HIROSHIMA (Aug. 9)
The survivors of the atomic bomb dropped here 42 years ago are both distinct from and connected to the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, according to Rabbi Joseph Glaser, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
“In the case of the Jews, it was a calculated, cold-blooded plan to murder an entire people,” he explained in an interview here. “In the case of the Japanese, the bombings were a cruel act of war.”
However, he added, “the survivors of both events are linked by the fact they have suffered and have a responsibility to tell their story to humanity to insure neither will ever happen again.”
Glaser was in Japan to attend two major gatherings. On Thursday, he joined an estimated 55,000 people in the Peace Memorial Park here for a memorial service for the victims of the bomb that devastated the city. On Wednesday, Glaser laid a wreath at the Memorial Centopath in memory of the bomb’s dead.
The rabbi also was participating in the World Conference on Religion and Peace, which has brought together 500 religious representatives from various branches of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Shinto, Islam and Confucianism.
The conference began last week at Mt. Hiei in Kyoto, a site sacred to Buddhists. The participants, who also included Rabbi Michael Schudrich of the Jewish community of Tokyo, then came here for the ceremony and travelled to Nagasaki before returning to Kyoto.
INTERFAITH WORK MUST CONTINUE
“There has been a great feeling of camaraderie among the participants,” Glaser, the only American cleric participating, said in an interview here. “Now, when we return to our countries, we must see to it that we continue our interfaith work.”
The religious leaders have offered proposals to solve international conflicts such as apartheid and the escalating nuclear arms race. At. Mt. Hici, they conducted a silent vigil for world peace and rang a peace bell at the Enryaku Temple.
Glaser said wherever he has traveled throughout Japan he has been asked about the Nazi Holocaust.
“The Japanese have told me, ‘Our witnesses are dying off, and many of them are unwilling to share their stories with others.’ I told them this is true with the Jewish survivors, too. Often I have heard survivors of the camps say that people look at them in disbelief and that people do not believe their stories. But they are our witnesses and we must listen.”
In recent months, several reports have described anti-Semitic publications in Japan. Schudrich has been monitoring these publications.
“To date,” Schudrich said, “there have been at least a dozen books that are inflammatory in nature. Two of those books, by Masami Uno, have sold close to 800,000 copies.”
One of Uno’s books, “If You Understand the Jews, You Can Understand the World.” talks about “international Jewish capital” that has damaged the Japanese economy.
“There has historically been great curiosity about Jews in Japan,” Schudrich said. “Jews are an enigma to the Japanese and they are curious about Jews. That’s one of the reasons these books have sold so well. But it’s important to note that what people are reading hasn’t yet been converted into real anti-Semitic actions.
“We are a small community, around 170 families. My concern is that what Japanese are reading not lead to action against Jews.”
Several of the books in question have blamed Jews for international catastrophes, both political and social, including the Tanaka scandal in Japan, the Watergate scandal in the U.S. and the current epidemic rise of AIDS.
“In one sense there is positive admiration for Jews here,” Schudrich said. “Since Japanese think Jews are rich and clever, they would like to emulate that, but the negative information is more than negative because it is false.” He added that the Japanese are not readily exposed to information to the contrary.
The rabbi hopes to spearhead a campaign to finance the opening of a Jewish cultural center in Tokyo where Japanese could comfortably become better acquainted with Jewish life, literature and customs.