A Journey of a Thousand Steps

I sometimes surprise myself with the titles I come up with – this is one of those. I read an article today. My emotions went up and down as I read it, ending with the thought that the man in the story was about to embark on a journey of a thousand steps and that somewhere along that journey, his grandparents would smile.

Szegedi Csanad is a Hungarian politician. He is about 30 years old. He was elected as a Member of the European Parliament as part of the Jobbik party. One of Csanad’s fellow members posted an article that said, Given our current situation, anti-Semitism is not just our right, but it is the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover, and we must prepare for armed battle against the Jews.” Jobbik calls itself a “radical nationalism” party – more easily identified as fascists or perhaps neo-Nazis.

And quietly,  Csanad got the shock of a lifetime when he found out, about 7 months ago, that his grandparents were Orthodox Jews but chose to hide their religion. It is understandable – to some extent. They were Holocaust survivors – his grandmother was in Auschwitz…as was my husband’s grandmother. My  husband’s parents survived; though they returned to their tiny villages in Hungary as orphans. Their parents, uncles and aunts, even some of their brothers and sisters had been murdered. All they wanted, they and the remaining siblings, was to leave Europe and get as far away as possible. They tried for Australia, Palestine, the United States – anything that would get them out.
The first visas they got for the whole group were to the US and so they went. They stayed observant Jews and raised their children that way. It was a matter of faith and yes, there was pride in it as well. Csanad’s grandparents chose a different path. I can’t judge them; I can only wonder how they would feel (if they are still alive) or how they might have felt to know that their grandson had become one with the ideology that almost cost them their lives. 
And then, Csanad found out – a basic truth. His grandmother and grandfather were Jews. Judaism is passed down in the womb – from mother to child. Csanad’s grandmother gave birth to a Jewish child – a girl. That girl was Jewish, is Jewish. She is a software engineer in Hungary, and her son, Szegedi is Jewish.
Csanad has resigned from Jobbik, though he has requested to keep his position in the European Parliament. And, he has chosen to meet with an Orthodox rabbi, to begin what I believe will be a journey of a thousand steps. I have to believe that somewhere in this world or in the next, his grandparents are watching. Generations of Jews behind them. Perhaps they are not smiling, but I have to believe the weight of the world has been taken off their shoulders and their hearts.

5 Comments on A Journey of a Thousand Steps

  1. It’s amazing and certainly better than what Madeleine Albright did with her Jewish identity discovery.

  2. Pam Machefsky // August 8, 2012 at 8:46 am // Reply

    I had read about the hateful bigotry of the Jobbik Party in Hungary. Thanks for posting the “up-side” of the story. Wishing the “new Jew” every success and blessing on his journey.

  3. Well, I never was an antisemite, but I also discovered, at age 17, that the mother of the mother of the mother of the mother of my mother was jewish. So I decided to shoulder my jewish heritage and became an orthodox jew, only to discover that klal Israel could do very well without me and that people like me in general get mocked and rejected…

    those kinds of stories sound quite romantic, but the reality behind them is not as romantic…

  4. Interesting story
    Urur, I am surprised that such was your experience.

  5. Well, yes, it might look like an intesting story when you read about it in a book, but it is not always funny when you go through it. And the positive reactions in real life are much rarer than positive reactions to such a story in a book.
    The positive reactions did exist, and i was really quite overwhelmed by some of them. However, I often encountered indifference and distrust.

    What I am trying to say is that it is not as easy and clear-cut as you might see it.

    After I had already been practicing for about ten years, long after i had found my documents and showed them to the rabbi to be accepted into an orthodox community, there were still people telling me that they did not consider me jewish. This was quite a bad surprise, especially in view of the fact that I had renounced things that were important to me in order to live my jewish heritage.
    I was also quite surprised about the amount of stories that seemed to circulate behind my back, most of them not quite accurate….

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