came under fire in the south.

Alisa Hlans was one of six people who died when her kindergarten was hit on the second day of the Russian invasion on Friday in the small town of Okhtyrka, an hour's drive from Ukraine's north-east border.

Alisa was three months away from her eighth birthday. She was fatally wounded and Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova said she died in hospital on Saturday.

Doctors were fighting to save the life of a second wounded child, she added in a message on social media, above a picture with the message "we need peace!"

Several other children have been killed in the Russian advance, including a girl called Polina, who was in the final year of primary school in Kyiv. According to Kyiv's local authority she and her parents were shot dead by a Russian sabotage and reconnaissance group on a street in the north-west of the capital.  Polina's brother and sister were taken to hospital. Her sister was in intensive care and her brother was taken to a separate children's hospital.

The majority of civilians have not yet been named but their stories are equally distressing. A boy was killed when a block of flats was shelled in north-eastern Ukraine on the second day of Russia's invasion. The blast started fires in several flats in Chuhuiv, a small town outside Ukraine's second city Kharkiv.

Five members of the same family died in southern Ukraine on the first day of the war, as Russian troops pushed towards the city of Kherson from Crimea, which they seized from Ukraine eight years ago. Details of the attack were first revealed by the head of Ukraine's patrol police, Yevhen Zhukov, who said it involved the family of a police colleague.

The circumstances are unclear, but the family had reportedly been trying to escape the Russian advance in two cars when they came under fire near Nova Kakhovka just outside Kherson.

Oleg Fedko had decided to move his family away from the area, but as he was on shift in Kherson his father, also called Oleg Fedko, drove over to help and the family left in two cars.

The patrolman's brother, Denis, described how he had been talking to his mother when she started shouting that there were children in the car. Then he heard shots ring out.

The children's two grandparents aged 56 died, along with the patrolman's wife Irina and two children: Sofia who was six, and Ivan who was only a few weeks old.

More than 450km (280 miles) away, in two villages not far from the Russian border in Ukraine's south-east, the country's ethnic Greek population suffered a double tragedy.

Greeks have lived in Ukraine since ancient times and the government in Athens says they are around 150,000 in number.

On Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke of his sadness and anger that 10 civilians of Greek origin had been killed by Russian air strikes close to the port city of Mariupol.

Two villages were hit: Sartana on the outskirts of Mariupol and Buhas some 65km to the north.

There was outrage in Greece at the loss of civilian life and the foreign minister made a strong protest to the Russian ambassador.

The Russian embassy in Athens pinned the blame for the attack instead on Ukrainian forces, claiming that Russia's "special military operations" only targeted military units and infrastructure.    --BBCi


Thousands were detained in St Petersburg

Nearly 4,000 people have been detained at anti-war protests across Russia on Sunday, rights groups and Russian authorities say.  Some 1,700 people were detained in Moscow alone, the RIA news agency reported, citing the interior ministry.

The OVD-Info rights group says detentions took place in 53 cities. Although protests have become increasingly restricted in recent years, numerous rallies have taken place across Russia since the invasion.

In the last 11 days, more than 10,000 people have been detained at protests, OVD-Info says. "The screws are being fully tightened - essentially we are witnessing military censorship," Maria Kuznetsova, OVD-Info's spokeswoman, told Reuters news agency from Tbilisi in Georgia.

"We are seeing rather big protests today - even in Siberian cities, where we only rarely saw such numbers of arrests."

Earlier this week, government critic Alexei Navalny - who is in jail on fraud charges - called for daily demonstrations against the invasion, saying Russia should not be a "nation of frightened cowards".

However, a number of new laws have made it harder to protest in Russia in recent years, rights groups say.

"Although Russian legislation avoids explicitly using terms like 'permit' or 'ban'... it effectively requires organisers to seek authorisation for their assemblies," Amnesty International says.

According to Russian human rights group OVD-Info - which was set up in 2011 - more than 2,500 people were detained across Russia on Sunday. It publishes the names and locations of those arrested, as well as total figures.

"Each police department may have more detainees than published lists," it says. "We publish only the names of those people about whom we know for certain and whose names we can publish."

Thousands of people protested against the invasion in Brussels on Sunday. Protests did not just take place in Russia on Sunday, but around the world. In Kazakhstan - an ally of Moscow - a peace rally was permitted in Almaty, attended by around 2,000 people.

Anti-war protesters also took to the streets in cities like Brussels, in Belgium, and London. In Ukraine itself, Russian troops occupying the southern city of Nova-Kakhovka opened fire to try to disperse demonstrators.

A video from the city, in the Kherson region, shows protesters calling for the Russians to "go home" amid the sound of gunfire and stun grenades. The demonstrators appear to hold their ground. One report said five people had been injured. -BBCi    


TEL AVIV, Israel – A leading volunteer disaster relief team of doctors, nurses and social workers from Israel are heading to Poland tomorrow to provide medical and trauma care for refugees escaping the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Dr. Dorit Nitzan and NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief volunteer healthcare professionals heading to border area Thursday  

Heading the humanitarian aid team from NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief is Dr. Dorit Nitzan, until recently a World Health Organization regional emergencies director in Europe and representative in Ukraine. Joining her are physicians, nurses, social workers and a logistics expert from hospitals around Israel, all of whom are trained and experienced in disaster and humanitarian relief worldwide.

NATAN, an all-volunteer organization of medical and health professionals from across Israeli society, will partner with the WHO, the US-based aid group Operation Blessing and the Mexico-based aid group CADENA, in coordination with Polish authorities, to also deliver food, hygiene, medical and other relief supplies to some of the estimated 500,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the violence.

The team will be agile, working wherever they are needed near the Poland-Ukraine border for at least two months, providing tailored support including primary medical and psycho-social care and determining if further treatments are required.

“We dedicate ourselves to the more than half a million refugees and aim to leave no one behind,” said Dr. Nitzan. “The situation is grave. Many of the refugees are elderly, women and children. They are exhausted, sick, injured and traumatized. Ukraine’s neighbors have opened their hearts and homes to these refugees and we are joining in this enormous and critical undertaking to help those in need.”.


NEW YORK CITY – UJA-Federation of New York approved up to $3 million in emergency funding to support the Jewish community of Ukraine. These funds will be used by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) the Jewish Agency (JAFI), and other grassroots partners to provide for the safety and well-being of the approximately 200,000 Jews living today in Ukraine.

Specifically, UJA's funding will help to support: Critical humanitarian aid - including delivery of food, medicine, winter relief, and emergency assistance; Bolstering security at Jewish institutions, including JCCs in Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipro, Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Lviv; Mobilizing an existing network of thousands of volunteers to reach Jews across every part of Ukraine; Responding to emerging needs - including people displaced from their homes; Mobile medical units to reach the homebound; Coordinating with local Jewish organizations and partners to ensure a united emergency response.
UJA-Federation is holding a briefing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at 12:00 noon featuring experts from JDC and JAFI as they provide real-time information on the Ukraine Jewish community.  
The Jewish population of Ukraine is mainly concentrated in Kyiv and in western Ukraine (68,000); eastern Ukraine, which includes conflict areas (100,000); and Odessa and southern Ukraine (30,000) and includes tens of thousands of needy Jewish elderly and poor families.

Working with a network of hundreds of nonprofits, UJA extends its reach from New York to Israel to nearly 70 other countries around the world, touching the lives of 4.5 million people each year. Every year, UJA allocates approximately $150 million in grants. In addition, to date, UJA has allocated nearly $70 million in emergency funds to help respond to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Aid has supported New Yorkers facing food insecurity, UJA partner organizations providing essential health and human services to New Yorkers, Jewish Community.


PARIS (Reuters) -- France and Britain engaged in a diplomatic spat on Sunday over the treatment of Ukrainian refugees stuck in the French port of Calais, with UK Interior Minister Priti Patel defending Britain's actions after earlier criticism from France.

The spat marked the latest diplomatic row between the two countries following Britain's departure from the European Union, which has resulted in arguments over how to tackle migrants crossing the English Channel, as well as fishing rights.

The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had urged Britain on Sunday to do more to help those Ukrainian refugees stuck in Calais, saying British officials were turning many away due to not having the necessary visas or paperwork.

"I have twice contacted my British counterpart, I told her to set up a consulate in Calais," Darmanin told Europe 1 radio. Darmanin said hundreds of Ukrainian refugees had arrived at Calais in the last few days, hoping to join family in the UK, but that many had been turned away by British officials and told to obtain visas at UK consulates in Paris or Brussels.

Patel later denied France's accusations that Britain was not doing enough to help those Ukrainians in Calais. "It is wrong and it is inaccurate to say that we are not providing support on the ground, we are," Patel told reporters. "I have staff in Calais to provide support to Ukrainian families that have left Ukraine to come to the United Kingdom."

Darmanin and Patel have clashed in the past over how France and Britain tackle the issue of migrants - many from Africa and the Middle East - risking their lives by crossing the English Channel in makeshift dinghies. read more

Migration is a sensitive issue in Britain, where Brexit campaigners told voters that leaving the European Union would mean regaining control of borders. London has in the past threatened to cut financial support for France's border policing if it fails to stem the flow of migrants.

Last November, 27 migrants died when they tried to cross the English Channel in a dingh.

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