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“Arthur,” I said, “it's great that you are so drawn to this faith. You know the language and you have a strong desire, but do you know that in order to truly become a Jew, you lack a small but vital detail? Do you know the importance of circumcision? Do you know that this commandment is a commandment to all commandments? That even a born Jew cannot pray with other Jews if he is uncircumcised?

All this I said as friendly and sympathetic as possible. Contrary to my expectation, Arthur did not welcome my speech with enthusiasm. He even wilted all over. I understood other reasons for such a reaction and said: don't worry, I will help you with everything. We will do both conversion and everything else that is necessary – I have familiar rabbis. But the reason, to my surprise, was not that.

– No, – Arthur said seriously and firmly, – I'm afraid.

– What do you mean, they will make anesthesia, everything is styril.

– No, – said Arthur, – I'm afraid of another. If persecution suddenly starts again, then will it end for me too? During the war, the Germans also checked on this basis!

I was silent, not knowing what to say. Before me stood not a young man, but a young adult man, conscious and educated. He knew very well what he was saying. And such his words were neither delusion nor misunderstanding. He thought it over for a long time and decided for himself, overcoming and extinguishing possible doubts and remorse. He stood very firmly and convincingly on this point of view. He liked Judaism in general, only not in whole, but in parts. God forbid blaming people for this. After all, a person is so inherent that he tries to extract the most delicious and best from everything. Therefore, probably there are Jews who are the only one of all peoples who lied to take upon themselves the entire set of laws – the Torah. Perform and listen. Jews and other peoples, I thought, and at the same time, such a scene involuntarily came to my mind. And I did not leave it to myself alone, but, believing that my friend also has a right to it, I shared it with him.

I see Strasbourg before my own eyes, the same square and the synagogue. The time and place are the same, the political situation is different. We, all together, are sitting in this Strasbourg synagogue, praying, when suddenly armored vehicles surround the street and the building, paramilitary thugs rush in and begin to take everyone present out into the street and put them into cars. Subsequently, these cars will go to some camp, or all the participants will be taken immediately to the shot and liquidated somewhere around the corner. When two of the thugs grab Arthur by the arms and drag him out with the others, he desperately breaks free and shouts in all languages at once:

– I'm not a Jew! I’m not a Jew! Let go! I am at a friend's place!

When he sees and understands that they do not react to his words at all, then, pulling free, he rips off his pants, takes his unshaved manhood with both hands and, demonstrating it, heart-rendingly and in disarray yells:

– Well, look, look! Here, here! I am at a friend's place!

Shocked by such a violent demonstration, the Nazis, and seeing that there is clearly no forgery in the presented object, they let it go.

On the street, in funnels, they continue to seat Jews. The overcrowded van can be closed together with pinched and crushed fingers and broken ribs. Finally the funnel starts to move. A joyful Arthur stands on the street and waves to us, everyone in the funnel, with his hands and shouts after us:

– Bye-bye! Don't worry, I'll bring you the parcels! Oh revoir!

Arthur stood at the sound of my words that had just been heard, with a ridiculous smile on his lips. He correctly and politely responded to me with this to my smile.

“Well,” he murmured, “it’s probably not so.

– No, Arthur, it's just that, a fantasy, on our common Jewish themes, – I reassured him and patted him on the shoulder, – everything is fine.

We wandered on through this city swelled with solidity and were silent. A stream of their thoughts and reflections went through the head of everyone. I don't know what Arthur thought, but I thought then that, unfortunately, he was definitely not interested in the question of choice.

Brit or not Brit. To be or not to be. Become or remain.

Returning from Strasbourg, I attended a Shabbat service in a synagogue in the Dutch city of Breda. After the service and meal, a conversation with the chairman of the local community and my neighbor Philip Susan was a kind of echo of the Strasbourg episode. He sadly complained that the "halachic" Jews threaten him with their departure from the community if their non-Jewish friends and non-proselytes were not allowed to pray with everyone in a minyan, on common law. So, do we have a hobby club or a house of prayer? And again the same enduring question:

To be or not to be ?! To stay or stay? May, with the help of Gd, everyone who truly wants to join the holy people will have enough strength and fulfill and listen, and be, and remain.

May the Almighty bless all of them and make them strong, strong and even stronger. For life and for the world. Forever and ever.

St. Petersburg mosaic

A distant close friend of mine, Marina Kalinina, a lively Komsomol girl without age, a kind heart, a lifesaver. I met her on a street where a rivulet with the cheerful name Tarakanovka once flowed.

Having gone through various periods of formations and downfalls in our Soviet country, it remained afloat. I got up in the bay of the former design institute, "split" into many different premises, leased for different firms and firms.

She called her firm “Wellness Center” and for years she continued this business, experiencing more adversity than success.

Then, in 1989, she met me at this street Tarakanovka, freed, who had gone through a "small circle" of walking through the agony of different camps and prisons. I stood confused, in slippers, from the colony, in outdated things six years ago, awkward, with a trash can, as if not yet conscious of where I was. Then, in May 1989, she showed genuine kindness and sympathy to me, communicating simply and openly.

This is how she stayed for me. For ten years we have not seen each other, only occasionally calling back. And only in the next century, 13-14 years after the first meeting, it happened to us to meet again.

I hope these conversations were as enjoyable for her as they were for me. One thing clearly worried her, though. She could not in any way process the thought that I, in every next meeting, strikingly, in her opinion, change. She could not believe in sincerity and see the pattern. Being very good about this man, I wrote the following parable for her.

Grown in the slums

The old gardener could no longer work on his garden and went to live in the city.

He settled in one of the slums of a huge gray city. Once cleaning his old coat, he reached into his pocket and found there old dried grains. Yes, ordinary seeds. Only those seeds were all different, from different plants, and from which – the old man could no longer know.

– Well, I'll plant them in our yard, we'll see what grows.

The old man took these seeds and, on a piece of earth, exposed from the swollen and cracked asphalt, planted them in the soil.

The old man lived in a house that stood face to face to another house. Houses were also crowded on the sides. "Well" – that was the name of these courtyards in that huge, damp city.

The sun barely broke through the walls – in this country sunny days were rare – only in the evening hours before sunset did it manage to touch the ground and warm the sprouts that were making their way.