Theatre of miracles

  • AndreaKuti
“We’re going to the theatre,” my parents told me, and an hour later, we entered a giant, dark place, with rows of empty wooden seats, and only a few people in front. I felt that death was tangible, and feared touching anything lest it infect me with a deadly virus.
by Andrea Kuti – Shabbat Shekalim | Feb 20, 2020

The people there, mostly elderly, looked like they were carrying the weight of some invisible pain. The only comforting scene was when the men – who were in the front, talking or singing, standing up or sitting down, then standing up again – went and opened a door within which there was a beautiful bright blue fabric with big golden stars on it. It was as if a window had been opened in a dark, cold room and sunshine came flowing in. I kept my eyes fixed on it to soak up the light in this dreadful place, this “theatre”.

It was only one of the many ways my parents kept the truth from me. You see, I grew up in Hungary, born less than 30 years after the Holocaust. My parents didn’t tell me I was Jewish, though being Jewish was a big part of who we were. My father’s father was killed by the Nazis when my father was just seven years old. It was a miracle that my father and grandmother survived. My mom and her mom were in a labour camp in Vienna. They were supposed to end up in Auschwitz, and by another miracle, did not.

My father told me – I must have been about four years old – that his father was killed by “mean people”. “Show me where they are, I’m going to kill them!” I said. When he told me that I shouldn’t kill anyone, but be good and study, become cleverer than anyone who’d do such mean things, that way I could overcome their meanness, little did I know how long this message would drive me to keep learning.

Here I am now after a master’s degree, a graduate certificate in Judaism and gender studies, and a couple of years of holistic midwifery training, finally fulfilling my dream. I’m studying in a rabbinic programme on my way to become something my parents could never have imagined. Their daughter, a rabbi. Studying Gmara, chassidus and how to lead a Jewish community. The ray of sunshine in that darkened shul of my childhood is now pouring light into my days and nights.

There are times I wonder what my parents and grandparents think about this – after all, you might think, this is a completely new thing, but there is a thread that runs right back through my family’s history – of resilience, of yearning for learning, and of the need not just to survive, but thrive. And, the power of miracles. And here we are, with Purim around the corner, about to celebrate the miracle of the saving of the Jews from Haman the rasha (wicked). And this second generation holocaust survivor from Budapest is on the way to becoming a rabbi at the tip of Africa – a miracle indeed!

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