Tags: Anti-Semites | Kosher | Kitchen

Anti-Semites in a Kosher Kitchen

Friday, 11 January 2002 12:00 AM

Or is it the best practical joke ever wrapped around me?

For 45 years this story just had to hang there as an amusing but essentially pointless experience I had shortly after the Hungarian Revolution. Today's headlines jack it all the way up to star status.

My assignment in 1956 was to cover the Hungarian refugees from the moment they crossed the border to freedom in Austria, through the West European refugee camps, and then over to the staging area at Camp Kilmer, N.J., and finally into their new homes in America.

The Air Force moved over and gave those Hungarians destined for America their barracks, the Luitpol Kaserne, in Munich, Germany. I moved in with them while they were enjoying their very first few days of freedom.

America thought of everything. There was good food, warm beds, fresh clothing, medical care, television, radio, card tables, ping pong, English lessons, and even a kosher kitchen, run by an aging and bearded Orthodox Jew named Abraham who had escaped Hungary during World War II and came to Munich to set up a kosher kitchen for the Jewish Hungarians.

Abraham stood out. Woody Allen's costume people couldn't have made a Jew look more orthodox than Abraham: black hat, black caftan, payess (long sideburns), and tsitsis (strings, like a dozen tiny shirttails, hanging out of his trousers at each hip).

Abraham single-handedly composed the "third group" at the camp. We had Hungarians, Americans, and Abraham!

I quickly bonded with a young Hungarian man about my age whose English was so good I was able to zoom into everybody's life story in that camp without going to the trouble of lining up official interpreters.

He was Jewish, and among his roommates in the barracks were two Hungarians in their late teens who were obviously at first glance what the Hungarians called "yumpetzi," or "juvenile delinquents."

I didn't understand what they were saying, but George, my native guide, explained that they were both enthusiastic anti-Semites who seemed to be in perpetual competition to see which one could manage to be more vulgar and more anti-Jewish at the same time.

George was blond, blue-eyed and as un-Jewish-looking to a Hungarian anti-Semite as Arnold Schwarzenegger is un-black-looking to you and me.

I, the American journalist, was always sort of hanging around asking questions of the Hungarians and having no specific role a teenage Hungarian anti-Semite could discern. That made me the perfect foil for George's practical joke.

One day George – Jewish himself, don't forget – called those two boys over to him and lowered his voice.

"Don't you know who that man is?" George asked, pointing to me. The boys confessed, not a clue.

"He's a CIA agent," said George. "His job is to find Hungarian refugees who don't like Jews so he can report them and keep them out of the United States. He's already sent five or six back to Communist Hungary!"

Do you remember the era of the board game Monopoly when the cool inside phrase for "Hurry up!" was "Do not pass 'Go'?" Those two young terror-stricken Hungarian anti-Semites didn't waste time "passing 'Go'."

They turned around immediately after George told them that and ran out of the room and down the corridor, down the stairs, then down another corridor, and down more stairs, into Abraham's kosher kitchen – and loudly and breathlessly volunteered their services full-time to do whatever Abraham needed done!

One of the juiciest fruits of America's victory in Afghanistan is the spectacle of entire countries now running down corridors and stairs looking for America's anti-terror "kitchen" so they can volunteer, loudly and breathlessly. As comic Red Buttons used to say, "Strange things are happening!"

We'll skip the tasty rumors that rogue states like Syria, Libya and even Iran are filling out applications to enlist in America's War on Terrorism. We'll cut straight to the hard stuff.

Yemen reports the chase and capture of al-Qaeda agents and the destruction of several bin Laden cells in that Arab country.

Strange. It seems like just yesterday that Yemen, where the USS Cole was blasted, with the loss of 17 American lives, was refusing to cooperate with even elemental requests by our FBI. What do you suppose could have changed their minds?

Sudan, a country high on the State Department's list of terror-supporting states, tells America how much it admires and supports our War on Terrorism and presents specific proposals on how it might be helpful.

Strange. Sudan is where bin Laden did his spring training and start-up work for his murder network. They now want to extirpate all traces of their former ally and guest. What do you suppose could have changed their minds?

Singapore, a city-state dominated by ethnic Chinese but with a large Moslem population, not known as a cheerleader who jumps up and down every time America scores a touchdown, just arrested 15 Muslims and accused them of planning to blow up military targets and embassies.

The government said at least some of them might have received training from Osama's terrorist organization. They'd been found with bomb-making instructions and with photographs and videotape of buildings that were apparently being considered as targets.

Way to go, Singapore! Welcome to the team. What do you suppose got into them?

If President George W. Bush were not related in any way to President George H.W. Bush, Saddam Hussein might be about to join Mullah Omar. Why?

Because Bush the First, in not removing Saddam's means to make his own and other people miserable after Desert Storm, committed a blunder of such magnitude that Bushes for generations to come will seek to spin it away.

The Bush family must continue to dismiss that oversight as meaningless or even praiseworthy (just obeying the coalition mandate, don't you see?)

An American president not beholden to that family chore would go on TV, remind the world that Saddam Hussein has for three years been in flagrant violation of his surrender terms, and point to Hussein's great and growing mass-destruction capabilities.

Such a president would then exert sufficient power to overthrow Hussein, earning thereby the temporary and shallow fury of the Russians and the French and the everlasting gratitude of the people of Iraq.

Let this fruit of America's military success not rot away on the windowsill of self-congratulations. Let it not become "What-the-hell; we've done enough" and, "Man, that ought to teach 'em!" "Great war; wasn't it?"

Military success breeds success. Let the breeding proceed until every state that harbors and supports terrorism begins, either through sincere conversion or sincere fear, to eliminate those who slaughter innocent people for political ends.

You should have seen how clean those two anti-Semites kept Abraham's kosher kitchen.

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Or is it the best practical joke ever wrapped around me? For 45 years this story just had to hang there as an amusing but essentially pointless experience I had shortly after the Hungarian Revolution. Today's headlines jack it all the way up to star status. My...
Friday, 11 January 2002 12:00 AM
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