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When Katya, name changed for anonymity, first fled from Ukraine in 2022 after the Russian invasion, her daughter was eleven years old.


“She was scared of everything,” Katya said.


Their family was among the 6.5 million Ukrainians who had to leave everything they knew behind and venture to new countries in search of protection and stability. For Katya and her daughter, this led them to Philadelphia. Upon their arrival, KleinLife, a grantee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia that offers community resources and social services, took them in, alongside over 1,700 other Ukrainian refugees, many of whom were Holocaust survivors or children.


Initially fearful and overwhelmed, Katya’s daughter slowly came out of her shell after attending KleinLife programming to address incoming refugees' acclimation needs.


“She was involved with KleinLife for two years, where she received individualized and group support and participated in summer camp and after school programs,” Katya recounted. “All these services aided in her healing process and she is doing much better.”


These services were supported by the local Jewish Federation, which granted KleinLife an emergency allocation of $65,000 as part of its $1.5 million Ukraine Emergency Fund in 2022.


“I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Jewish Federation for the generous support at the onset of our efforts to resettle Ukrainian refugees in Philadelphia,” said Andre Krug, president and CEO of KleinLife.


Now, two years after that invasion that uprooted the lives of so many, the Jewish Federation is still actively working with KleinLife to care for the refugees by providing basic necessities and educational programming. Services include free camp and afterschool programs for over 100 refugee children, English language classes, food and clothing services, employment support, and cultural orientation sessions.


“The funding from the Jewish Federation has been instrumental in our ability to offer these critical services,” Krug reiterated. “Our efforts have focused on providing immediate relief, support and integration services to ensure a smooth transition into these refugees’ new community.”


Not only do refugee families receive these essential services, but they are also offered counseling sessions and resources to address the collective trauma incurred from having to flee Ukraine. KleinLife’s Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Art Therapist Mariya Keselman works with the refugees to address issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and more through group art therapy and individual counseling sessions. 


According to Keselman, all KleinLife staff members are trained in Person-Centered Trauma-Informed care, a holistic based approach to better serve these children and adults through a multi-pronged lens. 


“One of the great things about KleinLife programming is that these children are provided with opportunities to be kids again,” Keselman explained. “We encourage them to engage in normative activities, provide them with support to process their experiences and build coping skills, and support them in finding the resilience that is already within them.”


Partnering to provide critical mental health services is, and always has been, paramount for the Jewish Federation.


“Supporting and increasing our community’s mental wellbeing has long been a priority for the Jewish Federation,” noted Brian Gralnick, the Jewish Federation’s director of local grants and partnerships. “Social isolation has the medical impact of smoking 15 cigarettes each day, which is why it's critical to provide opportunities for lifelong learning, engagement, socialization and a sense of community.”


Aside from helping the Ukrainian refugees, KleinLife extends its communal services to other children, older adults and Holocaust Survivors living in Greater Philadelphia. In fiscal year 2023, the Jewish Federation granted over $442,000 from its Annual Campaign to support KleinLife’s active adults and home delivered meals programs, ensuring that the minds and bodies of older adults in the community are well-nourished and able to age with dignity.


Additionally, the Jewish Federation Real Estate group granted $75,000 last fiscal year to repair the roof of KleinLife’s swimming pool, a favorite hangout spot for many of the refugee children.


With this funding, not only are the Ukrainian families physically safe, but they have been able to begin the arduous process of healing mentally.


“At KleinLife,” Katya said, “my daughter found her second family and her second home.”


To help support mental health initiatives locally and in Israel, which is needed now more than ever due to the ongoing crisis, make a gift at jewishphilly.org/donate.