Tuesday, January 31st | 9 Shevat 5783

May 26, 2015 4:32 pm

Swedish Rabbi Warns Antisemitism Threatening Existence of Jewish Minority in Malmö


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The rabbi of Malmo's synagogue said antisemitism is threatening the existence of the city's Jewish community. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A rabbi who serves the Jewish community of  Malmö, Sweden said on Monday that antisemitism is threatening the very survival of the city’s already dwindling Jewish population, Canada’s CBC Radio reported.

“Hatred of Muslims, as bad as it is – and it’s terrible – is not challenging the Muslim minority, their safety,” said Rabbi Shneur Kesselman. “Antisemitism here in Malmö today is threatening the existence of a minority.”

The rabbi said that during his time in Malmö he has been spat upon and cursed in different languages. Most recently, a bottle thrown from a passing car narrowly missed his head.

The Jewish population in the city has shrunk 50 percent throughout the past 10 years to about 1,000 Jews in total, according to the report. Muslim immigrants, most originally from Middle Eastern countries, make up nearly a third of Malmö’s population.

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A total of 137 antisemitic incidents have been reported to authorities in Malmö over the past two years and the hatred even prompted Jewish human rights group the Simon Weisenthal Center to issue a travel advisory to Jews suggesting they don’t visit the city. The center issued the warning in 2010 and again in 2014.

Earlier this year, Jonathan Vaknine, 19 — the only Jew in his school of 1,600 students — was swarmed in the hallway at school, cursed at and pushed around by young men asking, “Are you Jewish?” Vaknine reported the incident to local police and named one of the attackers but it was three months before the authorities called on Vaknine for a statement, according to CBC. The attacker was never interviewed.

School authorities expressed concern for Vaknine’s safety, but he told them, “Safe is not enough.”

“That is not the issue,” he said. “If I hide who I am and hide my identity, of course no one will know I’m a Jew and they will not do anything. But if I am going with kippa, with things that show that I’m a Jew, I’m not sure I would be safe.”

A few weeks later, Swedish television aired a documentary on antisemitism in Malmö. The film showed a Swedish journalist wearing a kippa in the streets as locals called him a Jewish Satan and threw eggs at him from their residences.

Vaknine asked Swedish Muslim activist Siavosh Derakhti, who was featured in the documentary, and who has established a group dedicated to combating antisemitism, to speak at his school. Derakhti accepted the invitation but the school’s principal turned him down, according to the report.

Earlier in the year, a shooting attack outside a synagogue in Copenhagen left a Jewish security guard dead. Following the attack, armed police were immediately stationed outside the Jewish community center in Malmö, which is a 20-minute train ride from Copenhagen.

Vaknine’s mother, Sofia Lunderquist, the administrative director at the center, said about the Copenhagen shooting, “To be honest, we were in a way happy because finally the normal Swedes, the Swedish police and Swedish government understood that we’re not fantasizing.  They have woken up now.”

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