Every morning, I walk to Budapest’s Nagyfuvaros Synagogue, where I serve as rabbi.

And every Sunday, I see them. A group of Christians on their way to church, which is not far from our synagogue. I always smile and bid them a good morning.

Over the years, I’ve come to know many of them, from the well-tailored young ones who are always walking fast, to the old ones who have trouble walking. There was one very old man who always asked people to help him cross the street.

Every Sunday, I see them

One Sunday, on my way to the synagogue, I met that old man. I was the only one around. When he caught sight of me, he motioned for me to come over. I understood that he wanted me to help him cross, so I hurried to give him my hand and we crossed together.

When we got to the other side, I wished him a good day, but he stared at me in surprise. He looked at my beard, black hat and chassidic garb, and I realized that he hadn’t recognized me from a distance—it was just now dawning on him that a chassidic rabbi had held his hand.

He grasped my hand and began to mumble emotionally. I listened and was shocked to hear a jumble of phrases from the Torah, blessings and Jewish prayers! “Blessed are You, G‑d . . . who has kept us alive and sustained us until this moment! Who did miracles for our fathers in those days, at this time! Master of the Universe, who ruled before anything was created!” He stood there like that for many long minutes, holding my hands and saying bits of prayers and verses from memory, all with an old-style Hungarian accent.

I didn’t know what to say.

Eventually, I asked, “You’re Jewish?”

“I used to be,” he answered. “But that all stayed there, in Auschwitz. Today, I’m a Catholic.”

“If you used to be Jewish, then you’ll always be Jewish!” I practically shouted into his ears.

He continued to look at me while tears poured from his eyes. “I remember the beautiful synagogue I went to every Shabbat with my father and grandfather and all my brothers . . . There was a skylight in the roof, and the sun’s rays would light up the synagogue. I’ll never forget that.”

“My dear Jew, I am the rabbi of the synagogue you remember from your youth, and I’m on my way there now! Why don’t you come with me to the place you truly belong, to the synagogue, instead of the church?”

A long silence followed. It seemed like an eternity.

Then he said, “I’ll come with you. But not this week. Next week, we’ll meet right here, at this time, and I’ll go with you to my synagogue.”

I waited all week...

I waited all week for Sunday to come, but the man didn’t show up. And he wasn’t there the next week, either. Every Sunday, I made sure to leave home at the right time, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I’d meet him. But he’d disappeared.

A few months later, I saw one of the other church-goers and asked her about the old man. “Oh, him?” she said. “He died a few months ago.”

A quick calculation revealed that he’d died a few days after we’d met.

His Jewish soul had been hidden for 70 years. It came out into the light a short time before it returned to its Creator.