ROOTS, JUDAISM, AND RECONNECTION – THE POWER OF MACCABIAH
By Matt Rosen
My name is Matt Rosen, and I was an Accommodations Manager at the 21st Maccabiah. During the last two weeks of my assignment, I was stationed in Hadera with the various national karate teams. This included the outstanding Hungarian Maccabiah squad.
As a new karate practitioner, and being of Hungarian ancestry, I became very good friends with members of the Hungarian team including Kata Biro and Zsolt Bucher, the Maccabiah team coach and President of the Hungary Karate Federation. As the Games ended, Kata and I traded shirts and backpacks. We promised to keep in touch, and I told her that I would see her and her family in Budapest. She smiled and probably thought that I was a little bit meshuga.
But fate takes its course. During the summer of 2022, my daughter Georgia took a position as an au pair near Vienna, Austria. She asked me to come to Europe for Thanksgiving, and I jumped at the chance to see Georgia, reconnect with my Maccabiah friends in Hungary, and try to trace my Hungarian roots.
In November 2022, I traveled to Europe to visit Georgia and then we traveled to Budapest where I had an excellent reunion with the Hungarian team. Kata confirmed that she thought that I was indeed meshuga when I told her that I would see her in Budapest. Now, the trip was a reality. During our trip, Kata connected me to an incredible guide who gave me a Jewish tour of Budapest. The guide took me to the last remaining wall of the Ghetto in Budapest. She even found someone who helped me trace my roots back to Miskolc, Hungary and Prešov, Slovakia.
My daughter and I also spent time with Kata. We reconnected over cappuccino and Dobos torte. It was not my Hungarian grandmother’s but was pretty darn close! I even went to the karate dojo and took a class from Zsolt Bucher. One of his star students is Kata’s daughter, a sure-fire future Maccabiah competitor, like Kata, her husband and son.
Looking back, I met Kata our first Shabbat in Hadera. We bonded instantly over Judaism, Hungarian roots, and karate. In Israel, I traveled to the Dead Sea with Kata, her husband, and the Hungarian karate team. We developed a life-long relationship that started with a chance meeting in the buffet line in Hadera.
The 21st Maccabiah was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Reconnecting with people who I met from Hungary made the whole journey even more poignant. The idea of bridging nations, finding true soulmates, and deepening relationships represents the true fabric of my life. From Florida to Hadera to Budapest, the Maccabiah spirit reigns true!