A Jew in disguise

Special to the CJN (Friday, November 1, 2013)

Hungary is one of the countries in Europe where anti-Semitism is rapidly growing, much of that due to Jobbik, a strong right-wing political party. Until a year ago, Csanad Szegedi, No. 2 in the party, was known for his virulent anti-Semitic comments. He has been quoted as saying, “Hungary must protect itself from the rich Jews.”

Not long ago, however, some of his rivals uncovered some astonishing information. Szegedi’s mother is Jewish. Adding insult to injury, her parents were Holocaust survivors. His maternal grandmother survived Auschwitz only to find out her entire family had perished in the Holocaust. His grandfather was a prisoner in a Nazi labor camp and the two married after the war. They wanted to protect themselves from any future atrocities against Jews so they never said they were Jewish.

Overnight, Szegedi went from No. 2 in the party to Jobbik’s problem No. 1. Before long, he left and became an Independent politician in the Strasbourg Assembly.

This discovery changed his life, as he began the journey to uncover his roots. He started by visiting his 94-year-old grandmother, and after hearing her story firsthand was shocked to discover that the Holocaust really happened!

He met the Chabad rabbi in Budapest and slowly began to frequent the synagogue. Some congregants walked out upon seeing this outspoken anti-Semite walk in. But over time, they got used to seeing him attend services and learn about Shabbat and kosher. When he visited Israel, Customs asked him, “Are you Jewish?” That was the first time he really identified himself as a Jew.

In Toldot, the parasha of this week, we read about the brothers Jacob, the G‑d fearing scholar, and Esau, the conniving hunter. Rebecca, their mother, overhears a conversation between her husband Isaac and Esau in which Isaac says he plans to give over to Esau his blessing of success and continuity that he received from his father ,Abraham.

She knew that Jacob was the one who deserved the blessings and she was fearful that the blessing would fall into the wrong hands. She summoned Jacob, dressed him up in Esau’s clothing and told him to pretend to his blind father that he was Esau and thus receive the blessings from him.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, said time and again that every Jew that we meet is really a Jacob. Sometimes he may be dressed in Esau’s clothing, but deep down, he really possesses a G‑dly soul and a Jewish heart.

Rabbi Zushe Greenberg is spiritual leader of Solon Chabad.