Christian Journalist Who Posed as Jew in Malmo: ‘I’m Optimistic Things Will Get Better’
Patrick Reilly’s experience posing as a Jew on the streets of Sweden proved an uncomfortable one even before it began.
“Well, my wife, who is a native of Malmö, was extremely nervous when I said I was going to do this. That made me a bit anxious as she knows the city much better than I do. She was relieved when it was all over,” Reilly told The Algemeiner.
The journalist for The Local, an English-language newspaper in Sweden, was prompted by an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the country, as well as a letter from a Jewish reader in America expressing concerns about visiting Sweden because of it, to recently spend a day in the city of Malmö wearing a Kippah.
After a discomfiting few hours walking the streets, becoming the object of stares and insults, Reilly concluded: “As an Irish person abroad I’ve never felt remotely threatened but wearing the kippah for a few hours was enough to instill feelings of fear. Even when I didn’t feel afraid I was made to feel different and unwelcome.”
Since the article was published, Reilly says that the feedback has been overwhelming, especially among those who were the least aware of the problems facing the Jewish community in the country.
“The larger immigrant community, at least the ones that I’ve had contact with, have been quite supportive as many weren’t aware of just what the situation was like. So this was an eye opener,” Reilly said.
Reilly says that a concern for safety among the Jewish community is understandable and suggests Jews wishing to visit the country be vigilant.
“Jews who are considering visiting here, my advice would be to do your homework and as I said in the article, be prepared for stares at least and violence at worst if you make your Jewish beliefs visible.”
Still, despite his experience and evidence to the contrary, Reilly believes that there’s reason to remain optimistic that a turnabout is on the horizon.
“I’m optimistic things will get better as the city are taking measures to tackle the existing problems. The new Mayor has promised to get tough on hate crime and, on the ground, there appears to be some bridge building,” Reilly told The Algemeiner. “For instance a young Malmö Muslim, Siavosh Derakhti, recently won a Raoul Wallenberg Prize for his work campaigning against anti-Semitism. Things are not as bad as some media portray but they can certainly be improved.”
He also recounted a story that he feels speaks to the true character of a city he refers to as a “a melting pot with over 180 nationalities.”
“A Jewish person told me they reported an anti-Semitic hate crime here. When they got to the police station they were provided with an interpreter as Swedish wasn’t his first language. The interpreter was of Palestinian origin and seemed a bit awkward about the whole thing. Afterwards the interpreter apologized to the Jewish person for the anti-Semitic incident which he was reporting. They ended up going for coffee together and are now friends. That is a very Malmö moment, as the city is quite diverse and people do mix more than the image of the place suggests,” he related.
But Reilly, for one, is in no rush to rejoin the ranks of the overtly Jewish in the city. When asked whether he’ll pose as such again anytime soon, he was frank:
“Perhaps some years down the line to see if anything has changed. Certainly not for a while anyway.”