Belgrade: Svetogorska Street is crowded tonight. Across from the Karenjim clothing store and a small food kiosk, scores of Serbians, some in jeans, some in business suits and dresses, walk up a wide set of stairs, through the front door, and file down a narrow staircase to a room where an old Jewish man, a black kipa atop his head, sits on a ratty, overstuffed chair.
Soon there is a knock at the door.
And another night of "Visiting Mr. Green," something of a Jewish cultural phenomenon in a land where there are few Jews, is under way.
Belgrade: With some 3,300 Jews, Serbia, now unified with neighboring Montenegro, has one of the smallest Jewish communities in Europe.
Like the other once-communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe, Serbia has experienced an increase in Jewish life since communism fell a decade ago, with a growing number of Jews affiliating with the organized Jewish community and returning to Jewish traditions.
As Jewish soldiers recited the Ten Plagues and spilled wine from their cups at a seder table in a tent in the Kuwaiti desert, Rabbi Joshua Narrowe observed that the spilled wine was not only "for the Egyptians who died in the Exodus, but also for the Iraqi conscripts and civilians who died" in the 26-day Iraq War.
The fall of Baghdad is similar to the Six-Day War, Israel's lightning military defeat of its Arab neighbors in 1967, because both left the Arab world humiliated and in shock, according to a foreign policy and defense specialist at the Ben-Gurion Research Center.
"The Arab world can't figure out how to handle this traumatic situation," said the specialist, Zaki Shalom. "And nobody can tell how long this traumatic situation will last."
Despite efforts by Jewish groups to provide kosher-for-Passover food to as many as 2,000 Jewish troops involved in the Iraq War, several Jewish soldiers and chaplains complained to The Jewish Week that there is not enough for the eight-day holiday that begins Wednesday night.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) said he heard some of the same complaints but has been rebuffed in his efforts to get the Air Force to fly more Passover provisions to Kuwait and Iraq.