As a world traveler, I find it very exciting to discover Jewish communities in places where you may least expect them. In the north African country of Tunisia, for example, and in Shanghai, China as well. You may not expect to find Jewish communities in these far corners of the world. Yet there they exist, living colorful, proud, and vibrant lives.
Another place that you may not expect to find a Jewish community is in the Pacific island nation of Japan. But there are actually several Jewish communities and organizations throughout the country. The first modern-day Jewish settler we know of arrived in Yokohama in 1861. Today, Jewish organizations throughout Japan include:
Jewish Community of Japan- This egalitarian congregation is very welcoming to tourists and visitors. They are centrally located in Tokyo, and provide a variety of social, religious, and educational services. The community was first founded in 1953, and today includes an office, a school, a library, a mikveh, a social space, a synagogue, and a guest room. For more information, please visit their website here:
Chabad Lubavitch Japan- There are two Chabad organizations in Tokyo: The Chabad Japan Center, and the Chabad of Tokyo. The Chabad house in Tokyo was founded by Rabbi Mendi Sudakevitch, emissary of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Japan, and his wife Chana in 2000. Its goals are to strengthen local Jewish life, facilitate observance of Jewish traditions, and foster a sense of community within Japan. Chabad of Tokyo is an excellent resource for information about kosher food in Japan, and schooling opportunities for Jewish children in Tokyo. It is also a great place to meet other Jewish travelers from all over the world. For more details, please visit their website here: http://www.chabad.jp/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/444010/jewish/About-us.htm
Jewish Community of Kansai- The Jewish community of Kansai, called Ohel Shelomoh, is located in Kobe, Japan. It is an orthodox Mizrachi (Sephardic) style congregation, in which men and women are seated separately during prayer. The community offers Friday night and Saturday morning services, as well as Kiddush meals following each service. Ohel Shelomoh has rooms available for guests during holidays and Shabbat. Please visit their website here for more information: http://www.jcckobe.org/index.html
The Holocaust Education Center- The Holocaust Education Center first opened in 1995, and saw more than 5,000 guests during the first 4 months of its operation. The center is a valuable resource for education, awareness, and advocacy within Japan. Its operations include public seminars on information pertaining to the Holocaust, as well as the publication of a newsletter. It is the first center in Japan that has been created in order to advocate peace, and educate both children and adults about Holocaust events. It also houses a number of valuable artifacts, including art work depicting the Holocaust, photographs of children at the time of the Holocaust, and letters written by people who were involved in the Holocaust. The center is located in Hiroshima, and was built in the form of a Polish style synagogue. Please visit their website here for more details: http://www.urban.ne.jp/home/hecjpn/indexENGLISH.html