A Jewish Response to Human Catastrophe

Brief thoughts on the Japanese Tsunami

Around a year ago, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I wrote a piece for ‘Jewish Action’, the magazine of the American Orthodox Union, entitled ‘A Jewish Response to Human Catastrophe’.  Scarcely more than a year later, a colossal earthquake and tsunami have destroyed a large section of North-Eastern Japan, killing tens of thousands and ruining the lives of innumerable others.  The images defy belief – cars tossed about like toys, entire towns wiped from the face of the earth, huge ships thrown into buildings miles inland, passenger trains simply missing, presumably forever.

Much of what I said a year ago is tragically relevant once more.  Yet there is an additional dimension to the cataclysm in Japan – it has happened in an environment that looks like our own: Japan, unlike Haiti and others locations struck by recent disasters, is a developed, Western-style country.  The photos from the affected areas could have been taken in Manhattan or Cannes.  On previous occasions, we may have assumed that it couldn’t happen to us, perhaps unwittingly associating the disaster with more primitive and unprepared countries.  That self-deception is no longer possible.

There are many ways to assist the victims; one is through a fund launched by World Jewish Relief.