This summer, we marked a rite of passage amongst Chabad rabbinical students—our first experience as roving rabbis. We were assigned to Budapest, Hungary, and its surrounding towns, where we helped Jews don tefillin, affix mezuzahs, light the Shabbat candles, and celebrate the joy of Judaism in places which have borne witness to so much anti-Semitism and persecution. We received a warm reception most of the time, and we hope that we gave these precious Jews some inspiration and Jewish pride.

They say that every person has a story, and as we chatted and got to know the Jews of Hungary, we heard many such tales. However, there is one extraordinary encounter that we feel deserves special mention.

It was Thursday evening, a few days after our arrival in Budapest, when the local Chabad Rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Glitsenstein, finalized the arrangements for our travels around Hungary. Our first stop would be Miskolc, a large city two hours north. The trip was uneventful, and we settled into a hotel room for the night. On Friday morning, we rose early, recited the morning prayers, ate some breakfast, and proceeded to the car, clutching our list of contacts from Rabbi Glitsenstein.

The first address was for Mr. and Mrs. Gyorgi Faludi. They graciously welcomed us into their home, and although we didn’t really have a common language, their warmth and appreciation spoke volumes. It was clear that they wanted us to spend time with them, so we made ourselves comfortable and decided to take our cues from them. Photo albums were brought out, pictures of departed parents and grandparents were shown, and slowly, we were able to piece together Mr. Faludi’s background. Mr. Faludi was actually born in Auschwitz, one of only two infant survivors of the infamous death camp. His mother delivered him on the day of liberation with the assistance of a Russian doctor, and was so severely malnourished she was unable to nurse him. The mother of the other baby, Mrs. Vera Bein, was somehow able to feed both children, and the two women left Auschwitz together, wandering through the war-torn region for months before Gyorgi’s mother reached her hometown, Miskolc, where she rebuilt a life for herself and her family.

Gyorgi shared his background simply, without fanfare, but we were struck by the enormity of it all. The stoic man sitting beside us had miraculously thrived, despite the most unlikely odds, and when we expressed our amazement, he dismissed it with a smile.

“Gyorgi, would you like to put on tefillin?”we inquired gently. We showed him our pair, and from the blank look on his face it was apparent that he had never seen them before. “Bar Mitzvah?” Gyorgi shook his head, no.

We gesticulated, would it be alright if we help him don tefillin? Gyorgi smiled widely in affirmation.

Over the years, we’ve helped countless Jews wrap tefillin, some of them for the first time, decades after they turned thirteen. Nothing could compare to the awe we felt as we helped Gyorgi—he was born in Auschwitz, he is 71 years old, had little prior exposure to Judaism, and still, he agreed to our request without a moment’s hesitation—his beautiful, powerful Jewish soul unmasked in all its glory.

The visit culminated with a new mezuzah on the front door, Shabbat candles for Mrs. Faludi, and a Hungarian Jewish book for them to share. We left with the contact information for their son, and renewed motivation to connect more Jews to their roots.