Leadership is not (yet) dead
From Beyond Twelve Gates by Rabbi Ze’ev Smason:
Our persistent need to rank events and people has led to the proliferation of year-end ‘Best of the Year’ lists; Top 10 Sports Moments of the Year, Top 10 News Stories of the Year, Top 10 Gefilte Fish Recipes of the Year (well, maybe things haven’t gone that far …yet). However, an intriguing year-end list, put forth by the Times of Israel, was ‘ Gentiles of the Year 2012.’ One name relatively unknown on this list was Istvan Ujhelyi. Unfamiliar with Mr. Ujhelyi? His name is worth knowing.
After a far-right Hungarian politician called for Jews to be screened as potential security risks, Istvan Ujhelyi, the deputy speaker of Hungary’s parliament, led colleagues in wearing yellow stars as a sign of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community. While presiding over a parliamentary session, Ujhelyi, bedecked in his own yellow star, said, ”One of our fellow deputies stepped over a line that I thought until now could not happen in the halls of the Hungarian national assembly. As far as I know I do not have Jewish ancestry, but should (someone) uncover that I have such roots, I will be proud of them.” Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including a third of the victims who died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hungary’s Jewish population is estimated at 100,000 today, and while physical attacks are rare, an elderly rabbi was insulted recently near his home and Jewish and Holocaust memorials have been vandalized.
Istvan Ujhelyi’s action and words brings to mind the teaching of Hillel (Ethics of the Fathers 2:6) “…..and in a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” There are times when circumstances in life require that we go against the tide. Even when no one else has the wisdom or courage to do the right thing, even when everyone else has become part of the faceless crowd, we still must rise to the occasion.
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