Since his ordination in 2007, Rabbi Antonio DiGesu has been making The Jewish Theological Seminary proud. His path to JTS began in his native Italy, where he converted to Judaism. Rabbi DiGesu subsequently moved to New York to become a rabbinical student. Now, several years later, he remembers his days at JTS with a smile as he works as the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan.
Though Rabbi DiGesu lives in Tokyo, he travels throughout the country as needed. He has experienced firsthand many of the effects of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March of this year. The night of the earthquake, he attended Shabbat services and was comforted by the rhythms and melodies of the prayers. The verses in Psalms included in that evening's liturgy were difficult to hear, says the rabbi: "The earth shaking in God's presence and the roaring waters shattered the fragile calm I was struggling to achieve." Since the earthquake, Rabbi DiGesu has worked to aid in Japan's recovery.
Recently, he spent time in Tohoku, along with a team of Christian and Buddhist Japanese, to help victims of the tsunami return to their homes. One morning as he prepared for his day, he grabbed a shirt out of his luggage to wear on the work site. As it turned out, it was the same shirt he wore years earlier to greet new students as a resident adviser here at JTS. It meant a lot to him that he was now wearing it in Japan, "thousands of miles away from JTS, during the first day of our team's effort to bring back two elderly evacuees into their home."