Four years ago, Csanad Szegedi was a deputy leader of the radical nationalist Jobbik party in Hungary, and he blamed Jews as well as the Roma people for his country’s problems. But then he learned he was a Jew himself, and everything changed.
Szegedi was once notorious for his extremist views and anti-Semitic statements, and as a leader of Jobbik, he helped co-found the Hungarian Guard – a paramilitary group that marched through Roma camps wearing black uniforms reminiscent of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross party that ruled Hungary during the Second World War. He was regarded as a rising star in the anti-immigration party Jobbik, the third biggest party in Hungary’s National Assembly, but after making a startling discovery four years ago, Szegedi realized that his life to that point and everything he thought he believed in had all been a lie.
In 2012, the young politician discovered that his own grandmother was Jewish, and had been wearing long sleeves or plasters in the summer to conceal the Auschwitz concentration camp number tattooed on her arm. She was a Holocaust survivor, but Szegedi didn’t even believe the Holocaust had happened. He later described how “shocking” this revelation was to him “First of all because I realized the Holocaust really happened.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Although the discovery of his Jewish heritage had shaken him to the core and made him doubt his convictions, Csanad Szegedi remained a part of Jobbik for several months, and the party leader even considered keeping him around as a “tame Jew”, to fight anti-Semitism accusations against the party. He eventually walked away, though, and completely turned his life around.
In the four years since discovering he was a Jew, Csanad Szegedi became an Orthodox Jew, took the Hebrew name Dovid, visited the Auschwitz concentration camp, had circumcision surgery, started eating kosher and regularly attending synagogue. He is now preparing to make allyah (the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel) with his family.
“Israel is an amazing country, and I believe that every Jew who lives in the Diaspora [outside of Israel] seriously considers making aliyah to Israel, at least once in his life,” Szegedi told Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv. “There are many more positive elements than negative elements in being a Jew, and the biggest gift for any Jew is the existence of the State of Israel. After the nightmares that my relatives underwent in the Holocaust, my family and I very much want to be part of the positive dream that Israel constitutes for us.”
The 34-year-old politician describes now describes converting to Judaism as having been reborn. “I had this set value system that I had to change completely. I had had this value system until I was 30 and I had to admit that it was all wrong and to find the will to change,” he recently said.
“The paradox of Hungarian nationalism, is that we are proud of our own achievements, but we’re not willing to look at those of other peoples. We’re afraid their cultures might be as valuable as ours,” Szegedi adds. Four years ago, he would have proudly called himself a nationalist, but today he is a completely different person.
Regarding future political ambitions in Israel, Csanad Szegedi says he is currently focusing on his “activities against anti-Semitism in Europe,” adding that “professionally, I will immediately look for bodies and organisations with which I can coordinate in the fight against anti-Semitism, and I will of course seek to join the World Zionist Organization’s extensive activities in Israel and abroad.”