Recovery is still a rarely-talked about concept in Japan, but with Pessah
approaching, members of the devastated nation’s small Jewish community are
making plans to celebrate the holiday’s signature Seder meals in
“People are starting to come back slowly,” said Chabad-Lubavitch
of Japan Director Rabbi Mendy Sudakevich. “Their jobs are
Sudakevich and his family evacuated days after March’s deadly
earthquake and tsunami claimed tens of thousands of lives, and left a nuclear
power plant spewing radiation from its damaged reactors.
His wife and
children remain in Israel, but the rabbi decamped to Hong Kong, where he
launched a relief effort focused on the inundated northern city of Sendai, along
with Chabad of Asia director Rabbi Mordechai Avtzon.
to Tokyo three weeks ago.
He expects a fraction of the usual crowd, or
about 100 people, to attend each of the two Seders – the first night of the
holiday begins April 18 – but feeding everyone will be a challenge in the
upended country, he said.
With the Fukushima nuclear power plant still
leaking radiation into the sea, air and surrounding countryside, many
agricultural products are now viewed as health risks. The rabbi is avoiding
local produce at all costs.
“There are things we can get, and other
things that we are being advised to avoid,” explained
Dwindling supplies at his Tokyo Chabad House include some
chickens, but kosher meat beyond that cannot be found. A shipment of
kosher-for-Passover food has been held up in Singapore, and will likely arrive
after the holiday has ended.
Some relief came with a delegation of 60 IDF
soldiers who were dispatched to build a medical clinic. They also brought
Passover supplies for local Jews.
“There’s matza and wine,” said
“That’s the minimum that we need for a Seder.”
rabbi hopes to receive another shipment from the United States in time for the
In the meantime, he’s giving Torah classes and running
children’s activities and has hosted 30 people for Sabbath services and
The meals’ traditional challa bread came from Sendai’s Arpajan
Bakery, which baked bread and distributed it free of charge as part of the
Chabad Relief Initiative.
Sudakevitch recently took an elderly Jewish man
home from the hospital. He had been hospitalized since suffering a heart attack
“He’s been in the hospital since November and he was just
discharged,” said Sudakevich, adding that the 86-year-old has no family. “But he
doesn’t think he needs help.”
The rabbi hired someone to help the man
around his home for a week. He’s trying to find a way to finance full-time care
for the man.
Said Sudakevich: “I need to find solutions.”