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  1. That video clip of the Magen Boys with the hip-hop performer in the streets of Toronto to help what I assume is one of the Lubavitchers celebrate Chanuka was enjoyable. But it might surprise you a little if an upper midwestern US guy such as me could shiver just watching people on the streets of Toronto as winter approaches. It’s one thing to be the annual destination of the Alberta clipper, one of the more significant Canadian imports to the USA. But it must be something else to live right next door to it farther north.

    Which brings to mind memories.

    On the evening of Pesach in 1973, those of us living in the ulpan at Shikun Dora south of Netanya were treated to something special. These were performances by various European Jewish entertainers. There was a youngster from Greece in the appropriate national costume from that part of the Balkans. And there were a group of black hat dancers. Stefi and I had not formally met any Lubavitchers until we settled in here near Madison. But the dancers in Shikun Dora looked as though they must have been Lubavitchers stationed in Israel. They performed a fine Russian dance for us, backed by Russian or Russian Jewish music straight out of Minsk or Vitebsk.

    That night was the most impressive Pesach dinner I had ever attended. It gave me the sense of sitting at a huge extended table with representatives of the extended Jewish family of the whole world. There were Jews from Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, the USSR, and so on. Truly, ha’shana ha’ba bYerushalaim turned into ha’shana ha’zeh. I never before or since felt more at one with the great Jewish nation. If you or Yamit and anybody else were to tell me that Judaism can never be as meaningful chutz-l’aretz as it is b’aretz, in full honesty, I would have to agree with you. With all its problems, then and now, Israel was a great place to be.

    The only thing that rattled me was that when we were working hard at learning Hebrew, which we would need to listen to and make sense of technical lectures at the university, all the wise guys would use us to practice their English. I’m sorry to tell you that the Slavs, such my wife’s Croats, are much nicer about helping you along to learn some of their language without showing off how much English they think they know. In addition, the sabarim/ot seemed to know all the answers before the questions even were asked. Which can be a conversational turnoff. But don’t get me wrong. I want them strong, independent and even arrogant, it that’s what it takes, rather than weak, dependent and submissive.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI