Brooklyn Jewish Community Center Hosts Job Fair for Thousands of Ukrainian Refugees
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Thousands of Ukrainian refugees who recently fled their war-torn country amid its ongoing conflict with Russia and are now in Brooklyn, New York, attended a job fair on Feb. 1 hosted by The Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House (JCH) of Bensonhurst in partnership with UJA-Federation of New York.
The Ukrainian newcomers were able to speak with 70 different employers who are hiring in multiple industries, including T-Mobile, TD Bank, JP Morgan & Chase, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Best Buy, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Navy Yard, NYC Parks & Recreation, Jewish Board for Family and Children Services, Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA), health industry providers and small businesses in the community. Representatives from English language and vocational training courses were also available.
A total of 700 Ukrainian refugees registered to attend the job fair but over a thousand ultimately attended, Alex Budnitskiy, the CEO and executive director of the JCH of Bensonhurst, told The Algemeiner. The Jewish center also had to start turning away employers because too many wanted to be involved in the event.
“I think there’s an eagerness to hire and get a job on both sides,” Budnitskiy said. “It’s a two-way street. Employers really want to have a quality work force, candidates to be employed and Ukrainians really want to work. Our goal is to match their skills with employers’ needs.” He added that the job fair was not held earlier because many of the Ukrainian refugees were only recently granted employment authorization.
The JCH has held similar job fairs in the past to help newcomers in the Brooklyn community navigate the local job search. The Jewish center has a work force development center — as well as other social services for immigrants — and for more than a quarter of a century, one of their priorities has been to train and place immigrants in jobs, Budnitskiy explained.
“A job fair is one of the instruments we use to make sure we can get all community businesses together and speed up the process of [setting up] meetings with potential employers,” he said.
Since February 2022, the JCH has had a Ukrainian Crisis Response Center that offers legal help, emergency care assistance, and aid with mental health, childcare and even paying rent. He explained that most of Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Brooklyn are mothers coming with their children while their spouses remain in Ukraine. Some come with their entire family but “majority of them, if not all, are extremely needy,” Budnitskiy explained. “They don’t have anything, not even food on the table.”
He thinks last week’s job fair helped new Ukrainian immigrants find long-term employment opportunities based on the feedback he has gotten thus far.
“They were so appreciative and some of them said that they already got interviews on the spot,” he added. “The real success we can measure only in a few weeks when we know how many were interviewed and how many secured the jobs. But we’re hoping for good results.”