When my Hebrew school decided to go to the University of Minnesota to hear a former Neo-Nazi speak, I thought to myself no way! I thought there was no way all of a sudden this person loves Jews. That is the thought that persuaded me to go, how did this person change their mind?
The next thing I know, I am on the bus to the U of M. When we arrived into this huge lecture room there were many people of different cultures. There were Chinese people, African-Americans, Jews, Christians, Indians, and Muslims. There were a few men standing on the stage. It didn’t even come cross my mind that one of the men on the stage is a former Neo-Nazi. A U of M student started talking and introduces the man to his right, Tj Leyden. He looked like a normal American, balled, and a little heavy, who knew this man was a Neo-Nazi. For 15 years Leyden spent his time to a group that promoted hatred, anti-Semitism, racism, and every possible hate group out there. He starts off by saying, “The story I am about to tell is not one I am proud to tell.” He also said he is going to offend every single person in the room. Leyden was in and out of jail for beating people half to death, listened to heavy metal music, and had swastikas and skinhead tattooed all over his body. He then married a woman Neo-Nazi because they shared the same beliefs and had children.
One day, Leyden was watching TV and his older son Tommy came in the room, glanced at the TV and immediately turned around and said to his dad, “You know better than that Daddy. No nigger watching in this house.” Leyden realized the impact he had on his children and started thinking, he said, “I started thinking about the 16 times I got arrested, the times I got shot at… friends who are dead… I kept looking at my kids and I was trying to find something and I couldn’t find it… you hear a three year old boy say that, and you don’t see anymore innocence (in him).” Leyden got out of the hate groups, eventually got custody of his children and moved.
When I walked out of the lecture, I couldn’t stop all the thoughts running through my head. I came to a conclusion that every single day for the rest of my life I won’t tease anybody because of his or her race, sex, or religion. I also won’t let anybody call me a kike or any other derogatory term for Jews. After this life changing experience, I really do believe in redemption.
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