Hungary: Former leader of anti-Semitic party embraces Judaism after discovering Jewish ancestry - World Jewish Congress

Hungary: Former leader of anti-Semitic party embraces Judaism after discovering Jewish ancestry

Hungary: Former leader of anti-Semitic party embraces Judaism after discovering Jewish ancestry

a ee ee b e e b bb df

Csanád Szegedi, a former leader of the extreme-right Hungarian Jobbik party who last year learnt that he has Jewish ancestry, is converting to Judaism with the assistance of Chabad rabbis in Budapest, the German newspaper ‘Welt am Sonntag’ reports. Szegedi, who was openly anti-Semitic until his ‘coming out’ as a Jew last year, was one of three members elected for Jobbik in the 2009 European Parliament elections but has since left the party and is now sitting as an independent in the Strasbourg assembly.

Szegedi told the paper that he is trying to keep kosher and to observe the Sabbath. “I have discovered that I can reconcile my conservative viewpoints as Hungarian and as observant Jew,” he told the German newspaper.

When his Jewish ancestry became known last year Jobbik leader Gabor Vona at first intended to keep him in the party so critics could not call Jobbik an anti-Semitic party, Szegedi said. However, after repeated anti-Semitic broadsides from party members he chose to leave the movement. Afterwards, people asked him to show remorse. He told ‘Welt am Sonntag’: “This is when I thought, hey, am I supposed to apologize for the fact that half of my family died in Auschwitz?”

In June 2012, Szegedi revealed that he had learned that his grandparents on his mother's side were Jewish: his maternal grandmother survived Auschwitz and his maternal grandfather was a veteran of forced labor camps.

Szegedi was raised as a Calvinist.

Prior to the revelation of his Jewish ancestry, he was notorious for his incendiary comments about Jews. In 2007, Szegedi was one of the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, a group with black uniforms and striped flags reminiscent of the Arrow Cross, a pro-Nazi party during World War II. The Hungarian Guard was banned in 2009, at which time Szegedi joined the Jobbik party, the country's biggest far-right political force.

When rumors of his Jewish ancestry started swirling on the internet, Szegedi went to talk to his 94-year-old grandmother, who he never knew was Jewish. "She opened up and she talked about her life and how she was sent to Auschwitz and how our family was annihilated. I was shocked. First of all because I realized the Holocaust really happened,” he told ‘CBN News’ earlier this year.

At first, Szegedi said he tried to hide his Jewishness and act like nothing had happened, but then realized he could not stay in Jobbik. "When I first met with Csanad, I had very, very mixed feelings because on one hand I was sitting across from a member of the Jobbik party, which has extreme anti-Semitic views," Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Shlomo Köves told 'CBN News'. "But on the other hand, I was sitting across from a broken person who has realized what he has done and has come to a situation where he figured he had to change but he didn't know how to change," he added.

Szegedi started attending synagogue and jokes that he was treated by some members "like a leper." But then he started taking classes at the synagogue, learning Hebrew and the meaning of kosher and Shabbat. He said his life has completely changed. "It is changed everything. It is like being reborn, and the changes in my life are still happening," he said. "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."