What happens when a member of Parliament representing Hungary’s notorious far-right Jobbik Party, known for its members’ fascist and anti-Semitic sentiments and statements, finds out he’s Jewish? For Csanád Szegedi, who discovered his maternal grandparents were Jewish in 2012 and was promptly dropped by his political party, it’s meant embracing his unexpected heritage, the AP reports—visiting Israel, adopting a kosher diet, speaking to Hungarian students at Auschwitz, taking on the Hebrew name David—and getting circumcised.
Last year, he sought out a young rabbi in the local Orthodox Jewish community. After a period of intense religious instruction, Szegedi was circumcised last June, a year to the day after he broke with Jobbik. Today he takes Jewish religion classes with his wife, who is also converting to Judaism.
“I am just as Hungarian as until now, but I have expanded my own identity with the Jewish identity,” Szegedi, 31, told The Associated Press. “I have two tasks ahead of me — to teach and to learn. I want to be a bridge.”
Szegedi, admittedly, had a lot of work to do to embrace his growing identity. His just-published manifesto, I Believe in Hungary’s Resurrection, was filled with pages of the anti-Semitic rants characteristic of his public speeches and writings. So he got ahold of several thousand copies and burned them. He advocated for stronger ties with Israel in Parliament. He met regularly with Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, the director of Chabad in Budapest.
Still, it took Szegedi going under the knife to prove his commitment to his newfound brothers in faith.
After his circumcision, Oberlander added, “some Jews said, ‘Ah, now we see that he is really serious.’”
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.