Nagasaki cemetery proof of Jewish survival in Japan


AMONG anniversaries of historical Jewish importance, the centennial of the demise of Japanís first synagogue is one that even the Jews of the country may be pardoned for not knowing about.

Last year marked 100 years since the closure of Nagasakiís briefly thriving Jewish community.

But its peaceful cemetery is still standing and proof of how remarkably Jews have survived throughout time ó by moving on when the going gets rough.

When I first heard about the Jewish cemetery in Nagasaki, I was still deeply entrenched in Jewish life in Tokyo, where I had lived for 30 years, closely connected to both the well-established Jewish Community Centre, founded in 1951, and two Chabad Houses that had opened in 2000.

What stirred my interest was stumbling upon a book of fascinating Inquisition-era history called The Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, by Edward Kritzler.

The book set off bells as I learned that Converso Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition had become key players, first in Portugal and then in Holland ó from ship navigators to global commodity traders ó visiting, if not settling, in major ports around the world.

Nagasaki has a unique foreign history, unlike anywhere else in Japan.

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