By Jackie Bruno
Published April 29, 2022
Updated on April 29, 2022 at 9:15 pm

As the world watches the war in Ukraine with horror, a Massachusetts woman has made it her mission to help and give hope, just as her grandfather was given over a century ago.

When Ukraine was invaded by Russia, Melanie Kelfer of Needham dropped everything and started Operation Mordechai, a project with the goal of helping refugees.

Her drive to provide aid was inspired by her own family’s history.

“My grandfather, who I was named after, Mordechai, was a Ukrainian refugee in 1910,” Kelfer said. “His mother died in childbirth, and his father had to take him and flee Ukraine to escape antisemitism and persecution. So if it wasn’t for the kindness and generosity of complete strangers, my grandfather would never have made it out alive, and I would not be here today.”

Today, she’s in Israel — a country where thousands of Ukrainian refugees have come after fleeing their homeland.

“This is day four of our trip to Israel, and we’ve been meeting with refugees, we’ve been going to their homes, we’ve been seeing how they live,” Kelfer said. “Many of them are living with no beds, refrigerator, no appliances, very little clothing — just what they could fit in a backpack.”

Kelfer has raised over $200,000, and 100% of the funds will benefit Ukrainian refugee, she explained.

Operation Mordechai has already shipped more than 2,500 pounds of medical supplies and hygiene products to the Ukrainian border. More food will be sent soon, and right now, Kelfer is doing her part to listen, supply aid and give much-needed hope to those staying in Israel.