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August 25, 2013 8:34 pm

Writer: Only Way to Survive as a Jew in Sweden is to ‘Shut Up and Fade Into the Woodwork’

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Annika Hernroth-Rothstein. Photo: Nima Dervish / CiF Watch.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein. Photo: Nima Dervish / CiF Watch.

In a letter published by Mosaic Magazine, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, a Swedish writer and activist who last year organized the first public pro-Israel demonstration in Sweden in seven years, recounted an incident in which she and her son, who was wearing a yarmulke, were harassed by an anti-Semitic middle-aged Arab man while traveling on a train from their town to another city in Sweden to attend Shabbat services on a Friday afternoon.

“I did not summon the railway police. I did not scream back at the man. I know better. I know that the only way to survive as a Jew in my country is not to be seen as one. Not to be exposed but to shut up and fade into the woodwork. I’ve known this for quite some time. Unfortunately, my son knows it now, too,” she wrote.

In Sweden, a country of nine million people, with a Jewish population of 20,000 and a Muslim population of 900,000, Hernroth-Rothstein says she has learned that while the government speaks of treating people equally, really, Jews are discriminated against. She writes:

[In] Sweden kosher butchering was outlawed in 1937 and has been illegal ever since. The threat is not a threat but a reality—for me as, on a much graver scale, it had been for my grandparents, forced into hiding in a Sweden silently collaborating with the Nazis throughout the world war. The next threat on the horizon is a ban on even importing kosher products, compelling me and many of my friends to smuggle kosher meat from Israel on our return trips from that land. By contrast, hallal slaughter is not banned in Sweden. My government, when asked about the disparity, replies that the methods of slaughter in Judaism are uniquely barbaric.

‘Barbaric’ is also what I was called just this past June. As a political adviser to a Swedish party, I was debating the anti-circumcision bill that had just been proposed by another, right-wing party in our parliament, and things got heated. The bill called for a general ban on all circumcision unless medically prescribed, and it enjoyed much bipartisan support. During the debate, I outed myself as a Jew, only to be informed that what ‘we’ were doing to our children was inhumane and barbaric, and should be summarily outlawed. I did my best to maintain my composure, but ended up crying in the courtyard—not for the first time, or for the last.

Hernroth-Rothstein writes that while the historical Jew is welcome in Sweden, the current Jew is not:

What I see is that the Holocaust wing at the Jewish Museum is crowded with visitors, while the synagogues are empty. I see cute Woody Allen-ish activities being promoted, and actual Jewish life being banned. The dead, suffering Jew is glorified; the healthy, active Jew is vilified.

She says that she fears that the remaining Jews in Sweden could one day find all their practices legislated out of existence:

What frightens me most is that my government is proscribing Jewish life. Yes, by outlawing circumcision, banning kosher slaughter, and telling us forthrightly that the only way to avoid being harassed in the streets is to distance ourselves from Israel, they are reinventing the conditions of the Eastern Europe past that brought our community to this country in the first place. This is what is driving us out: one by one, bill by bill.

She concludes with an appeal to world Jewry to support their brethren in Scandinavia:

We in Sweden are still here, but we are feeling lonely and forgotten. We want a strong Jewish community in the Diaspora. We want to live. We are fighting every day against the pressure to turn us into plaques on the wall of former synagogues or into exhibits in guilt-wallowing museums. We need the help of our kinsmen. My son no longer wears his kippah (yarmulkah) in public. Now he does what the men at my shul have done for years. He carries it in his pocket, donning it only when we are safely within the iron gates. Guarded and hidden from the world.

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  • m fisher

    Kosher slaughter is considered barbaric and cruel by the Swedes? Give me a break.

    Only an ignoramous or a fool could consider it more barbaric or cruel than the national passtime of Sweden – hunting. Anyone knows that uncounted animals die slow and horrific deaths at the hands of hunters. It is not possible to hunt and to guarantee than you will kill the animal. Millions and millions die from lethal wounds after slow agonizing deaths. LIke the bulfights in Spain and hunting in almost every country, no one worries about cruel and inhuman here.

    And how dare you criticize circumsisim. I have been to many circumcisions and beleive me the babies cry less after circumcision than they do after getting required inoculations. Ah, but you say this is necessary. I suppose you think putting earings in babies is necessary too. Oh, no? Well we dont hear much call for making that illegal.

    You are all hypocrites, racists, and antisemites. You always were. And you still are.

  • Gary Harryman

    “…only to be informed that what ‘we’ were doing to our children was inhumane and barbaric.” But why would you or any intelligent person deny that tying down a baby boy and sexually molesting and mutilating him with a knife, leaving him sub-normal for life, is anything else? You seem obsessed with your own suffering, and yet without empathy for babies who are suffering needlessly at the hands of Witch Doctors. This will be a better world when all children, male and female, are legally protected from child abusers.

    • Miles

      Really. Do you have such antipathy towards genuine chronic child abusers than a single act of faith that goes back thousands of years? What is your faith, if you have one?
      Plenty of Jews argue this point without involving the rest of the world. Live and let live. I don’t know ONE Jew who complains that their circumcision left them hopelessly scarred for life and they all survived it!! Gary, get a grip on yourself and stay out of others’ pants.
      Circumcised without regret as my father was and his father was and so on.

  • I know there are honest Jews. I’ve met some. They admit that circumcision IS barbaric and that’s what makes it such a profound act of abedience. One rabbi said “I’m an abuser. I do it because G-d owns my life, my morals.” See him say it at To do something so heinous to your child takes real faith.

    To choose it FOR YOURSELF at a rational age would be even more profound, but males cut at birth are denied that chance.

    • Miles

      So gracious of you to admit you have met “some honest Jews”. I am relieved you don’t think we are all crooks or inhumane. Don’t forget: we wrote the book on morality! Do you have any idea what ritual circumsion involves? A Moel is a skilled circumsion surgeon, often a Rabbi that is trained to remove the foreskin w/minimal pain and a covenant between G-d has been fulfilled going on many thousands of years. Circumsion cannot be done nearly as easily or as safely on adults. We don’t foist our beliefs on you. Now, clitorectomy IS barbaric. Do your honest African or Arab friends confide in you that this is barbaric?

    • Jerry

      Ron – wierd that you seem surprised about honest Jews given that the percentage of honest jews is at least as high as any other ethnic or faith based group.

      But more on point re circumcision – circumscision cannot be compared to child abuse because it causes no harm to the child. pretty simple.

      the reason it is done by parents, is because it is a parental oath, not an oath by the child. the parent is makeing clear to the world that they have chosen to raise their child as a child of Gd in the Jewish faith. The child makes their own decision on that point post Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

      i think the emotional outcry against Jewish circumcision is simply a sign of dislike of Jewishness. It makes no sense otherwise to complain about a practice that harms no one and has zero impact on your own life.

  • Steve

    Not so easy to just up and leave your country of birth. Yes, Israel welcomes you however, why put up with nazi bastards in your own country. Make a noise. Give em hell. This is not 1939.
    Jews against Brit Mila? C’mon…. Really?

  • Wolfgang

    Time to leave these neo-Norseman savages, worthy heirs to the barbarity of their ancestors, to their Fates in the company of their kindly Arabian guests. They deserve each other in the frozen hell they’ll forge together.

    • Steve


  • Isaac

    Circumcision is inhumane. You’re amputated part of someone else’s body without their consent.

  • Cecily

    Circumcision is not a prerequisite for Jewishness. Many practicing Jews are against it, and the tide is turning. If an adult man wants to get a circumcision and permanently remove the most functionally important part of his penis for his religious beliefs, that is not outlawed in Sweden. They have only outlawed the circumcision of minors, and rightly so.

    • Sol

      “Remove the most functionally important part of his penis…”? There is nothing functional nor important to the little bit of FORESKIN that is removed other than harboring disease and bacteria. The penis itself is NOT touched in circumcision and great sex is to be had by all. Cecily, please don’t fabricate lies while pretending to seek an intellectually honest debate.

    • Jerry

      common Cecily – this is ludicrous. Jewish men have been liviing for thousands of years without foreskins and ZERO problems have been reported because of it. So to say it is the most functionally important part of the penis is rediculous. More important you think than being able to pee? More important than procreation?

      Sweden has zero interest in outlawing the practice other than to harrass its Jewish citizenry and impose the majority’s uninformed view points on the faith views of a powerless minority.

  • Dani

    My question would be, What are you still doing in Sweden ? At this point, you have only yourself to blame if you willingly expose yourself to this kind of treatment.

    • Miles

      Yeah let’s just accept what is and abandon your home. Remember, wherever the Jew resides the land and her people are better off for it! Why do you think Poland is inviting Jews back? AND when the going gets tough retreat gives you opportunity to fight another day!

  • Eric R.

    It is too late for Jews in Sweden, or anywhere else in Europe, except possibly Russia. Jews must leave Europe, and leave the Europeans to their fate, which is likely a bloody civil war between native Europeans and Muslim immigrants that will destroy the continent forever. And both sides will blame the Jews.

    And both sides in that civil war will deserve all the misery they get.

    • JV

      Thank you…

    • Cjmarxhatred

      A mess the Jewish dominated Marxists created in the first place by subjecting the Europeans to the evils of “multiculturalism”, along with White liberal idiots of course. Why don’t you guys ever admit YOU might of screwed up too?

  • VG

    Why “surviving”, just get out of there ipso facto! This is not pre 1939, and that’s why we have a Jewish State!

  • Jon kurowsky

    Mrs. Rothstein, go home, not to Sweden, but home, where you soul was created. You’ll still have enemies, but you’ll be where HaShem expects us to be. Remember, the Light will come from Zion, not leave Zion for other countries. I know it’s not easy, but as I try to sell my house, rearrange my company and move my wife and children, I know it’s the right place for me to be. Heck, I’ve already fought for this country, US, it’s time for us to correct our home addresses and fight the the land we were given.

  • Felicity Scott

    The part of this article the resonates most ominously for me is this: What I see is that the Holocaust wing at the Jewish Museum is crowded with visitors, while the synagogues are empty. I see cute Woody Allen-ish activities being promoted, and actual Jewish life being banned. The dead, suffering Jew is glorified; the healthy, active Jew is vilified.

    This goes to the heart of liberal Europe’s crusade against the Jews: The poor, suffering, poverty stricken Jew, who lives every day in the valley of the shadow of death? Oh, we feel so sorry for them! The well-educated, able Jew? The Jew who does not die when it’s convenient? The Jew who does not roll over and play dead? Those people have no right to exist!

    The last time the right and the left in Europe were so thoroughly in agreement as to ‘the evil of the Jews’ something very bad happened. But we must NOT ‘mention the war’ as Basil Fawlty tells us. History may repeat, but we Jews do nothing but moan (apparently)

  • Robin

    Now is the time to leave Sweden, while you can still sell your property and move to Israel, US or any other country that still accepts Jews. Europe or Scandinavia are both not meant for Jews. It’s time to see the writing on the walls, before it’s too late like it was for the Jews of the Holocaust.

  • Rick Brandt

    My fault Ive been getting meat from a Minnesota organic farmer but I have to thaw the meat out completely as it is not Kosher butchered. Its hard to get people to kosher butcher here in Minnesota. The blood is still in non kosher meat. Ive never heard a more stupid law comming from Sweden. Reverse this as it is not a proper law but an ignorance or legal. Eduacation as to how to Kosher butcher meat, should be taught.

  • Rick Brandt

    I implore the international community that this is never to be tolerated. I appeal to the Swedish king, Government, and people to remember the beheadings of the Catholic church against yourselves and the reformers. Bullying Jewish or Israeli, s should be an imprisonable offense. They have right to walk down the street in peace. Where is the UN are they looking the other way because they hate Jews and Israeli, s.

  • Shira Yashin

    Is life so wonderful in Sweden that you’d willingly endanger your life and that of your children to stay there? The value of the diaspora was only as a place to live until we could come home. Now that we have our home back, the Diaspora is ending, and all Jews who don’t leave will end with it. As Ze’ev Jabotinsky tried to warn the Jews of the 1920’s: Eliminate the diaspora or the diaspora will eliminate you!

  • R

    Response to Annika Henroth-Rothstein:

    There exist very few places in the “democratic” world, where ANY Jew can feel safe wearing his “kippah” on the street. Even here in the USA, I would not flaunt it in a place such as NYC. Miami…maybe. There are too many dangerous loonies on the streets to make “in-your-face” flaunting worth the risk. They may wind up rotting in a jail cell, but we may wind up being debilitated or scarred for life by some asshole who isn’t worth the toilet paper to wipe his face,

    Things are good for Jews in the United States for those of us who are Jews. But I am keenly aware that there exist all too many people who hate the Jews…even as they quickly acknowledge one of them as their “Lord”. ( Watch them swallow hard when you respond to THAT subject.)

    Jesus was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died as a Jew. He represented himself as being one through whom the Jews might come closer to G-d.

    Judaism teaches that G-d can be reached by everyone, from the most “religious” to the least “religious” individual. G-d does not play favorites. But it is equally true that we can come closer to G-d when we pray. And where do we pray ((a lot of the time?) In a synagogue! And who leads our praying? A rabbi (a teacher.) Jesus was a rabbi – a teacher.

    • m fisher

      right. and guess what. You wont read anywhere in the new testament that Jesus was sorry he was circumcised or that he wanted to outlaw kosher slaughter.