There are times when a Halachic, legalistic discussion is played out on the stage of history. Such was the dispute in regards to the positioning of the Halachic International Dateline. What conceivably was a theoretical discussion, or at most relevant to the few Jewish travelers to the Far East, became a reality for thousands of refugees who were stranded in Kobe, Japan in 1941. The question of when to observe Shabbos divided the refugee community, with kiddush and havdala being recited simultaneously by different individuals.

With Yom Kippur around the corner, a larger question loomed. Two days of shabbos was manageable, but fasting for two days straight was not an exciting prospect.  It was a question that was heard around the world. And the answers came in from all sides. The dateline controversy would leave an indelible mark on the memory that refugees had from their sojourn in Kobe, Japan.

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