Anna was a young teenager when circumstances brought her face to face with a big crisis in her life.

But let me tell you her story.

Anna was born in Hungary into an intellectual family. Her father was a young doctor with a fine reputation and practice. Her grandfather was a professor of languages, highly respected in the academic world. Anna had only a faint recollection of him, for he died when she was still very young. She vaguely remembered one evening when her grandfather came in looking very serious and sad. She had always known him as a happy man, who loved to play with her and tell her funny stories, and she could not understand why he was so sad that evening, and almost ignored her. He went straight to her father's study and they talked there for quite some time. From that time on, a kind of gloom had settled over the house. It was only years later that she learned about the sad events that befell them and other Jewish families. A wave of persecution overwhelmed the Jews of Hungary. Her grandfather was dismissed from his position for no reason except that he was a Jew. It was a blow from which the old man never recovered.

It was then that Anna's father decided that his child should never know of such tragedy.

Anna's parents had not been observant Jews. They considered themselves Hungarians in every respect. Religion had no place in their life. That they should suddenly become the objects of contempt and animosity by their neighbors and friends was beyond their understanding. So Anna's father and mother decided that their child should never know of her Jewish birth. They would emigrate to some country where nobody would know they were Jews.

Anna's father made the rounds of the South American consulates, where he filled out application forms for immigration visas. He soon found out that most doors were closed to Jewish refugees. It then occurred to him to approach a priest who had been his patient once, and the latter gave him a certificate that he and his wife and daughter were Catholics. However distasteful this was to Anna's father, it was his only opportunity to escape with his family. After that, it did not take very long before he received a visa for himself and family, including his widowed mother, and they emigrated to a South American country.

This was a big wrench for them all, especially for Anna's sick grandmother whom they took along with them. She had suffered so much during the war years that her mind had given way and she was in a sad state. Anna, who loved her grandmother dearly, knew not to pay too much attention to some of her ramblings.

Anna's parents took up the study of Spanish in night school while working at temporary jobs in the daytime. They made a meager living, but hoped to improve their situation when they mastered the new language.

As for Anna, being a bright girl, it took but a few months for her to become proficient in reading, writing and speaking Spanish. In fact, towards the end of the school year she even managed to gain good marks in most of her subjects, and competed with some of the top students in her class.

While this naturally gave Anna much satisfaction and encouragement, she suddenly began to sense a feeling of resentment on the part of her fellow students. Her teachers were so pleased with her work and progress that they often singled her out for praise in class, pointing out to the students that, if Anna, who was a foreigner and had problems with the language, could do so well, there was no reason for the native Spanish-speaking students to fall behind.

This line of talk by teachers or parents often creates the opposite of what they hope to achieve. And so it was in Anna's case. Instead of applauding her efforts, her obvious progress and success, the students in her class resented her more than ever.

Things came to a head from a totally unexpected quarter, namely, the political situation in the Middle East! When the news flashed across the world that fighting had broken out between Israel and the Arabs, Anna became very interested. Inexplicably she felt a personal involvement; she somehow related it to herself. Here was she, only anxious to "live and let live" and do the best in her power to make a personal contribution to those around her, yet, not only was she not appreciated, but was made to feel rejected and even persecuted!

And there was this little country of Israel trying to make a home for herself and her people, and all she asked for was to be allowed to live in peace with her neighbors, and even help where she could. Yet all the nations around her many times her number and strength attacked her and threatened her with total destruction!

In the lunch-room one day, Anna voiced her opinion about the mideast situation and was immediately pounced upon by the students near her.

"Listen to her, girls," called out one of them scathingly. "She sounds like an Israeli herself!"

"Why do I have to sound like an Israeli to see that Israel is being treated unjustly and slandered unfairly?" countered Anna.

"Because you are siding with Israel when the newspapers say that the Jews have no right to be in a land where the Arabs lived for centuries."

"What newspapers?" asked Anna. "And why are the newspapers more important than the Bible?" retorted Anna. "According to the Bible this land called Israel which was once called Palestine and before that was called Canaan, was promised to the Jews by G‑d as a possession for ever, and every student of that Bible knows that."

"Listen to her giving us a sermon!" burst out another girl mockingly. "Im beginning to believe a rumor thats been going around. My mother says she heard someone say that your grandmother talks as if she is Jewish. And if it is true that she is Jewish, then you are probably Jewish too. In which case you have no place in our school, which is a German school for German students."

"How dare you talk to me like that," cried out Anna, and burst into tears.

Anna could hardly wait to get out of school that day. She rushed home as fast as she could and tried to question her grandmother. But the poor old lady did not seem to understand what Anna wanted, and her replies had no connection at all with Anna's questions.

So Anna had to keep her impatience to herself until her mother came home from her job. The minute she saw her, Anna pounced on her with the question: "Mother, tell me, are we Jews?"

"Whatever on earth brought that on?" exclaimed her mother, anxiety showing in her eyes.

"Mother, yes, or no? Are we Jews or arent we?" After a slight pause her mother began, stammering:

"Well, I suppose . . . that is to say . . . what I mean is . . . I suppose, yes. I guess you could say we are Jews."

"What do you mean, you could say we are Jews? You never told me that before, Mother," Anna burst out accusingly.

"My dear daughter, you know something about the anti-Semitism that existed in Hungary. That is why your father and I decided it best that you never know that we are Jews. Then you would never be the object of anti-Semitism and persecution."

"But you see, Mother, the truth must eventually come out somehow. I feel quite bewildered, and can hardly put my feelings into words. I feel you were definitely wrong in keeping the truth from me. I am not a baby any more and it was unfair of you not to tell me we are Jews."

"My dear Anna, your father and I were really afraid to tell you; afraid of your reaction. That is why we kept silent. Your grandparents were observant Jews once, but when we were forced by circumstances not of our choosing, to hide and live as non-Jews, it became easier to continue living that way even after the necessity had passed."

"Mother, you know me, and how I detest dishonesty. Now that I know that I am Jewish I cannot possibly return to that German school, nor can I have any further association with those anti-Semitic German girls! They pride themselves on being a superior race. As far as I am concerned, they are the lowest of the low."

Anna's mother listened without interruption. Annas outburst had come upon her like an unexpected clap of thunder.

"Mother, Im serious. I shall not return to that school. I know there is a Jewish school in our neighborhood. Of course Im sure they would not accept me as a student there immediately, as I dont know the first thing about their language or subjects. However, instead of going to camp, as you had planned for me for the school vacation, I shall look for a summer job to enable me to pay for private lessons to prepare me for enrollment in the Jewish school. As you know, I have a flair for languages. I must have inherited that gift from Grandpa who, you told me, was once a university professor of languages. So, once I learn how to read and write Jewish and Hebrew, I am determined that the Jewish school is the one for me!"

"Are you sure, Anna, that you realize what you are planning?" asked her mother hesitatingly. "It will be no easy matter to make this drastic change in your life."

"I was never more sure of anything in my whole life," replied Anna firmly. "I see now why I felt so close to the situation in the Middle East. I really feel a kinship with our people in their miraculous victory against their attackers."

"Anna, you always were grown up for your age, and today you sound very mature indeed," said her mother.

"Mother, dont you think it would be right for us all, for Father and you and me, yes, even for poor Grandma to come out and declare openly that we are Jews, and proud to be so! Of whom should we be afraid? No one would respect a person, anyway, who was ashamed to declare his true identity."

"Anna, you make me feel so ashamed. You are speaking as if you are the parent and I am the child. You are right in all you have said."

"I cannot condemn you, Mother, for I did not have to go through the awful experiences that you did. Im sure that you acted as you thought best. However, now and for the future, let us turn over a new leaf, and may G‑d bless us with success."

"Anna, between the two of us we will convince Father of the advisability of our resolution. What a pity it is that Grandma does not understand enough to appreciate our return to being Jews. It would have made her so happy! I only hope, that Grandpa, may his dear soul rest in peace up in Heaven, will know what we are doing, and be proud of us."

Anna and her mother hugged each other affectionately, and happy smiles lit up their radiant faces.