Máté Popovics was born and raised in Budapest. He earned his Master Degree in Human kinesiology, and worked with handicapped children as a rowing coach. He has recently become more interested in his Judaism, which led him to the study of the Holocaust. He is a recent graduate of Minyanim, a Jewish Agency program for Central European Jewish Leaders, and he participated in the Hungarian Intergeneration program, which is a year long program of meeting Holocaust survivors and young Hungarian Jews. He made aliyah a year ago, and is currently working to build a connection to Jewish history, religion and culture. Popovics discusses his experience in our MA program below:
My name is Máté Popovics, I’m 28 years old and originally from Budapest, Hungary. I made aliyah a year ago to try and find my place in Israeli society. Before coming to Israel, I got my first MA at Semmelweis University Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences in humankinesiology, which is more or less the same as physical therapy. I worked with handicapped children as a rowing coach.
What led you to pursue an MA in Holocaust Studies?
I heard about the program during a presentation at the Mashmaut Center while I was in ulpan. I immediately knew this program was the perfect place for me to gain more knowledge about the Holocaust; what happened and how it could have occurred. I wanted to connect with my ancestors and to European jewry, so I decided to apply, and I’m so glad I did.
What were your first impressions of life in Haifa like? How was it different than what you were expecting?
I actually lived in Israel at the age of 3 for 8 months, and then moved back to Hungary, so I had big expectations about the city. Luckily, all of my expectations were met. I really love living in Haifa, and feel like I found the place in the world I came to Israel looking for.
Do you have a favorite course so far?
Because I’ve spread my course work of two years I haven’t taken as many courses as my peers, but I’m really enjoying the variation of courses offered in the program with different emphases in many disciplines. It’s so different than what I have studied in the past. My clear favorite of my courses though would have to be my Yiddish class. It is a really emotional experience sitting in a Yiddish class and learning the language that was spoken by my great-grandfathers. Coming from the field of sciences it was a big shift for me to have such meaningful experiences in the classroom.
What do you think of this MA program? How is it different from other academic programs you’ve been involved in?
Of course it’s really different since I came from a totally different area of studies. I needed to learn the way of thinking in a western education system where the person is expected to think, and not just to learn what he was told to learn… it’s a totally different world.
What do you hope to do after you finish your degree here?
Through the program I was able to enjoy a one week seminar at the Ghetto Fighter’s House Museum. One day of this seminar was spent at the museum’s humanistic center where they take groups of Israeli Arab and Jewish students and foster dialogue that stems from Holocaust education. I would love to do some kind of work like that, which brings kids closer together and helps them understand each other’s problems and cultural traumas. I want to do the kind of work that lets people create a more open and peaceful life together. Whatever I end up doing, I know that I will use the tools I’m learning in this program to help me feel connected to my personal roots, and that they will provide a meaningful foundation for me to build a career that makes the world a better place.