Japan's Jewish community raises money for relief efforts

2,500 Japanese Jews, with American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee raised $35,000 to provide food and shelter for the needy.

JEN WORKERS hand out food 311 (photo credit: Jen)
JEN WORKERS hand out food 311
(photo credit: Jen)
KOBE, Japan – The Jewish community of Japan on Friday released photos of relief efforts it helped fund in the disaster-stricken north of the country, where hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless following last week’s earthquake and tsunami. At least 7,000 people have been killed, and another 10,000 are missing.
Philip Rosenfled, treasurer of the community in Tokyo, said that the country’s 2,500 Jews – together with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – have raised $35,000 to provide food and shelter for the needy.
“The Jewish Community of Japan is comprised largely of American, European and Israeli expatriates, but we are also part of the broader Japanese community and want to do everything that we can to help in this time of need,” Rosenfled said.
The community has donated the money to JEN, a local NGO involved in the relief effort.
Meanwhile, in Kobe, about 400 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, Israeli expats from the northern part of the country told participants of their ordeal Friday at a Shabbat dinner at the Ohel Shelomoh Synagogue.
“After the earthquake, a helicopter appeared over my house and they shouted ‘Tsunami! Tsunami! Tsunami!’ through speakers,” Ariel Meirson, who lives in Sendai, recalled. “I heard the warning and rushed to find my landlord, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Then I ran outside, but nobody was home or on the street either. Finally, I found someone who told me they were all taking cover at the local school on the third floor so that the water won’t reach them.”
Meirson joined his neighbors at the school where they waited in the dark, bracing for the tsunami to come. Luckily, it never did.
The waters stopped rising a few hundred meters away from them – but the crushing wave took much of the the neighborhood with it.
“People there are fighting for their lives,” said Meirson, who escaped by driving cross country, and is now being hosted by Rabbi David Gingold at the synagogue in Kobe. “If the earthquake and tsunami didn’t get them, than the cold and hunger will.”