The Hungarian Jew


Today is an important day. Besides it being my friend Jon’s birthday, it is the anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian revolution and a national holiday. Hungarians on this day wear a cockade of the Hungarian tricolour, and recite a poem written by Sándor Petőfi, titled Nemzeti dal (National Song). This year peaceful demonstrations by various groups, including teachers will add to the state and party sponsored event palette.

Some of the celebrations, however, go further than remembering a quasi-democratic, and mostly bloodless revolution that turned into a year-and-a-half-long war for independence. Some of the greatest heroes of the war were not Hungarians, but some people like to forget that. They also like to forget that many Hungarian Jews who had previously had very few rights, joined the fight against the Habsburg opression. Among them was a distant ancestor of mine, a Jewish doctor from Pest, who became a medic during the war.

Hungarian politicians of the time were divided over the emancipation of the Hungarian Jewry. While Széchenyi opposed it, Eötvös and Kossuth were for it. Kossuth encouraged the social and cultural integration and assimilation of the Jews, which, over the next 90 years, mostly happened, despite the fall of the revolution. Despite what some of the voices say, it is possible to be Jewish and Hungarian at the same time–as long as Hungarians don’t turn on other Hungarians.

Today I can’t wear a cockade, but I wear this kipah:

And here is the Hebrew translation of Nemzeti Dal:

2 Responses to “The Hungarian Jew”

  1. Jon says:

    Thank you so much. 🙂

    I am so embarrassed to say, I think I have lost the tricolor ribbon you sent me. 🙁

    From some of the things you have posted about Hungary, I hope there isn’t going be a need for another revolution. 😮

  2. Shauna says:

    Good story. I did not know any of this.
    Nice tri-color kippH!
    Happy belated Birthday to Jon!

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