Jundo Cohen from the online zendo Treeleaf, and who lives not too far from the worst hit areas in Japan during the earthquake and tsunami, is trying to get the word out about the current actions of the Japanese Soto-shu. As the head organization of the Japanese Soto Zen sanghas, and which also has offices in North and South America, and in Europe, it's an organization with a lot of potential to be doing beneficial work for those currently suffering in Japan.
However, it seems they have chosen to focus internally. They have decided to "re-donate" 70% of incoming funds for earthquake relief to the Red Cross, and use the remaining 30% to repair/rebuild temples. Now this isn't an organization lacking in people or resources. As Jundo writes:
However, I am also sure that the Soto-shu in Japan, with its 14,000 affiliated temples nationwide, universities with medical and dental schools, thousands of priests and lay followers, substantial financial and material resources, could be doing --just as much, if not more-- than other religious bodies do, even smaller and less organized.
Under the circumstances, re-donating is a lazy approach which delays much needed support. In addition, the Red Cross is not exactly the most squeaky clean organization itself, and certainly some of that money will be lost in "overhead" costs alone.
Personally, I'd recommend that anyone currently desiring to send money to aid earthquake victims in Japan consider Tzu Chi, a Buddhist relief organization, or Doctors Without Borders.
It's disappointing that the leaders of Soto Zen in Japan aren't leading their sanghas into the center of the fire of suffering, to offer support to those in need. Not only are they ignoring the great need of their fellow citizens, but they are also failing to support the priests and members of individual temples who could do much more than they already are with increased resources. I wish it were surprising, but the Soto-Shu's actions seem consistent with those of other large religious and secular bureaucracies. When times are tough, they look to save their own asses first, and sometimes only.
Update: Here is another report from an American Zen priest living in Japan about Soto efforts from individual temples. It seems clear from this letter that individual priests and monks are doing their best, and that there is more confusion this time around than during the 1995 Kobe earthquake, during which over 6000 people lost their lives.