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Thursday, September 18, 2014

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Repaying the Righteous Gentile

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Avrum Rosensweig

A few nights ago, I met the Pusuma family, a Roma family from Budapest. They have been given refuge in a west-end Toronto church and live in a room that’s about 20 feet by 20 feet. Twenty other churches had rejected the request to give them refuge. So far, no shuls have agreed to give refuge to others.  

The father, Jozsef, is 43 years old. His mother is Roma (pejoratively known as Gypsy) and his father was Jewish. Jozsef’s wife, Timea, 33, is Roma. She has moxie to spare and very deep dark brown eyes, reflecting joy and a terrible history. Their little girl is Lulu. She is six and adorable. Lulu is a child with opinions. Melts your heart. 

Jozsef was a human rights activist working for a minister in the European Parliament. His job was to drive throughout Europe to places where Roma had been persecuted and determine what had happened. He takes great pride in the fact he drove four million kilometres to accomplish his goals.

Timea would often take children into their home, some of them Jewish, offering them a warm compassionate place when their parents were working.

One day in 2009, in daytime Budapest, the Pusuma family heard a car enter their courtyard. They saw an intimidating black sedan. Four men jumped out in scary black clothing, “with big shoes” and masks. They were neo-Nazis brandishing bats. When the family came out, they were set upon. Jozsef told me one of them swung a bat at his thigh and smashed into the bone. He said it was incredibly painful. Timea heard a buzzing in her head after taking a blow to her ear. She touched her head and saw “much” blood in her hand. She was woozy.

Timea didn’t know where her Lulu was. Where was her 15-month-old baby? She looked around frantically while the neo-Nazis beat them. Then she heard Lulu. She was lying underneath Jozsef. He was protecting their infant from the thugs. He was taking the blows that would have killed their little girl. Like a lion, like a father, like our people tried to do, he was protecting his little girl from evil. The entire event took three minutes. Evil is fast.

Five years ago, the Pusuma family arrived on our shores after reviewing our refugee policy and choosing our nation as their safe place. The first couple of years were fine, but then reality set in. They were scammed by a lawyer who took their money, but failed to process their papers properly. This led to a deportation notice issued by the government.

In time, through the assistance of very good Christians, the Pusumas were offered sanctuary in that west-end church. They moved in and haven’t been outside since. They’re in hiding. If they go for a stroll, they can be picked up and immediately sent back to Hungary – a country designated by our government as a safe place for its citizens.

In that tiny room, with shelves lined with donated toys, they teach Lulu her studies. Friends from the church drop by. Jozsef’s daily regimen includes spending time alone in a dark room, playing the piano, songs from back home. He cries while he plays. He looks tired and in need of vitamin D.

Today, groups of people, including congregants and children from Toronto’s Temple Emanu-El, are trying to find freedom inside our borders for the Pusuma family. By the time you read this, the family’s story will likely have been told in a number of other media outlets. But a deportation notice still hangs over the heads of this Roma-Jewish family, which sentences them to live in Budapest 2014, where they are remembered well by big-shoed neo-Nazis and hooligans.

Nazi beatings. Remember your Holocaust education and the stories you read about Jewish beatings. Remember your Holocaust education and ugly testimonies about Jewish babies being thrashed to death, and then remember 15-month-old Lulu.

We are a comfortable and accomplished Canadian Jewish community. Use your authority and resources to help the Pusuma family.

Many Righteous Gentiles saved us. Now is our chance to repay them.

avrum.rosensweig@veahavta.org

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