US Jewish group sends aid to Japan via local community

ZAKA to send team when situation on ground stabilizes; JDC says it has sent money to provide victims of quake, tsunami with relief.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
March 14, 2011 17:48
2 minute read.
The destroyed city of Natori, northern Japan

japan earthquake 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) said Monday that it has sent money to the Jewish community in Japan to provide relief for victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the island nation last Friday.

The JDC said it was empowering the community in Tokyo to channel donations to local NGOs engaged in providing aid to the beleaguered parts of the country.

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“We’ve reached out [to] the local Jewish community in Tokyo and [we’re] partnering with a local NGO to give them help,” said Judy Amit, the JDC’s global director of international development. “At the moment it’s a small sum, but we’re waiting to see how much to allocate depending on our donation mailbox.”

Some 2,000 Jews live in Japan, mostly residing in the capital and its suburbs.

Over 48 hours have passed since the 8.9-magnitude tremor, followed by an even deadlier tsunami wave, struck the northeast parts of the main island, and search and rescue teams are still struggling to access the afflicted areas. Critical failures at three nuclear power plants in the region have further complicated efforts, adding the risk of rescue crews and survivors being exposed to radiation.

Israeli emergency response group ZAKA said its plans to send a team to Japan were on hold until the situation there stabilized.

“We plan on sending a team out there, but with the situation as volatile as it is, the safety of the rescue teams is of great importance,” ZAKA spokeswoman Lydia Weitzman said.

Meanwhile, a six-man team sent by Israeli humanitarian group IsraAID-FIRST, which left Israel on Sunday, was still making its way to the country, where it hopes to join search and rescue efforts.

NGO sources said that because of the severity of the situation, the Japanese government has decided for the time being to rely mostly on its own resources to handle the disaster.

“That they did ask for help from some countries like the UK, US and France says a lot,” Amit said. “Once they see the extent of the damage, they will be asking for additional assistance.”

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Saturday that his country had experienced the worst devastation since 1945.

“The current situation of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear plants is in a way the most severe crisis in the past 65 years since World War II,” he was quoted as saying.

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