Japan’s Jews pitch in on disaster relief

"American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee gave grant of $10,000, efforts now towards fund raising from own members and overseas."

March 15, 2011 15:55
2 minute read.
The destroyed city of Natori, northern Japan

japan earthquake 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jewish community in Japan scrambled to raise funds and distribute aid on Tuesday to the beleaguered northwestern part of the country, which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami on Friday and is now under serious threat of radiation contamination from three faulty nuclear reactors in the region.

“The Jewish community in Japan is doing all it can to assist in relief efforts,” said Philip Rosenfeld, treasurer of the Jewish community in Tokyo. “The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee just gave a very generous grant of $10,000. Our efforts at the moment are toward fundraising from our own members and overseas.”

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Rosenfeld said the community had picked NGO Jen as its partner, an organization involved in “distributing food supplies to disaster victims and necessary supplies.”

The Chabad movement also announced it was funding food deliveries to survivors of the disaster through its Chabad House in Tokyo.

“Chabad of Japan commissioned a bakery in Sendai to bake bread for residents of Sendai and surrounding areas – supplies for the bakery are being transported to Sendai as well,” a spokesman said.

The situation has gone from bad to worse in Japan in recent days, after radiation leaks were detected in three nuclear power plants in the Fukushima region north of Tokyo. Israel’s ambassador to Japan advised Israelis who were not there on urgent business to leave the country after radiation levels jumped to six times their normal rate in Tokyo on Tuesday.

A nuclear scientist specializing in safety at nuclear reactors told The Jerusalem Post that the normal rate of exposure to radiation that emanates naturally, mostly from the ground, is 100 millirems per year. Workers at nuclear installations are considered within the safety limit if they are exposed to a maximum of 3,000 millirems per year.

The Israeli scientist, who asked not to be named, said that if the radiation levels in Tokyo stood at an annual rate of 600 millirems, it should not pose a significant threat to public health.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said a radiation dose level of 11.9 millisieverts (mSv) per hour had been observed at the main gate of the plant at 12 a.m. on Tuesday. Six hours later, the rate had declined to 0.6 mSv.

The IAEA uses the unit to measure doses of radiation that people receive.

The United Nations weather agency said winds were dispersing radioactive material over the ocean, and there was no danger for Japan or the region.

“A lot of it depends on the sort of exposure,” the scientist said. “If it is inhaled, which is the most dangerous sort of exposure, or if it sticks to clothing. At the moment, from what I understand, the hysteria isn’t reflective of the radiation exposure. But all that can change.”

Many Tokyo residents decided not to take the risk and fled south in case the winds blew the radiation their direction.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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