The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northern Japan devastated the physical landscape, but as the aftermath unfolds, time has proven that it cannot kill the spirit of a proud people such as the Japanese. The Jewish Community of Japan (JCJ) has a history spanning over sixty years in Tokyo, and the members of that community, along with foreign partners, have already been doing their part to help rebuild the country they call home.
Within 24 hours of the quake, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) contacted the JCJ to assist with relief efforts. The board members of the JCJ identified NGO-JEN (http://www.jen-npo.org/en/index.html) as a great way to channel supplies and workers to those who needed it most on the ground in northern Japan, so they set up a fund to funnel money from the JDC directly to NGO-JEN. To date, the JDC and the JCJ together have raised more than $60,000 for the cause. The immediate response of the JDC has been a gratifying experience for the community, and has helped NGO-JEN to work more efficiently to put the aid and supplies where they are needed most.
Some members of the Jewish community are setting up deliveries to go without having the auspices of an organization. One member was able to get a truck and supplies out to Miyagi Prefecture within a week of the disasters. He organized food, blankets, medical supplies and even shoes to the victims. Culturally, most Japanese people who are in their homes do not wear shoes, so when the earthquake and tsunami occurred, they fled in stocking feet. Beyond blankets and coats to combat cold weather, shoes are also good items for donation.
Another board member of the JCJ has been working with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as they have set up a field hospital in Minamisanriku to help those affected by the disaster who need on-site medical attention. This is a wonderful contribution from the State of Israel to the people of Japan. The JCJ member who has been in touch with the group helped with obtaining necessary items on the ground for the Israeli team, such as Kosher food and other Japanese supplies. If they stay through the Jewish holiday of Passover in mid-April, he will assist in getting them ready for the holiday as they deem necessary.
Things are getting back to normal in the community itself. The Rabbi of the JCJ, Rabbi Antonio DiGesu, plans to hold services as usual this Sabbath. The religious school, which boasts close to eighty children, will have classes this Sunday. Passover preparation continues in full force. On a normal year, the JCJ hosts upwards of 200 people for first and second night seders, celebrated at the start of Passover, and there is no reason for that to cease.
Most of the JCJ members are foreigners from across the US, Europe, Australia and other places. Most, if they left at all, are now returning to Tokyo - their adopted city. Time and time again the Japanese have proved their ability to recover from the wreckage of disaster, and this time will be no different. Throughout history, the Japanese have proven themselves a resilient group of people, as have the Jews. The Jewish Community of Japan is honored to assist this proud people and be part of their culture and society as they go through the rebuilding process.