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New York’s hasidic Willy Wonka factory

29 Nov

Recently went to B&H electronics superstore, near Penn Station, courtesy of gadget-loving hubbie.

The place is a veritable riot of commercial activity, with vast ranges of camera equipment, computers, video, and swarms of excited customers pouring in in a never-ending flow.

What made me do a double take, though, had nothing to do with the vast excesses of electronica on display. It was the hundreds of smiling hasidic oompa loompas that caught my attention, darting about in every direction, all clad in identical B&H uniforms, all with large kippas on their heads and all, with only the rarest of exception, with long luscious beards adorning their faces.

It turns out that B&H, a real Manhattan institution,  is owned and run by Satmar hasidim. Turns out too that they have a mincha service (afternoon prayer service) attended by some 200 of these oompa loompas every afternoon.

Each oompa loompa had a name badge with an Anglicised version of a no-doubt more hasidic name – I saw  a Sam ( Shmulik at home) and a Ben (Binyumin or Benzi at home).

Never before have I seen my fellow Semites adhering so closely to the edicts of Torah With Work.

Of course, Jews being Jews, there was food everywhere (which made me, ever the Jewish muncher, very happy). On every counter, there were bowls of kosher sweets and everywhere you looked, customers were gobbling down the sugary treats. Downstairs, near the ringing cash tills, there was also a table set up with two women serving cups of coke and portions of pretzels to eager customers.

No chance of going hungry and losing the will to spend money then.

Finally, the most magical thing about the whole Wonka-ish enterprise was the zooming conveyor-belt- toy-train system whisking customers’ acquisitions from all corners of the superstore down to its epicentre – the pick-up point for customers located just beyond the cash tills.

Green crates whizzed along the conveyor belt system overhead, until they reached a goods lift, and then one by one, they descended to destination.

My eyes goggled with all the excitement.

No surprise then that I came out of the store somewhat lighter of pocket – and suffering the after-effects of a dazzling sugar high.

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