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Discovering Zionism in Japan

With a Japanese mountain range back lit by the setting sun, I experienced what it meant to be a Jew and a Zionist.
ShowIxmage Chiune Sugihara memorial.. (photo credit:BRIAN REZEN)

Most Jews regard themselves as Zionists, and I’m one of them. I support Israel as a Jewish homeland, now and forever. More fleeting, however, is the spirit of Zionism.

Some experience that spirit when the landing gear touches down at Ben-Gurion Airport on their first visit to Israel. Others taste what it means to be a Jew in Israel at the Western Wall on Shabbat or in the wilderness of the Arava.

For me, I first experienced that spirit of Zionism in – of all places – Japan. Let me explain.

Most of the time, I am a track physician at Parx Racing, where the job all too frequently involves dealing with injuries suffered by jockeys. It’s a tough, dangerous job, and I have a vested interest in keeping them safe. At that place and at this time, I am the “jock doc.”

My commitment to their-well-being led some years ago to a conference in Tokyo of physicians from around the world who treat jockeys and share my commitment to their safety. It was a fantastic two days of learning and sharing.

Known as the “Japanese Schindler,” Chiune Sugihara had helped roughly 6,000 Polish Jews escape the Nazi extermination machine over 29 days in 1940. Sugihara’s act of courage was chronicled by one of the Jews he saved, the late Johns Hopkins University scholar Samuel Iwry, in To Wear the Dust of War: From Bialystok to Shanghai to the Promised Land.


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