JFCS East Bay Prepares to Receive and Aid Ukrainian Refugees

April 21, 2022
By Robin Mencher


UPDATE – May 25, 2022

What is JFCS East Bay doing to support Ukrainian newcomers to the East Bay, and how can you help?

Our FAQ covers donations, policy, sponsorships, and more:

JFCS East Bay Services for Ukrainian Newcomers – Frequently Asked Questions.


UPDATE – May 19, 2022

Looking to stay informed about the refugee crisis and learn about ways you can help? Below are some upcoming events hosted by HIAS, the international humanitarian organization that partners with JFCS East Bay in local refugee resettlement.


 Uniting for Ukraine: Sponsoring Ukrainian Newcomers
May 23, 2022 | Monday | 1:00pm PT

Learn more about the different avenues for support for Ukrainians entering the U.S. that HIAS is designing, in partnership with other national Jewish and refugee agencies. We will share details about HIAS Welcome Circles for Ukrainians and how you can play a key role.

Virtual webinar. No cost to attend. Advance registration required. Please click here to RSVP.

 Refugee Resettlement in the U.S.
June 2, 2022 | Thursday | 1:00pm PT

Since the Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. Refugee Resettlement program has been a lifeline to people in need from every corner of the world. In some years, more than half of the refugees resettled worldwide were welcomed to the U.S. through this program. Join for a conversation with resettlement professionals and private sponsorship volunteers to hear what’s been changing on the front lines of the refugee response, and what you can do to help.

Virtual webinar. No cost to attend. Advance registration required. Please click here to RSVP.


UPDATE – April 21, 2022

Today, the Biden Administration announced plans to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians to the United States.

JFCS East Bay anticipates the arrival of Ukrainian refugee clients soon. In the meantime, here is what our Immigration Legal Services department is doing to help Ukrainians in the U.S.:

  • Providing free legal consultation and assessment
  • Filing family-based Green Card applications for those who are eligible
  • Assisting with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applications for those who are eligible

HIAS (the international humanitarian and resettlement agency we are an affiliate of) has released a statement: Uniting for Ukraine Program “Not a Panacea”.

From the statement:

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, HIAS has advocated for the Biden administration to make family reunification possible for Ukrainians with loved ones in the United States. Today’s announcement from the administration about the new Uniting for Ukraine program, beginning on April 25th, is one step to helping Ukrainian families and friends reunite in the U.S. This initiative will provide streamlined processing for family reunification cases mostly through humanitarian parole for Ukrainians who were residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022.

“Uniting for Ukraine will be an important mechanism to allow Ukrainians to reunite with their loved ones in the United States, but it is not a panacea,” said Melanie Nezer, HIAS’ senior vice president for global public affairs. “This announcement is against a backdrop of 11 million Ukrainians displaced and entire cities and towns destroyed. Like most refugees, Ukrainians may want to go home quickly, but unfortunately that may not be possible for a long time. Humanitarian parole creates yet another group of people who are forced to live in limbo, without any sense of permanency. HIAS will continue to urge the administration to rely on the U.S. refugee resettlement program to respond to refugee emergencies rather than using parole, a system that is wholly insufficient in ensuring that new arrivals have access to the support and a sense of choice and control over their futures offered through resettlement.”

HIAS is pleased to see that today’s announcement includes plans for use of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, including through the Lautenberg program for historically persecuted religious minorities. But the announcement is largely devoid of details about how the resettlement program will be used for Ukrainians and other vulnerable people who were in Ukraine, including asylum seekers and refugees from other countries.

HIAS notes with concern that the program includes a focus on urging Ukrainians to not seek protection at the U.S.-Mexico border. “The administration must respect the legal right to seek asylum,” Nezer said. “We also urge the administration to equitably extend protections to refugees fleeing violence and persecution around the world.”


UPDATE – April 11, 2022

Although it’s easy to feel helpless, here are two opportunities for action you can take right now:

Call upon the Biden Administration to welcome Ukrainian refugees

More than four million refugees have now fled their homes in Ukraine. President Biden has announced that the U.S. could welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians. Our partners at the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies (NJHSA) urges the Administration to share more details about the plan, ensure that the refugees are received in safety and with benefits, and, most crucially, launch the admissions process.

Learn more and take action here.

End California’s $2 billion dollar investment in Russia

As the Ukraine crisis worsens, our partners at the Jewish Community Relations Council suggest a way for people to act on their values and bring about positive change. They call on the community to help end California’s $2 billion dollar investment in Russia:

“By prohibiting public investment in Russia and Belarus, California can take a principled and moral stance against the invasion of Ukraine. SB 1328 would prohibit the boards of specified state and local public retirement systems from investing public employee retirement funds in a company with business operations in Russia or Belarus or a company that supplies military equipment to Russia or Belarus.”

Learn more and take action here.


UPDATE – April 5, 2022

As the United States prepares to welcome a large wave of Ukrainian refugees, JFCS East Bay is continuing our preparations to receive and support families as they arrive to the East Bay.

See this interview on ABC 7 News with CEO Robin Mencher, which explains more about the situation and our ongoing work with refugees.


UPDATE – March 17, 2022

We are working to care for the older adults from the Former Soviet Union and other Holocaust survivors in the East Bay Jewish Community during this traumatic time and we will continue to do so as long as is needed. Our highly trained and experienced team is in ongoing partnership with our clients and their families at this time of crisis to provide comfort and address needs. Our Volunteer Services and Finance teams are partnering internally to provide additional support. At this time, no Ukrainian refugees have been assigned to our agency, but we remain ready for a potential wave as families make their way through the system.

Advocacy Opportunity

HIAS (the international humanitarian and resettlement agency we are an affiliate of) is asking people to call upon Congress to protect the rights of asylum seekers and end Title 42 at the border. Find out more here.


UPDATE – March 10, 2022

As JFCS East Bay continues to assist our existing refugee clients and to await a potential incoming wave of refugees from Ukraine, we are sharing resources from our partners with responses to the humanitarian crisis.

  • NJHSA (Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies) is collecting resources which members have shared on a dedicated page on the NJHSA website.
  • HIAS continues to update its Ukraine response page as well as this FAQ document, which contains a wealth of information for Ukrainians inside the country and who have fled to surrounding countries, on advocacy, resettlement, and more.

Advocacy Opportunity

  • JFNA asks people to support the Ukrainian people by calling on Congress for more assistance on the ground and support for refugee resettlement in the U.S. “We need Congress to approve supplemental funding for the Ukraine crisis and extend the Lautenberg Amendment in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which is being negotiated early this week.”

Help Lines

UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) has provided the following help-pages and phone numbers for those forced to flee in Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia.

Thank you for your continued concern and support. We will continue to keep you updated as this situation continues to evolve.


UPDATE – March 3, 2022

Thank you to all who have given an outpouring of concern and interest in supporting Ukrainians.

Our partner HIAS has put up this site with helpful information and will continue to update it regularly.

We have not yet received any refugees from Ukraine for resettlement, but as families make their way through the complicated legal system and reach us, we are ready to welcome them to the Bay Area. If you would like to be involved, you can fill out our volunteer form. We will also put out calls for support and donations of goods and funds as a new wave of refugees arrives. In the meantime, we are currently assisting refugees still arriving from Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

We are continuing to serve our community members who are affected by the Ukraine crisis and to provide them with emotional and logistical support. Many JFCS East Bay clients have strong ties to Ukraine and family members who remain in direct danger. Read an interview in J. Weekly with Gennady Mikityansky, a social worker at JFCS East Bay with family in Ukraine and a history with President Zelenskyy.


February 25, 2022

As the Russian invasion crisis deepens, JFCS East Bay prepares to receive and aid refugees. The situation in Ukraine, like the current realities in Afghanistan, is poised to forcibly displace large numbers of Ukrainians on top of the approximately 1.6 million people who have already been displaced by recent conflicts in the region.

Locally, we will prepare for our role in potential resettlement needs created by this crisis, while continuing to serve additional Afghan families and other refugees currently resettling to the East Bay from a variety of countries. Our partner HIAS has released this statement on Ukraine outlining response activities and calling on the U.S. and allies to act in order to save lives and help those displaced.

The recent hostile acts of war directly impact our current clients. With over 100,000 Jews living in Ukraine today, Russia’s actions raise new fears and stir up past traumas for JFCS East Bay staff members and clients who have family there and/or who lived through prior Soviet era conflicts and World War II.

JFCS East Bay is here for our clients from the Former Soviet Union and more broadly, survivors of Europe’s past wars. Our compassionate Adult Services team members have sprung into action, checking in with our older adult clients and their families from the FSU to provide an array of support and services.

Unfortunately, it appears we may be at the beginning of an ongoing disruption to peace and security in the region. Our commitment to our clients and staff members with connections to the region, as well as to potential new arrivals, will be ongoing as well.

With wishes for peace,

Robin Mencher

Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay