‘It shocked me’: New Jersey Jewish community leader helps Ukrainian refugees in Poland
PARAMUS, N.J. — Since Russia’s assault on Ukraine, about 3.5 million people have left the country.
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis spoke with a New Jersey Jewish community leader who is in Poland on a humanitarian mission to help refugees.
“It’s utter despair, mental anguish, pain, suffering, trauma,” said Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
Shames witnesses it firsthand. He arrived in Poland on Monday with bags full of refugee clothes and a full heart, ready to help.
“There’s this whole streak of being a refugee, that if you don’t see it, you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” he said.
The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has worked for decades with partner agencies in Ukraine to support its Jewish community.
“Our goal is, firstly, to not only help those who want to move to Israel to move to Israel, but to help with – mental health and wellness and social welfare, food, medicine etc. for those who are left and to help them figure out what to do next,” Shames said.
He described what it’s like at the border – tents lined with countless volunteers waiting to help Ukrainians into Poland.
“People who come with just a suitcase, a bag, it’s their only thing in life and they’re just trying to get out and go somewhere new,” Shames said.
“How would you describe what it was like to witness that?” DeAngelis asked.
“It shook me to my core,” Shames said.
Everyone has a story, from what they left behind to how they cope.
For Sophia, 15, it’s through art. Her dream is to be an animator.
With the help of organizations like the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, there is hope.
“Wish you never give up, follow your dream. I am mine,” Sophia said through a translator.
Shames says it’s important to share the stories of the millions of people forced to start over because they need all the help they can get, from supplies to funding and advocacy.
“There’s also the best in humanity that comes out, and looking at, you know, everyone, they’re taking care of these refugees like they’re their own family,” Shames said.
To date, the federation has donated over $600,000 to Ukraine relief and counting. Shames says all money raised by the organization will go directly to helping refugees from this crisis.
For more information on the federation, visit jfnnj.org. To donate, visit secure.qgiv.com/for/ukremefun.