JFS Response to Crisis in Ukraine

JFS has been receiving calls from people wanting to help since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. We’ve all watched with heavy hearts the destruction and violence taking place in a land far away, reeling in disbelief as each bomb drops and homes and neighborhoods are destroyed. There has been much confusion and fear during the first months of this crisis. How can we help? What can we do?

When displaced Ukrainians settle here, JFS Community Social Worker Svetlana Rabinstein, LSW, will help connect new arrivals to resources and services. JFS will also coordinate volunteer resources from the Jewish community for help needed beyond what is provided by the refugee services organizations.

Svetlana joined JFS in 2002. She speaks several languages including Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian. She spends most of her workday helping Russian-speaking seniors navigate complex government and healthcare systems. Because many of these clients live at senior high rises in St. Paul, she works from the lobby of those buildings. “They will get mail that they can’t read or understand,” said Svetlana. “It’s much easier to go to the buildings so they can let me see their mail.”

Many of these clients qualify for and receive medical assistance, so when a bill comes in the mail for a health care service, they are confused and afraid. Svetlana will work with the provider to redirect the billing and assure the client that they are not responsible for the amount due. Problems with Social Security or Minnesota Supplemental Aid can be overwhelming, but Svetlana has worked with these programs for many years and can find her way through the complicated labyrinth of departments.

If the client has a JFS case manager or care coordinator, Svetlana will work with her JFS colleague to get appropriate services including assistance with personal care such as dressing, bathing and grooming; help with housekeeping; home delivered meals; and arranging for transportation to medical appointments as well as resources to address any emotional, social or spiritual needs. Additionally, Svetlana helps Holocaust Survivors work with the U.S. Claims Conference to assist with the application process and case management services.

Svetlana’s compassion for refugees comes from her personal experience as a refugee from the Former Soviet Union. She came to St. Paul with her parents and young son in 1979 to join her sister. JFS helped her get her child into kindergarten and her into English classes. She had graduated from a Lithuanian university with a degree in pharmacy, but was not able to practice as a pharmacist in the U.S. After working at a nursing home and in a hospital pharmacy, she joined JFS as a case manager and earned her social work license.