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Viki Bedo, 29
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JEWISH COMMUNITY36 Under 36 2020

Viki Bedo, 29

From Budapest to Jerusalem

What you do:

I’m a full-time graduate student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, so I spend a lot of time in class or doing readings, preparing for class. I also serve as the rabbinic intern at Park Avenue Synagogue, where I have a diverse array of responsibilities, mostly leading services and teaching.

My volunteer activities are usually also in the Jewish sphere, and I try to offer my skills at places where they’re most needed. Recently, I’ve taught several classes on Zoom for the Hungarian Jewish community, and have written some pieces on a varying number of Jewish topics, from intermarriage to Jewish responses to Covid, in order to offer a different perspective on tradition and modernity to a community that lacks pluralistic Jewish voices.

Quote you live by:

On his deathbed, Rabbi Zusha said, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not more like Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not more like Zusha?”

How does your Jewish identity/Jewish values influence the work that you do?

I converted to Judaism when I was 17, and since then, have been incredibly blessed to have been welcomed into Jewish communities from Seattle, through Budapest, to Jerusalem. When I started my Jewish journey, I didn’t know the difference between an aleph and a bet, but a year later I was chanting for the first time from a Torah scroll. Upon graduating from high school, I arrived in Jerusalem not knowing a single person, how to buy anything at the shuk or the difference between basic rabbinic texts. After spending two years at the Conservative Yeshiva, I had learned many pages of Talmud by myself, haggled over tomatoes in Hebrew and left with friends who I considered family.

Formative childhood moment:

When I told my mother that I was applying to rabbinical school, after her initial shock, she reminded me that when I was about 10, she and I went to an American evangelical church service in Budapest. (We weren’t particularly religious, but occasionally we’d go to church). The pastor spoke in English, and a Hungarian translator stood next to him. “I’ll stand on that stage one day,” I whispered to my mother. “What? You’ll be a translator?” she asked. “No. The preacher,” I responded.

Fondest Jewish memory:

Two summers ago, I stood underneath the chuppah with my now-husband, Jonah Fisher, in Mád, Hungary. That moment I understood what it means to go from “m’aveil l’simcha,” from mourning to joy, a phenomenon that the Jewish people are particularly well-versed in.

Our wedding was the first to take place in Mád, in eastern Hungary, since the Shoah, and despite the 200 guests from New York, Israel and Europe, there was an eerie sense that we were not only celebrating our union, but remembering and mourning a world that once was, and which tragically has ended. Through our union in this special place, we felt that our fate was suddenly entwined with the many generations of Jews in Mád that were erased.

Follow me: @vikibedo

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