After emerging from last week’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resultant tsunami largely unharmed, Japan’s Jewish community turned to relief efforts Monday, dispatching truckloads of supplies to one of the hardest-hit cities.
A mere 80 kilometers from Friday’s epicenter, Sendai saw some of the worst of the destruction when the monster wave slammed into the northern coastal port, inundating homes, industrial areas, even its airport. Led by the Tokyo-based Chabad-Lubavitch of Japan and the Hong Kong-based Chabad-Lubavitch of Asia, the Jewish community response to the tragedy includes shipments of tons of bread, rice, noodles, soups, canned foods, flour and oil.
According to Rabbi Mordechai Avtzon, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Asia, with death tolls expected to climb past 10,000 lives lost all across the country, the Japanese people need all the help they can get. Close to 400,000 people are without food and shelter, some of them the 200,000 people evacuated from an ever-growing circle around the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant where emergency crews are battling possible meltdowns at up to three reactors.
“In the immediate aftermath, the Chabad House has become a nerve and community center for many people, Jewish and non-Jewish,” said Avtzon. “Trucks have already left from there bound for Sendai, and more will be coming.”
Chabad-Lubavitch of Japan director Rabbi Mendy Sudakevich saw off his wife and six children when they evacuated to stay with family in Israel.
Reduced to piles of rubble, a stretch of Japanese coast north of Sendai hints at the vastness of destruction inflicted by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resultant tsunami. (Photo: US Navy/Dylan McCord)
He then commissioned a bakery in Sendai in order to give out free bread; the business will also serve as the Jewish response’s command center.
“We’ve organized 50,000 ready-to-eat food rations to be flown in from the United States,” reported Sudakevich.
Avtzon said that the effort will not be cheap, and urged people to donate to the project through its website, JapanJewishRelief.com.
“This operation could end up costing upwards of $25,000 a day for a month so that the people of Sendai get help,” said the rabbi. “In addition to our prayers, all of Japan needs assistance.”
To donate to Chabad-Lubavitch of Japan’s relief effort in Sendai, click here.