photo of a JDC staff member looking at a clipboard on a bus of Ukrainian refugees

Caring for Children in a War Zone

by Tamar Davis, CEO, Gateways

When you are deeply involved with the care of our community’s most vulnerable, that is who you think of first whenever there is a crisis. As I continue to watch and read news reports of the war unfolding in Ukraine, I keep worrying about the hundreds of at-risk children who live in Jewish orphanages in Ukraine because their families are unable to properly care for them. How are these children faring, dealing with trauma and fear during this frightening time?

photo of 4 JDC staff on a bus of Ukrainian refugees, one is talking on the phone
Photo from the Palanca border crossing from Ukraine to Moldova, where JDC transported Ukrainian refugees through Moldova to Romania. Photos by Ramin Mazur and JDC.

I spoke with Elana Fein, one of Gateways’ mental health providers who works with families in our Boston area day schools, and we reflected on the myriad layers of trauma that can impact children living in a war zone. The Jewish children in these orphanages undoubtedly have their own personal traumas, just as as they are now going through a collective trauma. Elana explained how each person has a different way of coping with trauma, and how this might manifest in varying emotional, social, and behavioral patterns. One child might find it impossible to process the events they have experienced, another might experience severe nightmares, and another might cry uncontrollably. It is hard to comprehend how any adult in this situation would have the strength to care for these vulnerable children while managing their own fears at the same time.

CJP’s recent appeal for its Ukraine Emergency Fund listed one organization on the ground receiving funding which provides “care and mental health support to approximately 200 children as well as 86 children with disabilities.” Elana’s insights into the complexity of trauma, especially in these most vulnerable children, make it clear that the need is all too urgent. Please join Elana and me as we continue to pray for the safety — both physical and mental — of our Jewish brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

May we only know peace in our time — Shabbat shalom.

Signature of Tamar Davis

Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer