Japanese Jewish Scene in Tokyo

Guest Blog by: tJIoGT Department of Zionic Studies, Visiting Prof. Abraham Cohen.

I was recently in Tokyo of all places on Shabbat, and wanted to go to a synagogue for services. At first I strongly doubted that there would be a synagogue anywhere in Tokyo, but much to my surprise, the hotel concierge directed me to a synagogue not too far from the hotel.

I entered the synagogue and was surprised to see that everyone there was classically Japanese in appearance: the rabbi, the cantor and all of the congregants had typically Asian features. Their pronunciations of the Hebrew service were a bit off (Balukh atah... merekh ha-oram), but other than that, the service they performed was just like the one at my own synagogue back home.

After the service, I went up to the rabbi to tell him how much I enjoyed the service.

The Japanese rabbi said to me, "Thank you! Are you Jewish?" And I confirmed that I was. The rabbi said...

"Funny, you don't look Jewish."