Share the Light: Honoring HIAS Europe’s Work in Ukraine

HIAS was awarded the "Share the Light" prize at the European Commission's 18th annual EuroChanukah ceremony on December 20, 2022. (Gabriel Lelievre/HIAS)

On December 20, HIAS Europe was awarded the Share the Light prize by the European Jewish Community Centre (EJCC) during the 18th annual EuroChanukah festivities hosted by the European Commission. The prize was given in recognition of HIAS Europe’s work responding to the humanitarian emergency in Ukraine, especially for its resettlement of displaced people.

Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has gotten worse. As of this month, around one-third of Ukrainian citizens have been forced to flee their homes. HIAS, both directly and through local partners, has aided 650,000 people in the country, a testament to the organization’s growing capacity.

“HIAS Europe could respond almost immediately thanks to our two decades-long presence in Ukraine and our existing partnerships with local Jewish communities in neighboring countries,” said HIAS Europe’s Director Ilan Cohn in his keynote speech. “This community-based reception of Ukrainians has promoted inclusion and mobilized solidarity, yet more support is needed from national and local authorities to ensure the sustainability of these initiatives,” he said.

EuroChanukah’s official patron, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič, confirmed the European Union’s strong commitment to protecting the Jewish way of life and to helping Ukraine during Europe’s biggest crisis since World War II. He also encouraged everyone present to find inspiration in the very meaning of the holiday. “Hanukkah stands for resilience — of the Jewish way of life, of the Jewish faith — but it also stands for the victory of life over darkness. And in these times that is something we can all relate to.”

"Hanukkah stands for resilience — of the Jewish way of life, of the Jewish faith — but it also stands for the victory of life over darkness. And in these times that is something we can all relate to."

Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management

Besides music, refreshments and speeches, the EuroChanukah festivities featured a photo exhibition showcasing HIAS’ long history of humanitarian work in Europe and beyond. From its origins in New York City in the 1880s, through the 20th century — when HIAS founded its first European office in Rotterdam and resettled hundreds of thousands of European Jews — to its most recent humanitarian endeavors in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, the organization has continually evolved to meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“I hope this award will give HIAS Europe staff in Brussels, but also staff and partners in the field, strength to keep going through this winter and beyond, against the odds, just like the Maccabean rebels we celebrate at Hanukkah,” said HIAS Europe Board Chair Ruth Ringer, who accepted the prize.