West Palm Beach 25
by Sooji Nam

As Melanie Kelfer watched the news unfold on the crisis in her home country, she knew she had to do something.

“My grandfather Mordechai, who I was named after, it’s actually my Hebrew name. He was a refugee from Kyiv. He had to leave when he was six years old, because of the antisemitism and persecution that his family faced,” Melanie Kelfer told WPBF 25 News.

She founded Operation Mordechai, a nonprofit organization, with the goal of transporting medical supplies and refugees to Israel.

“Bring young Jewish women and children over to the state of Israel for their safety and resettlement,” Kelfer said. “We want to help the people who are helping the refugees on the ground and get it there directly with our organization.”

It’s a tight-knit community coming together in Boca Raton, working with resources on the ground in Europe as well.

“Chabad is the largest Jewish organization in the world. So, we have eyes on the ground, and all of the refugees in Ukraine and also Israel. We have actually people there right now reporting back to us. ‘What are the most critical needs?'” Rabbi Ruv New of Boca Beach Chabad told WPBF 25 News. “What we’re trying to do is be very surgical here.”

Crisis in Ukraine: How Floridians can help

Kelfer said donors have offered a Boeing Business jet as well as a Sun D’or Boeing 737 available for up to 180 refugees.

“We’re gathering donations. We are looking for donors, both large donors, millennials, corporate donors that will help us purchase the supplies, purchase the medical equipment, help with the refugees on the ground, help with the first responders, and help us fly the most vulnerable women and children over to Israel for their safety,” Kelfer said.

Local Boca Raton medical professionals also are jumping in with critical medical needs.

“Create a nonprofit fund where I can purchase much more than just anti-epileptic medication but pretty much all critical medications as well as medical supplies that are needed over in Ukraine,” said Dr. Svetlana Faktorovich, a neurologist at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “We’ve been sending army sleeping bags among other supplies that are really needed in Ukraine.”

“Anything we can do to help everyone that we can is what our mission is about,” Kelfer said.