Today marks the once unimaginable one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A year ago, we had no idea what would quickly unfold: Lives lost. Cities laid to waste. The worst humanitarian and refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, with millions displaced, traumatized, and unable to return home.

And there’s no end in sight.

Through it all, our New York Jewish community — thanks to your extraordinary generosity — has stood up to help support a people under siege. The foundation to mount such a massive emergency response was built in UJA-Federation's decades-long annual support for Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union, including the roughly 200,000 Jews living in Ukraine before the war. More specifically, in the three years preceding the invasion, we provided $37 million to nonprofits for work in the region: the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Agency, Hillel, Moishe House, among others, enabling them to quickly pivot and respond to surging needs.

In the beginning of the war, our focus was on evacuation assistance, humanitarian aid, medical care, and shelter for those fleeing. Our partners and grantees were positioned right across the Ukrainian border with lifesaving support, greeting refugees while standing under the flag of Israel. Back in Ukraine, in an act of incredible devotion, some homecare workers, employed by JDC, moved in with the frail elderly who were in no position to leave.

Just days into the fighting, I traveled near the Polish/Ukrainian border. Never will I forget meeting the shell-shocked and exhausted refugees who spent days trying to secure spots on packed trains, or who waited on line for 50 hours to cross the border. The vast majority were women and children whose husbands, sons, and fathers were required to stay behind and fight. Nor will I ever forget those about to make aliyah, who were being housed at hotels near the airport in Warsaw by the Jewish Agency, our longtime partner in the rescue of Jews at risk.

Since then, I've often thought about how Jewish history would have been entirely altered if we'd had a state of Israel 80 years ago, with hotels and planes at the ready in Warsaw to house and transport Jews to safety.

Less than two months after the invasion, it was Passover — the celebration of freedom under the shadow of war. As only a federation can, we brought together a historic coalition of 20 nonprofit partners of every size and denomination to distribute food, matzah, Haggadahs, and more — bringing the warm embrace of community to more than 75,000 people.

As the months went by, we focused our funding on helping refugees acclimate to new lives, whether in Ukraine (where many are internally displaced), Europe, Israel, or New York.

Here in New York, our funding enabled our partners in south Brooklyn — home to the largest Ukrainian population outside of Ukraine — to welcome refugees with a range of programs and services, including legal and emotional counseling, help accessing public benefits, summer camp for children trying to forget the trauma of war, and most recently, a widely attended job fair. Indeed, at one point our partners were helping to support roughly 50% of all Ukrainian refugees living in New York.

In Israel, with our support, 65,000 Jews from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia made aliyah over the last year. An additional 30,000 arrived in Israel with temporary status, meaning they weren't entitled to the same governmental benefits. Working in partnership with six Israeli municipalities where most of this population has been settling, we’re supporting emergency financial assistance, education and care centers, camps, afterschool programs, mental health services, and more.

In all, 12 months in, we've provided more than $22 million in emergency funding, benefiting 720,000 people.

This evening, we'll light the Shabbat candles, ushering peace and tranquility into our homes. While many families customarily light two candles, others light a candle for each child or family member. Whatever your tradition, on what is being designated as "Shabbat for Ukraine," we invite you to light an additional candle. A candle for mothers and wives separated from sons and husbands. For families broken by war and heartache. For people who have felt little peace and tranquility these last 12 months.

And as we recite the blessing over the candles — the same ancient blessing recited by Jews in Kyiv, New York, and Jerusalem — we add our fervent hope for peace in Ukraine and stability across the world.

Shabbat shalom