JFS Response to Crisis in Ukraine

JFS is planning its role should displaced persons from Ukraine settle in the St. Paul Community. The primary role will be to connect new arrivals to resources and services. This may include services at JFS or other community organizations, country resources, or assistance available through volunteers.

Our immediate response included providing support to our Russian and Ukrainian clients; directing donations to the St. Paul Jewish Federation to support relief efforts in Ukraine; and responding to questions from the community.

JFS CEO Ruth Olkon is attending twice weekly briefings with Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to discuss issues related to the crisis and how it impacts North America. These briefings are open to the public. Click here to register to attend.

JFS is also working very closely with the national organization, National Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA). Leaders of Jewish Family Service agencies across the country are meeting often to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Right now, we are identifying resources to help both in Ukraine and here in our communities. These conversations are happening in partnership with HIAS who provides services to refugees around the world, including those from Jewish communities.

The war in Ukraine has created a major humanitarian crisis with millions of displaced people both within Ukraine and in neighboring countries, the majority of whom want to return to their homes when it is safe to do so. Some are seeking temporary or permanent opportunities to move to other countries, including the United States.

On April 21, 2022, President Biden announced Uniting for Ukraine, to provide opportunities for Ukrainian citizens who have fled the war to come to the United States. This includes two primary pathways:

Humanitarian Parole: Displaced Ukrainian citizens and their families are sponsored by individuals or organizations to come to the United States and stay for up to two years. Ukrainians must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide financial support for the duration of their stay. The first step is for the U.S.-based supporter to file a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, with US Citizen and Immigration Services. This does not provide a pathway to permanent residency in the United States. Parolees are not admitted with refugee status, so they will not have access to the same resettlement services that refugees can get. An act of Congress would be required to authorize Ukrainian parolees access to resettlement services and support.

Lautenberg Program: Ukrainian Jews, Evangelical Christians, Catholics, and some members of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church, can reunite with family members in the U.S. under the refugee program known as the Lautenberg program. To qualify, the person must be the child, parent, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild of a U.S. resident, asylee, refugee, or citizen. To start the application process, the U.S. relative must apply through a resettlement agency located near where the U.S. family member lives. Refugee resettlement agencies in Minnesota can be found on the Minnesota DHS website at: https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/rih/topics/resettlement.html. For questions about specific Lautenberg cases, families in the U.S. should be in touch with the resettlement agency with which they filed their Lautenberg applications.

No information about the number or arrival timeline of displaced Ukrainians is currently available. We anticipate that the numbers will be very small as people are expected to settle in other communities with the largest Ukrainian populations. We understand that a few families from Ukraine have arrived in the Twin Cities through support from Ukrainian speaking churches. If parolees from the Jewish community settle in St. Paul, the role of JFS will be to connect them to services and resources, both at JFS and other organizations.

We are meeting with other Jewish communal organizations and local resettlement agencies to plan for potential arrivals. JFS is currently providing information about Uniting for Ukraine in response to requests from community members. We are asking community to let us know if they apply to be a sponsor for displaced Ukrainians or expect family to join them through the Lautenberg Program. This is particularly important for planning for parolees as they will not have access to resettlement services or support. All new arrivals, but particularly parolees, will also need support of community volunteers to provide housing, legal services and other supports.