The relief work needed a lot of funds to cover them. How was Rabbi Edery able to cover all the costs of 1 million dollars? He was very creative. Firstly, he got as many people involved in helping out. Each volunteer contacted their network and the word got out that funds were needed. People’s generosity was incredible, especially from the Jewish communities worldwide. From the US, England, Israel there was an outpour of support.
Rabbi Edery, had one great idea for fundraising. He had Jewish friends in Beverly Hills who offered to organize a fundraising dinner for people who want to help. Rabbi brought Dassai sake, and the president of the company joined this event to promote Japanese sake and ask people to donate for the relief work. Rabbi Edery invited the president of Mutual Trading Inc., a Japanese import – export company located in California that brings many Japanese products to the US. The President, mR. came and gave a very large donation saying he was so happy and moved to help Rabbi Edery in his relief work, as he was doing so much for the Japanese people. Many of the guests were inspired by the many activities and all gave contributions for the benefit of the people of Tohoku.
When asked, why was he the Rabbi, taking responsibility to help, isn’t that the job of the Japanese government?
Rabbi Edery replied:
When people need help, you need to do everything you can to help right away, and not wait for others to move!
With these necessary funds, Rabbi Edery and his staff were able to accomplish so much and bring much needed assistance and relief for many people and communities in Tohoku.
One of the most amazing projects was with National Azabu Supermarket.
National has a long standing relationship with Rabbi Edery and Chabad House of Japan.
When the Tsunami happened the Rabbi got many phone calls and emails from people who wanted to donate things to the people of Tohoku.He realized that there were many people who wanted to help but didn’t know where to or how. He thought of a plan: he asked National to put very large collection baskets outside the store for people to drop their donations into. One one for clothes, one for dry foods, the third was for everything else. National offered their truck to the Rabbi to bring the relief up North.
After several days, a huge amount of donations were collected, and Rabbi Edery drove all night and brought it to the house of a friend in Iwanuma. This large house served as the unloading area, and also the place where things were divided according to size and category. For example, baby clothes, shoes, towels, coats,blankets, food etc. Then city office personnel would come and pick up large amount of items to the city halls where survivors were living for the time being. Sometimes the relief was brought directly to the centers.
The amount of items collected grew day by day, to such an extent that Rabbi rented a 2 ton truck, bi-weekly, for months and months.
The store also put charity boxes near the cash register so that would help the Rabbi cover the truck rental and gasoline cost.
The president of National Azabu and the manager were devoted partners in Rabbi Edery and Chabad Japan’s relief work. It gave them great satisfaction and joy to help the people of Tohoku. The huge amount of relief brought on a weekly basis, gave a strong message to the people: ‘’You are not alone, we are thinking of you and will help as much as we can’’.
National also partnered with the Rabbi with food items that the Rabbi bought for events, such as high quality beef steaks, Hagen Dasz ice cream.
The Yakiimo were distributed by the thousands and were an incredible success, everyone loved them and waited for the ‘’Yakimo Rabbi’’ for the next time he came with a big smile. The children also came to say thank you to the Rabbi and his staff. One day, as it was getting warmer, the kids said that they love Yakiimo but they would love Ice cream even more! The Rabbi promised that he would bring them Ice cream next time.
Rabbi Edery spoke to the president of National Azabu supermarket about their Haagen Dasz ice cream, that he would like to bring to the people of Tohoku, especially the kids. He said of course, Rabbi, I will give it to you for half price. National will pay for the second half. This was absolutely great. So Chabad staff and volunteers organized thermal boxes with ice to keep the ice cream frozen during the long drive up to Tohoku.
The ice cream was distributed in the many centers, the kids, the adults, the old and the young, men and ladies all enjoyed the Haagen Dasz ice cream given with lots of love.
Why did the Rabbi choose Haagen Dasz, because it is excellent quality and when you give a gift it should be the best!
Rabbi Edery visited and brought relief to the people of Tohoku many times, while they were living in the city halls and then in the caravans. These caravans served as interim homes for the survivors until a new area would be built for them by the government.
On one such visit, Rabbi Edery knocked on the door of the caravan, to ask how the family was coping and see how they were adjusting to their new reality. He wanted to check if there was anything they needed and how he could be of help. He asked the nine year old daughter how she was feeling, and she answered that she was sad because she could not practice piano anymore. Her beloved piano was washed away by the great waters, her home was destroyed entirely. Rabbi promised to help and told her that he will do his best to get her a piano.
This is how Rabbi Edery got a piano for this young girl:
National Azabu supermarket was working with the Rabbi and Chabad Japan by allowing customers to donate items for Tohoku in big baskets outside the store. Toriumi san,the store manager, gave a call to the Rabbi, on that same day, saying that one customer wanted to donate a Piano and asked the store how he could go about it. Rabbi Edery realized this was an incredible gift from G-d. The same day that the girl from Tohoku expressed her wish for a piano, another person in Tokyo, wanted to give a Piano! This was incredible.
Rabbi Edery immediately organized that the shipping company Kuroneko Yamato should pick up the piano from the house of the donor in Minato-ku and deliver it directly to the family’s caravan in the North.
Several days later, when the Piano arrived, the little girl was beyond herself with happiness. She can now continue to play and fill her heart with music and joy. Surrounded by destruction and hopelessness, playing music would be her comfort and source of hope during this difficult time. She wrote a letter of gratitude for the Rabbi and sent a picture of herself, happily playing on her almost new piano, with her parents smiling in the background.
Communities in Tohoku, whose homes were wiped away were given the choice by the Japanese government to receive an alternative piece of land and rebuild their entire community in another area, or get compensation money individually and they can choose where to move to. Iwanuma community requested to be moved all together to a new area. This would take time, so the government gave caravans for the people to live in until the new area would be decided and prepared. The caravans were a physical dwelling place, which was good, but mentally and emotionally it was hard on the people having lost friends and everything they owned. Rabbi Edery thought of a practical and kind way to give joy and positive energy to the people. He went to Ota Flower market and organized hundreds of flower pots. Each pot had a mix of flowers and herbs. He rented a special flower delivery truck and drove to the north, throughout the night, to deliver to each family. The families woke up in the morning to see a beautiful large flower pot at the entrance to their caravan. It brought them joy and was a message of hope and growth. Just as the flowers grow from the seed, so too, your life will grow and blossom once again.
One of the ladies personally came to thank the Rabbi, saying that since the Tsunami, she so missed watering her garden every morning, and this brought back that good feeling. The flower project was one of the string of activities that Rabbi Edery did to help the people physically and emotionally overcome their struggles.