When horrible things are happening in the world – like the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine; an act of territorial imperialism and an assault on the democratic determination by the Ukrainian people – I find myself looking to others to make sense of the situation for me. In despair and frustration, I may be inclined to doom-scroll and devour thought-pieces, as I do with other crises playing out at home or across the globe.
As often as not, it is too easy to fall into a trap – of equating passion with genuine expertise and replacing nuanced subject matter analysis with bias-confirmation assertions from those with no knowledge in a particular field or institution.
This tendency is natural, and I strive – not always successfully – to resist it in myself. But it speaks to a natural aspect of the human psyche; when we feel powerless to affect troubling events, we want answers: “Why” is this happening? “Who” is responsible? “Tell me where to direct my fear and anger." The answers yielded by this process are often un-nuanced, confirming pre-existing biases, and inaccurate as well, not taking into account the whole picture.
Though these ‘answers’ may provide a channel for our anger, and our sadness, when we limit ourselves to these inquiries, it prevents us from answering the more urgent questions:
- What am I called to do in this situation?
- How can I make an impact?
I, for one, have no illusions that I can snap my fingers and – on my own – end a war, establish peace, end hatred and violence and bigotry in our world, or stop climate change (to name just a few examples). I can’t control that awful things are done in the world, putting people in harm’s way; including to people we care about personally in our Jewish sister-community in Dnipro. I can’t, through magical thinking, make bad people disappear and stop bad things from happening to good people.
What I, and we, can control is how we choose to respond to these events and these people. We get to decide how we show up for Ukrainian people under fire; how we engage with threats faced by our friends and families around the world; and how we deal with challenges right here at home. And we can choose to channel our focus and energies productively, to support institutions that are doing the work and meeting the moment in ways that reflect our values and our interests.
So rather than just despair and walk away from what’s happening in Ukraine, or doom-scroll and retweet tirades, or tell you who to be angry at, here are some suggestions of who to support right now and how to take action:
- Stand with Ukraine. Join us, and AJC, in calling on Congress to work with the administration to impose crippling sanctions on Russia. Moscow must be cut off and isolated from advanced technology and the international financial system, and individuals in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle must be sanctioned immediately.
- Contact your member of Congress and thank them for overwhelmingly (and unanimously in Massachusetts) supporting a resolution of support for Ukraine. Let them know that you support their efforts, and those of the Biden administration, to send additional and urgent security assistance and defensive weaponry to Ukraine.
- Send emergency aid through our member, Action for Post-Soviet Jewry. They have a long and proven track record of providing direct relief and are organizing emergency kits and supplies.
- Donate to CJP’s Ukraine Emergency Fund. These dollars will provide direct support to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and partners on the ground in Ukraine to help the most vulnerable. Assistance will include food, shelter, medicine, and other basic needs.
- Follow JCRC on Twitter and Facebook where we’ll continue to share action alerts and giving opportunities from our trusted partners within and beyond the Jewish community.
We can’t always determine what is happening in the world. We can’t always control events that affect us. But we can choose how we act in response to these challenges; in ways that make a meaningful impact and that channel our passion and our concern productively, and in ways that reflect our values and interests.