Last Aug. 26, on a soundstage off Sunset Boulevard, Chabad of the West Coast's 21st annual telethon was about to begin.
The stage lights dimmed to blue, Camera One wheeled in, and a spotlight trained on a young boy wearing payes (sidecurls) and knickers -- Anatevka, circa 1905. The boy raised a fiddle to his chin and began a klezmer tune. A second young man, also in stylized Chasidic garb, emerged from the wings and began a slow-motion dance. The music got louder, the pace quickened, the dancer's pirouettes followed closer upon each other and then the stage exploded in a shower of lights and electric guitars as a dozen Lubavitch yeshiva students leapt forward, twisting, turning, doing handstands and cartwheels in a frenzied circle. Cymbals clashed and a booming voice rang out: "To Life! L'Chaim!"