The Shmooze

Jews on Ice

By Sarah Seltzer

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I tuned in intermittently to the “cultural dance” segment of Olympic ice-dancing last night. In a night filled with several highly questionable routines including a Russian pair’s notorious (and racist) aboriginal costumes, I was jolted out of my apathy by seeing Israeli ice-dancing pair Roman Zaretsky and his sister Alexandra, called “Sasha” enter the rink wearing traditional Jewish head coverings and full on peasant-chic regalia. They proceeded to launch into a lively, if occasionally less than perfectly in sync, routine, dancing to the strains of “Hava Negila.” The Twitter hilarity ensued, including a reference to the pair getting fountain pens from the audience instead of flowers (a bar-mitzvah joke), complaints that this was the slowest Hava Negila ever, and moans that “we have more than one song.”

Personally, it immediately reminded my viewing companion and me of the last few minutes of Mel Brooks’ fanatically adored “History of the World, Part I” where he presents “Hilter on Ice” and “Jews in Space.” Elide those two together, and you have “Jews on Ice.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of the routine, whether to feel proud of the pair, slightly embarrassed by the kitsch factor, or somewhere in between. One minute’s research on the Zaretskys, though, revealed a fascinating personal history for the pair and their family, Soviet-born who immigrated to Israel for the freedom and then the States for the skating facilities, and are passionately determined to draw out the Russian love of all things graceful and ice-bound which is lurking in Israel’s multi-cultural fabric and create a generation of winter sports fans. I had to give them a lot of credit for their journey and their absolute enthusiasm for the sport that even for this ardent figure skating fan, feels a bit cheesy.

Here is a viewing of that same Zaretsky dance to “Hava Negila” from the European championships. What do you think of this routine? Respond in the comments below.


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