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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Hanging In the Balance: Nightmare in Japan

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

           The loneliness is overwhelming. Yoel G., Yaakov Yosef G., and Yossi B. have spent ten months in solitary confinement, sitting on a hard concrete floor, their mobility severely restricted. They have no contact with anyone they know, except for their lawyers. No visitors are permitted, with the exception of parents, whom they may only see briefly and infrequently. Even these visits are held through a glass partition, and monitored by guards and interpreters.

 

And the fear. How long will they have to remain in these forbidding jail cells, thousands of miles away from their homes and yeshivos? Will they be sentenced to a decade of forced labor by a judge who cannot comprehend the naivet? of innocent yeshiva bachurim cruelly exploited by ostensibly pious Jews? Will they ever again lead a normal, Jewish life after being “reformed” by the highly efficient Japanese corrections system?

 

Yossi was only 17 at the time of his arrest; Yaakov Yosef was 19. Lack of kosher food has caused one of the boys to lose 100 pounds, and another to lose 60.

 

It started out as an innocent favor for a friend. Yoel, Yaakov Yosef and Yossi were kindhearted yeshiva bachurim who spent their spare time doing chesed for sick people in Bnei Brak, and when someone they knew and trusted approached them with an assignment of a different nature, they had no reason to think anything was amiss.

 

“I have a friend who is an antique dealer,” the person told them, “and he needs to deliver some antiques to Japan for the Tokyo 2008 Art Fair that will be taking place in a few weeks. He is unable to go himself, due to family obligations, so he asked me to find three bachurim to each take one parcel containing valuable antiques. He is willing to pay $1,000 to each of you on your return for the effort.”

 

The boys recognized the name of the antique dealer, a prominent and respected member of the religious community in Eretz Yisrael. Nothing about the assignment sounded suspicious, and the promise of some bein hazmanim pocket money was inviting.

 

The boys were told their assignment was 100% legal and that the antiques they would be delivering did not have to be declared at Japanese customs. Instead of receiving a parcel, they were each given an empty suitcase and instructed to put their personal belongings inside. The antiques, they were told, had been placed in a sealed compartment inside the suitcases as a precaution against theft, damage or accidental loss.

 

They did not dream the sealed compartments of the three suitcases contained narcotics worth $3.6 million. They did not dream the favor they were being asked to do was a mask for a crime punishable by ten years of imprisonment and forced labor. And they did not dream that instead of the $1,000 in pocket money they had been promised for their effort, Jews the world over would have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to wage a massive legal battle on their behalf.

 

Upon arrival at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, the three unsuspecting boys placed their luggage onto the x-ray machine. Japanese customs officials spotted the hidden compartments, cut open the suitcases, and discovered a total of over 50 pounds of narcotics cleverly concealed inside. The boys were immediately arrested and placed in solitary confinement.

 

For the next 21 days, the three were subjected to grueling interrogation. The 2,500-page record of this interrogation, as well as the results of polygraph tests, showed clearly that none of the boys had any knowledge of the hidden contents of their luggage. But the law is the law, especially in Japan, where there is a zero-tolerance attitude to crime. The Japanese stance on illegal substances is one of the toughest in the world, and 99.9% of people caught smuggling drugs into Japan are convicted. Sentences can range between 10 and 15 years of prison and forced labor.

 

            By the time Japanese prisoners are released, they are fully “reformed,” usually with drastically diminished physical and mental capabilities. The Japanese corrections system is designed to act as a powerful deterrent to crime, and indeed, the crime rate in Japan is infinitesimal compared to other westernized countries.

 

Ten months in jail have taken their toll on the boys physically and emotionally, and they and their families tremble at the thought of what ten years of imprisonment and forced labor will do to them. Experts estimate that young, sheltered yeshiva bachurim like Yoel, Yaakov Yosef and Yossi would not survive even one year of prison without permanent damage.

 

             Both Yossi and Yaakov Yosef are considered minors by Japanese law, but they are nevertheless being tried in adult court in light of the severity with which the Japanese authorities view their alleged crime. Yossi’s trial was held at the beginning of February; he is now awaiting sentencing. The trials of Yoel and Yaakov Yosef are due to begin shortly, but it will be several months before all of the verdicts are delivered.

 

Yoel and Yaakov Yosef are managing to learn Torah and have completed a number of masechtos in the detention center as they await trial. The three boys struggle valiantly to adhere to halacha, despite their circumstances, and have sought rabbinic guidance in how to cope with the unique halachic challenges they face.

 

Askanim in Eretz Yisrael, the U.S., England and Belgium have worked tirelessly to provide them with kosher food, religious articles and medical attention. More importantly, they have invested tremendous efforts into putting together top-notch defense teams for each of the boys. These teams are composed of both Japanese lawyers and experts in international law such as Mordechai Tzivin, an Israeli and international lawyer; the well-known Dayan Chaim Yosef Dovid Weiss of Antwerp; Rabbi Jacob Bleich, chief rabbi of Ukraine; Rabbi Aaron Nezri of London; and Rabbi Elimelech Bindiger. Yoel, Yaakov Yosef and Yossi are not just three boys sitting in jail in Japan. They are our brothers, they are our children. If you or your child were in their situation, you would desperately want kind Jews to come to your aid. That’s how these boys feel. They are totally dependent on the mercy of the Ribbono Shel Olam, the mercy of the Japanese judges, and the mercy of Klal Yisrael.

 

The first way we can help the boys is by intensifying our tefillos on their behalf and begging Hashem that the judges be fully convinced of their innocence. The full Hebrew names of the boys are: Yoel Zev ben Mirel Reesa Chava; Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel; and Yosef ben Ita Rivka.

 

The second way we can help is by shouldering some of the costs of the legal and humanitarian assistance they require. These costs have already surpassed $800,000, and askanim project that a minimum of $500,000 more will be needed until all the trials are over.

 

The mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim overrides Shabbos and takes precedence over all other forms of tzedakah. Whatever our financial situation, whatever other obligations we might have, we must remember that boys are relying on our kindness and generosity.

 

The cost of legal and humanitarian assistance has already surpassed $800,000, and askanim project a minimum of $500,000 more will be needed. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to the rabbonim listed in the ad on page 11 of this week’s Jewish Press.

Hanging In the Balance: Nightmare in Japan

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

           The loneliness is overwhelming. Yoel G., Yaakov Yosef G., and Yossi B. have spent ten months in solitary confinement, sitting on a hard concrete floor, their mobility severely restricted. They have no contact with anyone they know, except for their lawyers. No visitors are permitted, with the exception of parents, whom they may only see briefly and infrequently. Even these visits are held through a glass partition, and monitored by guards and interpreters.

 

And the fear. How long will they have to remain in these forbidding jail cells, thousands of miles away from their homes and yeshivos? Will they be sentenced to a decade of forced labor by a judge who cannot comprehend the naiveté of innocent yeshiva bachurim cruelly exploited by ostensibly pious Jews? Will they ever again lead a normal, Jewish life after being “reformed” by the highly efficient Japanese corrections system?
 
Yossi was only 17 at the time of his arrest; Yaakov Yosef was 19. Lack of kosher food has caused one of the boys to lose 100 pounds, and another to lose 60.
 
It started out as an innocent favor for a friend. Yoel, Yaakov Yosef and Yossi were kindhearted yeshiva bachurim who spent their spare time doing chesed for sick people in Bnei Brak, and when someone they knew and trusted approached them with an assignment of a different nature, they had no reason to think anything was amiss.
 
“I have a friend who is an antique dealer,” the person told them, “and he needs to deliver some antiques to Japan for the Tokyo 2008 Art Fair that will be taking place in a few weeks. He is unable to go himself, due to family obligations, so he asked me to find three bachurim to each take one parcel containing valuable antiques. He is willing to pay $1,000 to each of you on your return for the effort.”
 
The boys recognized the name of the antique dealer, a prominent and respected member of the religious community in Eretz Yisrael. Nothing about the assignment sounded suspicious, and the promise of some bein hazmanim pocket money was inviting.
 
The boys were told their assignment was 100% legal and that the antiques they would be delivering did not have to be declared at Japanese customs. Instead of receiving a parcel, they were each given an empty suitcase and instructed to put their personal belongings inside. The antiques, they were told, had been placed in a sealed compartment inside the suitcases as a precaution against theft, damage or accidental loss.
 
They did not dream the sealed compartments of the three suitcases contained narcotics worth $3.6 million. They did not dream the favor they were being asked to do was a mask for a crime punishable by ten years of imprisonment and forced labor. And they did not dream that instead of the $1,000 in pocket money they had been promised for their effort, Jews the world over would have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to wage a massive legal battle on their behalf.
 
Upon arrival at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, the three unsuspecting boys placed their luggage onto the x-ray machine. Japanese customs officials spotted the hidden compartments, cut open the suitcases, and discovered a total of over 50 pounds of narcotics cleverly concealed inside. The boys were immediately arrested and placed in solitary confinement.
 
For the next 21 days, the three were subjected to grueling interrogation. The 2,500-page record of this interrogation, as well as the results of polygraph tests, showed clearly that none of the boys had any knowledge of the hidden contents of their luggage. But the law is the law, especially in Japan, where there is a zero-tolerance attitude to crime. The Japanese stance on illegal substances is one of the toughest in the world, and 99.9% of people caught smuggling drugs into Japan are convicted. Sentences can range between 10 and 15 years of prison and forced labor.
 
            By the time Japanese prisoners are released, they are fully “reformed,” usually with drastically diminished physical and mental capabilities. The Japanese corrections system is designed to act as a powerful deterrent to crime, and indeed, the crime rate in Japan is infinitesimal compared to other westernized countries.
 
Ten months in jail have taken their toll on the boys physically and emotionally, and they and their families tremble at the thought of what ten years of imprisonment and forced labor will do to them. Experts estimate that young, sheltered yeshiva bachurim like Yoel, Yaakov Yosef and Yossi would not survive even one year of prison without permanent damage.
 
             Both Yossi and Yaakov Yosef are considered minors by Japanese law, but they are nevertheless being tried in adult court in light of the severity with which the Japanese authorities view their alleged crime. Yossi’s trial was held at the beginning of February; he is now awaiting sentencing. The trials of Yoel and Yaakov Yosef are due to begin shortly, but it will be several months before all of the verdicts are delivered.
 
Yoel and Yaakov Yosef are managing to learn Torah and have completed a number of masechtos in the detention center as they await trial. The three boys struggle valiantly to adhere to halacha, despite their circumstances, and have sought rabbinic guidance in how to cope with the unique halachic challenges they face.
 
Askanim in Eretz Yisrael, the U.S., England and Belgium have worked tirelessly to provide them with kosher food, religious articles and medical attention. More importantly, they have invested tremendous efforts into putting together top-notch defense teams for each of the boys. These teams are composed of both Japanese lawyers and experts in international law such as Mordechai Tzivin, an Israeli and international lawyer; the well-known Dayan Chaim Yosef Dovid Weiss of Antwerp; Rabbi Jacob Bleich, chief rabbi of Ukraine; Rabbi Aaron Nezri of London; and Rabbi Elimelech Bindiger.
 
Yoel, Yaakov Yosef and Yossi are not just three boys sitting in jail in Japan. They are our brothers, they are our children. If you or your child were in their situation, you would desperately want kind Jews to come to your aid. That’s how these boys feel. They are totally dependent on the mercy of the Ribbono Shel Olam, the mercy of the Japanese judges, and the mercy of Klal Yisrael.
 
The first way we can help the boys is by intensifying our tefillos on their behalf and begging Hashem that the judges be fully convinced of their innocence. The full Hebrew names of the boys are: Yoel Zev ben Mirel Reesa Chava; Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel; and Yosef ben Ita Rivka.
 
The second way we can help is by shouldering some of the costs of the legal and humanitarian assistance they require. These costs have already surpassed $800,000, and askanim project that a minimum of $500,000 more will be needed until all the trials are over.
 
The mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim overrides Shabbos and takes precedence over all other forms of tzedakah. Whatever our financial situation, whatever other obligations we might have, we must remember that boys are relying on our kindness and generosity.
 

The cost of legal and humanitarian assistance has already surpassed $800,000, and askanim project a minimum of $500,000 more will be needed. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to the rabbonim listed in the ad on page 11 of this week’s Jewish Press.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

It can be very challenging to be arranging a flight to Israel while dealing with the needs of a large family, managing a high-pressured job, and satisfying the needs of parents who are eagerly awaiting your visit.

After much consideration, my husband bought a ticket leaving Newark airport Sunday, September 7th and returning Monday night, September 15th.We marked our calendars with the dates, and although I was not looking forward to his absence, I knew it was something that had to be done.  

During the month preceding the flight, my husband received numerous calls from Israel requesting that he change his scheduled flight and come sooner, since his father’s health was taking a turn for the worse.  Hospitalizations for either a stroke or an infection of one kind or another caused drastic changes in his father’s ability to function.  My husband needed to keep his original dates though, and on September 7th I took him to the airport and waited anxiously to see what would be.

At ninety-one years of age, my father-in-law had lived through the Holocaust.  Over the years that followed, he led congregations in England, Japan and America and then, upon his retirement, had fulfilled his lifelong dream of settling in Eretz Yisrael. But because my father in law was so ill, father and son were not able to share even a single conversation during their visit together. There was one special moment when my husband felt his father respond to his voice, lift his arm, and give him a kiss he will always treasure.  Most of that week, however, was spent in crisis mode. 

As the only son in his family, my husband felt compelled to help his exhausted mother and sister with the burden of caring for his father. The week was filled with urgent calls to doctors, nurses, social workers and a long visit to a medical emergency facility.  However, my father in law’s health continued to deteriorate. Whenever my husband found a moment to phone home, his voice was full of tension and strain.

Finally, Monday arrived and I was excited that we would be reunited again. As my husband got into the car, I noticed that he had never looked so exhausted before and I was glad that he would now have the opportunity to catch up on his rest and regain his strength.

The following day, the sad news reached us that my father-in-law had taken his last breath. I worked vigorously making arrangements for my husband and our oldest son to travel to Eretz Yisrael as soon as possible.  I was worried about my husband and wondered how we would cope with getting him ready to race back to Israel, and how I would manage another week on my own.  My husband was still disoriented from the previous week, the difference in time, and the news that he had just received, so I was relieved to see that our son was planning to travel back with him. On Tuesday afternoon they went racing to the airport, and I was alone again.

I was afraid that my husband’s absence would put a feeling of distance between us. However, when he called after the funeral, anxious to hear about my well being, I knew that I had been wrong. The One Above is in charge of our lives. Our relationship was only strengthened because we were forced to be apart.   

I was able to plan the final day of shiva arrangements in our home, and my husband was able to see how much I cared to make it all work out well for him on his return. As tragic as the loss of life is when the angel of death strikes, we must learn to appreciate even more, the important relationships that we are able to sustain.

My husband had originally planned his trip to visit his entire family. Instead, his trip wholly entailed taking vital care of his sick father. This resulted in the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of kibud av v’eim (honoring parents) many times − more than had been planned.  Both parents benefited tremendously from their son’s dedication and perseverance in response to the crisis.  My husband will always be able to reflect back on the wholehearted actions he took on their behalf.

Traveling back to Eretz Yisrael the day after his return to the U.S. had shown a tremendous act of honor on behalf of his father, as our rabbi commented.

As much as we try to be in control of our destinies, we must always take a back seat to the One Above Who is really writing our calendars.  May we always remember that, no matter how we feel at the moment, Hashem is sending us to the right place at the right time. May we always be worthy to be put on His schedule.

Winter Thoughts On The Summer Game

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

         The Boston Red Sox will have three opening days in three different countries. The first will be in Japan on Tuesday, March 25, against Oakland. The A’s will act as the home team in the two-game series that opens the 2008 major league season. After the Wednesday, March 26 game, the teams will return to the U.S. to open the season in Oakland on April 1. After two games in Oakland, Boston goes to Canada for the season opener in Toronto.

 

         Red Sox Nation will have to wait until Tuesday, April 8, for the Fenway opener, but will be rewarded by seeing baseball’s best two teams – the Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers – go at it. The Tigers’ lineup – their new additions combined with last year’s regulars – had a collective batting average of .312, tops in the majors. The Yankees were second at .292 and Boston slid in third at .287.

 

         Boston and Detroit both boast good pitching, but I’d give the edge to the Red Sox. However, the ferocious lineup of the Tigers can start a rally at any time. No one knows who will have baseball’s best record in October, but it should be either Detroit or Boston.

 

         Speaking of Boston, the Red Sox sold out the 2007 season at Fenway and drew 2,970,755 fans – 29,245 short of three million. They’ll hit the aforementioned milestone for the first time this year as 840 new seats have been added to the roof of the storied ballpark.

 

         Look for other cities to also set new attendance highs. Detroit is poised to top last year’s record mark of more than three million. Season ticket sales were cut off at 25,000 in January in order to accommodate groups and individuals for selected games. Baseball expects to set a new collective attendance high this year.

 

* * * * *

 

         I’m lucky enough – and old enough – to have seen games in two Washington ballparks. Griffith Stadium, where the Senators played through 1961, and D.C. Stadium (later renamed for Robert F. Kennedy and called RFK Stadium).

 

         The first game of the 2008 season on American soil will take place in Washington’s spiffy, brand new Nationals Park on Sunday night, March 30, and carried around the baseball world by ESPN.

 

         The best viewing location in Nationals Park is the upper deck along the first base line. You’ll be able to see the Capitol dome about two miles beyond left field, and if you want to see the Washington Monument at the same time, move down the line closer to right field.

 

* * * * *

 

         Don’t you wish you could sit in a big league ballpark without a coat and see lush, green grass at this time of year?

 

         Well, you can – and I did.

 

         You can sit and snack in the bleachers in Petco Park in beautiful downtown San Diego. There’s a plaza behind the outfield decks and bleachers that is open to the public on non-game days.

 

         You can also take a guided tour of the four-year-old 42,445-seat impressive home of the Padres. The left field corner incorporates a most unusual building. Built in 1909, the 80-foot high former home of an iron and steel foundry, overlooks the field. Bleachers on top of the building and three levels of bleachers attached to the structure hover over fair territory.

 

         On a tour from the top deck behind the infield, you can look in the opposite direction from the field and even see Mexico while drinking in the view of the Pacific Ocean.

 

         Forget Florida – San Diego is a lot cheaper this time of year.

 

         There are motels a pop-up away from San Diego’s two kosher eateries, and the shul – Beth Jacob – is less than a mile from there. Rabbi Avram Bogopulsky and his rebbetzin are superstars and Brooklyn natives. The rabbi still has some Yankees memorabilia from the early 70′s when the Yanks were on the wrong end of the standings.

 

         Affluent LaJolla also has a beautiful shul and superstar leaders (Wohlgelernters). However, the impressive area is almost a half-hour drive from the San Diego eateries, and motels are much more expensive and quite a walk to shul.

 

         Another advantage of the Beth Jacob area is that the San Diego Aztecs baseball team, coached by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, plays in a cute little ballpark (named for him) in the college area about a mile from the shul.

 

* * * * *

 

         I’ve had the pleasure of being the baseball-scholar-in-residence at many shuls through the years. (“You’re the Paysach Krohn of baseball and Jewish baseball stories,” one fellow told me. Well, I’m not as good as Rabbi Krohn, but who is?)

 

         Anyway, no matter what color hat or head covering we wear (if any), one thing unites us: baseball.

 

         And it never fails – old-timers always bring up Hank Greenberg and anti-Semitism.

 

         “Pitchers didn’t want Greenberg to break Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1938,” they say.

 

         Is that really true?

 

         As history buffs recall, Greenberg was chasing Ruth’s single-season record of 60 home runs set in 1927 (since broken by steroid stuffers in recent years).

 

         I grew up (though not all the way) in the 1950′s, years after Greenberg retired as a player, but I also heard in the community that managers and players at the time didn’t want a Jew to break the Babe’s record.

 

         I was lucky enough to interview Greenberg and had the chance to ask the Tigers superstar about 1938.

 

         “Most players were my friends and wanted to see me break the record,” Greenberg recalled.

 

         “In fact,” he said, “my 57th home run that year was a gift. I should have stopped at third with a triple but kept going, trying for an inside-the-park home run. I was called safe at the plate but was really out by a mile. The umpire was a friend of mine and the catcher didn’t argue the call. We were playing Cleveland, and I felt the Indians were rooting for me to do it. But I could never hit Bob Feller and had to face him too often as the season wound down. I just ran out of gas.”

 

* * * * *

 

         The initial offer by the Yankees and Red Sox for Twins lefthander Johan Santana was far better than the package Minnesota received from the Mets. At least Boston and the Yanks included one impact player and better prospects.

 

         Mets general manager Omar Minaya landed a superstar pitcher and gave up nothing of importance in terms of players the club was counting on. Will the addition of Santana be enough for the Mets to win the National League East? I’ll give my predictions after spring training.

 

         In the meantime, send me yours.

 

         Irwin Cohen, the author of seven books, headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring working as a department head in a major league front office. His “Baseball Insider” column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish press. Cohen, president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Horrid Generation

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Dennis Prager, the sometimes controversial, always thought-provoking radio host and syndicated columnist, wrote a column last week on the legacy the baby boom generation has bequeathed to younger Americans.

“We live in the age of group apologies,” wrote Prager. “I would like to add one. The baby boomer generation needs to apologize to America, especially its young generation, for many sins.”

One of those sins, according to Prager, is the mindless pacifism espoused by Sixties-era liberals and leftists and passed down to their ideological heirs – a pacifism neatly summarized by the popular 1960’s slogan “Make love, not war.”

“Our parents,” Prager continued, “had liberated the world from immeasurably cruel and murderous regimes in Germany and Japan – solely thanks to waging war. But instead of concluding that war could do great moral good, we sang ourselves silly with such inane lyrics as ‘Give peace a chance,’ as if that deals in any way with the world’s most monstrous evils. So we taught you to make love and not war. And we succeeded.”

The column struck a chord because the Monitor has long viewed baby boomers as the most overindulged, overrated, self-infatuated and self-destructive generation America has produced to date. (Full disclosure: the Monitor’s alter-ego is very much a part of that horrid generation.)

There are many things about the boomers that the Monitor disdains, perhaps none more than the baseless claim – repeated so often it’s been virtually inscribed as historical fact – that antiwar boomers basically shut down the Vietnam War.

Of course, even if one accepts the premise that the antiwar movement ended America’s involvement in Vietnam, the fact is that most of the more intelligent opponents of that war, and certainly just about all of those with the means and influence to do something about it – elected officials, journalists, financial contributors to political parties – were born well before 1946, the start of the baby boom era.)

But the reality is that antiwar activists – of whatever age – were in no way responsible for ending the war.

All the major public opinion polls of that era, from the first stirrings of antiwar sentiment in 1965 to the mass demonstrations four and five years later, showed that the majority of Americans remained more or less supportive of their government’s policy in Southeast Asia.

The peace candidate Eugene McCarthy’s near victory in the 1968 New Hampshire primary was fueled in great measure by voters who felt the Johnson administration was not being aggressive enough in its prosecution of the war.

Many of those McCarthy voters actually went on to support the third-party candidacy of the Vietnam hawk George Wallace in the November general election.

As late as 1972 – a full eight years after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, four years after the Tet offensive, three years after revelation of the My Lai massacre and two years after the National Guard shootings at Kent State – the Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern, running on an unambiguous vow to stop the war, suffered a loss of cataclysmic proportions to President Richard Nixon.

By then, of course, the antiwar movement itself had largely petered out as the Nixon administration implemented a series of troop withdrawals and the draft gave way to an all-volunteer armed forces.

Rather than give credit to the antiwar movement for stopping the war, it’s at least as valid to suggest that the turmoil created by the movement served further to paralyze U.S. policy makers, whose aims in Vietnam were never very clear to begin with.

After all, the war in Vietnam, at least in terms of Americans fighting and dying, lasted three times as long as the Korean conflict of the 1950’s – a war that, by way of comparison, elicited minimal backlash on the home front.

Speaking of the baby boom generation, former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw is out with a new book, Boom!, a follow-up of sorts to his mega-seller The Greatest Generation, which chronicled a generation that, unlike its boomer offspring, actually did end a war, defeating Germany and Japan in World War II.

Boom! makes for interesting reading, but for a more substantial – and sobering – look at boomers and what they wrought, see Peter Collier and David Horowitz’s Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties.

Stop The Lobby!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

      In an amazing development, archeologists digging in the campus grounds of Harvard University near the statue of John Harvard have uncovered a forgotten buried document about a long-defunct organization of professors and students operating on American campuses in 1937.
 
        Numerous campus organizations at that time were protesting the nefarious activities of the Czech Lobby, which was accused of suppressing free speech on American campuses. Professors from Harvard and the University of Chicago led the movement to expose and rein in the all-too-powerful Czech Lobby and to promote divestment from Czechoslovakia.
 
         Here are the exact contents of the document discovered and published this week by archeologists:
 

November 1937

 

         Faculty Members, Students, University Presidents, Journalists, and Patriotic Americans –
 
         At long last a group of courageous people is confronting the Czech Lobby.
 
         For too long, fear of this Lobby has intimidated professors and others. This Lobby seeks to suppress the freedom to criticize and to speak out against human-rights abuses by Czechoslovakia against the Sudeten Germans living in the occupied Sudetenland.
 
         For too long, American foreign policy has been undermined by this Lobby, which seeks to substitute the interests of the Czechs for those of the American people. Agents from the Czech Lobby and the Czechoslovakia-First neo-bohemians have infiltrated the American government and are forcing the United States to support Czechoslovakia in its obstinate refusal to grant self-determination to the Sudeten Germans and to remove its illegal Czech settlements from the Sudetenland.
 
        Moreover, the Czech Lobby is not content with imposing on the world its agenda of unbalanced support for Czechoslovakia in its aggression toward the Third Reich. The Lobby is also behind the foolish American policy of antagonizing Japan and of the ongoing bloody American occupation of the Philippines.
 
         The Lobby has been spreading propaganda about human rights abuses in Germany and about the oppressed status of women in Japan, but since when is it the proper business of the United States to interfere in the internal affairs of those sovereign states?
 
         The Czech Lobby has its appendages everywhere. It commands enormous sums of capital, controls large portions of the Western media, and uses these to terrorize those who express criticism of its behavior and those who oppose the reckless and abusive policies of Czechoslovakia.
 
         The Czech Lobby has begun exceeding all bounds, and its agents are even interfering with freedom of speech on American campuses. For example, a political science professor at DePaul University who built up his career by writing anti-Czech books and articles for the Der Sturmer newspaper in Germany was recently denied tenure.
 
         Clearly, the only reason he was turned down was because the Czech Lobby was pressuring the authorities at that university. A second professor who fell victim to the conniving of the Lobby was fired from the University of Colorado for suggesting the United States is an evil, imperialist country threatening world peace and that Americans would really deserve it if Japan were to bomb the dickens out of Pearl Harbor.
 
        Elsewhere, courageous academics willing to speak their minds about the inhumane and arrogant policies of Czechoslovakia have been harassed by the Lobby. The Czech Lobby controls so much of the American media; many of its loyalists among the ranks of U.S. columnists have unfairly attacked professors who endorse Germany’s demands that Czechoslovakia liberate the oppressed Sudeten Germans and allow them to set up their own state.
 
        Newspaper criticism of these professors is obviously a threat to American democracy and an attempt to suppress academic freedom and neutralize the First Amendment. Clearly the neo-bohemians and their fellow travelers have no respect at all for the Constitution.
 
        Meanwhile, a new book has been published by two courageous scholars who were willing to defy threats and intimidation – a book that exposes all of the machinations of the Czech Lobby. Written by professors Helmut Walther and Heinrich Johnsheimer, the book was brought out by a major publishing house and the authors are being interviewed on radio stations coast to coast. A whistlestop train tour is being planned to help promote their book.
 
        Meanwhile, the Middle European Studies Association has issued a series of statements condemning the Czech Lobby and its attempts to suppress academic freedom in America. It has called on DePaul University to reinstate the professor who was denied tenure because of outside pressure from agents of the Lobby.
 
        Awareness of the power and threat of the Czech Lobby has been growing among the public. We are seeing growing efforts to expose its nefarious aims. Campus teach-ins have been held. There is now a large movement to divest from Czechoslovakia until it frees the Sudetenland. Demands to boycott Czechoslovakian universities and sever all ties with Czech academics are increasingly heard.
 
        Delegations of international solidarity demonstrators are being sent to the Sudetenland to help protect Sudeten Germans from being abused by the Czechoslovak police and military. A multi-city film festival is being planned, featuring films documenting the discrimination and abuses suffered by Sudeten Germans living under Czechoslovakian occupation.
 
         We must liberate American policy from being held hostage by a group that serves alien interests. And we must defend academic freedom and the right of scholars to denounce and criticize freely the policies of the Czechoslovakian regime.
 
         Please, come join us in our campaign for freedom.
 
        Professors and Students for an Independent Sudetenland.
 

         Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at   steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Israeli Food Companies In Flurry Of Pre-Passover Activity

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

       Israel’s food industry is projecting one of the most profitable Passover holidays in its history.

 

        Companies produced many new products and focused on health-conscious consumers, as well. Adama Organics introduced matzah made from whole wheat and organic grape juice. The vitamin-enriched matzot are sold in one kilo (2.2 lbs.) boxes and are certified kosher by the rabbinate of Rishon L’Tzion. All Adama products are pesticide-free and MGO-free and do not use anything that has been genetically engineered. Adama belongs to the Organic Farmers of Israel Association and is supervised by the USDAand IFOAM.

 

         Elite Energy has launched a line of snack bars made with rice and corn for the many Sephardic Jews who eat rice and corn during Passover. The kosher for Passover energy bars proved so popular last year that the company decided to expand the choice to both almond and chocolate flavors, specifically for children. As Passover week is a popular time for hiking and picnics, the bars are an excellent snack food.

 

         According to a Nielsen market survey, Elite Energy controls about a third of the general snack bar market. Elite made a splash last year with its cakes and this year added rich chocolate brownies based on the popularity of the brownies year-round.

 

         Israel’s wineries have noted dramatically increased sales before the Passover holiday. Binyamina, Barkanand Daltonas well as the larger Carmel and Golanwineries are reporting greater international demand. One marketing specialist noted that Passover and Rosh Hashanah are the holiday seasons when there is an increase in sales of Israeli wines worldwide.

 

         Israel will also participate in this month’s Foodex Expotaking place in Japan. Carmel, Binyamina, Hagalil and Yatir are some of the wineries taking part in the expo.  Mazon, Israel’s food industry website says that two-thirds of the wines sold in Japan are imported. The Israel Export Institutetogether with the Trade Industry’s economic attache in Japan are organizing several events in Tokyo and Osaka to promote Israeli wines.

 

(www.koshertoday.com)


 

Title: The Fugu Plan: The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews during World War II

Wednesday, September 15th, 2004

Title: The Fugu Plan: The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews during World War II
By: Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and Mary Swartz
Publisher: Gefen Publishing, Jerusalem, Israel

 

 

This is not a new book. It was written by Rabbi Tokayer – who resides in Brooklyn – in 1979. In this new edition, Tokayer includes new information and emphasis based upon the humanitarian contributions of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Consul in Kovno, Lithuania at the time of the start of World War II.

Tokayer had the unique opportunity of personally meeting with Sugihara a few years before his passing. Tokayer asked this hero of the Holocaust if he knew what happened to the many Jews and others he was instrumental in rescuing. Sugihara replied: “I never found out what happened to the refugees… I never knew if they got past the Soviet Union, if they actually came to Japan, if they ever found safety. I didn’t want to discuss it because I was afraid that perhaps I had only led them to their deaths.”

Sugihara admitted that his burden of responsibility would have been easier to bear if he had been aware of the “Fugu Plan” which positioned him in Kovno in the first place.

Although the Japanese joined Hitler’s “Axis,” they did not have a tradition of anti-Semitism in their country. Quite the contrary. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, a Jewish banker – Jacob Schiff – came through with a loan of the then-stupendous sum of five million English pounds. Schiff was a partner in the American investment firm of Kunh-Loeb and wanted to help defeat Russian Tzar Nicholas II, who had only recently sponsored pogroms to wipe out the Jewish community of Kishinev. His loan to Japan helped them win the war and capture an entire Manchurian territory from Russia.

Unfortunately, in 1919, Japanese soldiers were sent to Siberia to fight alongside White Russian soldiers in their losing battle against the Communists. At that time, General Gregorii Semonov introduced “The Protocols of The Elders of Zion,” a classic of anti-Semitic literature, to two Japanese soldiers who took the information very seriously. But without a resident Jewish population to persecute, the Japanese government - by now informed of “the international Jewish conspiracy” – set out to study the Jews. By the 1930s, a section of “Jewish experts” came into being as part of the Japanese government. Remembering the Jewish contribution to Japan’s successful execution of the 1904 Russo-Japanese War, they decided to try to entice Jewish settlement into the Manchurian territory awarded them by the Portsmouth Conference.

The Fugu is a blowfish that is a beloved delicacy of Japanese cuisine but which is deadly poisonous if not carefully prepared. Thus, the Japanese gave this name to their plan to help rescue as many Jews from Nazi Europe as possible with the aim of resettlement in their Manchurian and other territories to help administer them for Imperial Japan.

Chiune Sugihara didn’t realize that he was but a pawn, and even after the war, he was never informed of this top-secret project, possibly because his “handlers” were no longer in government. Through the efforts of Sugihara and those of some other Consuls of other nations, notably including The Netherlands, many thousands of Jews were saved, including the entire student body and rabbanim of the Mir Yeshiva.

Tokayer relates the wartime travels and experiences of some of the many refugees who benefitted from the Japanese Consul’s wartime visas, and now conducts tours back to many Asian places enumerated in this book. Numerous reproductions of genuine documents are included as well as many interesting anecdotes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-the-fugu-plan-the-untold-story-of-the-japanese-and-the-jews-during-world-war-ii/2004/09/15/

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