We've got a really nice balcony here, with straw chairs and a little red table, and with a view of the synagogue across the street, and of the rest of Moscow. Yesterday night, around 1:30 am, Mishah went out to smoke and I joined him to look at the moon. On the synagogue's roof, we saw seven or eight guys sitting around a table - they were eating, drinking, chatting; the roof was unusually well-lit for such a late hour.
One of the guys at the table suddenly turned and waved to us - in a really friendly, neighborly way, and very energetically, too, as there was quite a distance between us. For a moment, I couldn't believe he was actually saluting us - it's Moscow, right, a very unfriendly city surrounding the synagogue, a Lubavitch synagogue... But I really couldn't help it, so I waved back to the guy, with one hand. The rest of the guys had turned around by then, and most of them were laughing and waving to us - so I waved again, with both hands, and Mishah did, too, and it was so fun, but also a little awkward, because we couldn't spend the rest of the night waving to each other, nor could we start a conversation. We could hear their voices - but not well enough to know what language they were speaking - and I'm still wondering if they could hear my laughter. My theory is that they had just arrived from a place like New York and were jet-lagged and excited... We invaded their privacy, kind of, and they acknowledged it and let us know they didn't mind, and in this way they took part of our privacy, too - but it felt so good...
All in all, a very un-Moscow episode.
A while ago, Galina Vasilyevna cornered Mishah by the elevator and told him a story of how she had once stood up for her neighbor's religion:
A rabbi used to live in our building, and every Saturday he had a problem getting in or out of the building because of the electric locks we have on our doors. He used to stand patiently, waiting for someone to come by and open the two doors for him. No one seemed to mind this, until one day a nouveau riche - New Russian - neighbor complained loudly to Galina Vasilyevna: "What am I, his slave? Who does he think he is? I'm sick of serving to him like this!" To which Galina Vasilyevna replied, indignantly: "You yourself have servants, the bodyguards, and it's them, not you, who are opening the doors for the poor guy! You should be ashamed of yourself for not respecting another person's faith!"