Tuesday, May 21, 2013

  • Tuesday, May 21, 2013
  • Elder of Ziyon
Here is most of a long article, in Swedish, in DN.se:

Malmö has for many years been a new, secure residence for tens of thousands of refugees from different parts of the world.

30 percent of the city's 307,000 residents were born abroad. In recent years, it is mainly Syrians, Somalis and Afghans who have come here.

The very first group of refugees who found refuge in Malmo were Jews.

In 1860, Sweden abolished the law that forbade Jews to settle outside Stockholm, Gothenburg, Norrköping and Karlskrona.

Eleven years later, in 1871, two hundred Jews had moved to Malmö.

Mistrust of them was widespread. "People Magazine" wrote about the "swarm of Jews," "peddlers and hucksters", who settled in southern Sweden "to great discomfort for the friends of order," according to the newspaper.

But the Scandanavian Jew hatred was not as aggressive as that in in Poland, Russia and Ukraine. There, tens of thousands of Jews were killed in pogroms, bloody riots encouraged by the authorities.

Many Jewish refugees found refuge in Lund and Malmö. The congregation grew.

In 1903 the synagogue was inaugurated in Club Street, designed in the Moorish style of John Smedberg.

The synagogue in Malmö is one of the few preserved temples from its era. Most similar synagogues on the continent were destroyed on 30 - and 40's, under Nazism.

In 1930, Malmö was a Nazi stronghold. Nazis marched through the streets of Malmö.

But a bunch of Malmö sports fans did not hide their Jewish identity.

At Café Triangle in central Malmö - "a little chilly two-story" as one of the young men would later write - they gathered on 29 December 1932 to form the Jewish sports club SK Hakoah.

Hakoah means "power" in Hebrew. In the society's annual report, you can see black and white pictures of men's teams, women's teams and Little League teams, and learn about the tough qualifying matches against teams like Arlöv and Heleneholm.
In 1945, thousands of Jewish survivors of Nazi death camps moved to Malmo. Many stayed and started families.

The congregation grew, and so did SK HaKoah.

In the late 1960s, the communist dictatorship in Poland whipped up anti-Semitism. Jews were fired from jobs and banned from the university. Shops were vandalized and marked with Stars of David.

Thousands fled, and many settled in Lund and Malmö. SK Hakoah's volleyball and bridge teams benefited in particular - many of the newly arrived Poles were driven volleyball and bridge players.

In a festival booklet for Hakoahs 50th anniversary celebrations in 1982 the writer speaks of "the large number of Jewish youth growing up" in Malmö and predicts "additional years of sporting activities."

The writer was wrong.

Inexperienced teams are some older bridge players today areall that remains of SK Hakoah.

Their men's football team came to an end after last year's season.

In the final years played no Jews in the club's first team. In contrast, SK Hakoah had several Muslim players.

It did not matter to some anti-Semites among the fans. The cries of "fucking Jews" rained sometimes over the non-Jewish players.

...One of soccer parents (cheering the kids' team) is Shneur Kesselman. He is the rabbi in Malmo, leading services and conducting funerals.

"It is important that Jewish life is kept alive. This club is part of it," says the rabbi.

In his long black beard, his black pants and his white shirt 33-year-old Shneur Kesselman sticks out from the other, more leisurely dressed parents.

The rabbi's traditional Hassidic way of dressing has made him an obvious target for anti-Semitism in Malmö. Since he moved to Malmö from Detroit eight years ago Shneur Kesselman has been harassed almost every month.

He gets empty cans threw at him. People spit in his direction. He has become accustomed to taunts like "we support Hitler".

The police hate crimes coordinator has objectively summarized why the rabbi is so very vulnerable: "You can see so clearly that he is a Jew."

Between two football games the Rabbi talks about the latest unpleasantness. Recently, on a Saturday in late April, he walked from his apartment to the synagogue.

"First, near my home, there was a man rolled down the window and shouted 'fucking Jew.' I kept walking."

A few minutes later, at Triangle Square in central Malmö, four young men in a car pulled up. One of them went out on the sidewalk and took a few menacing steps toward Shneur Kesselman.

"He wanted to fight or intimidated. I quickly walked away."

Rabbi usually records the license numbers of the cars, in order to notify the police. But this day was the Sabbath - a day of rest. He is not allowed to write, according to the rabbi's faith.

"I memorized the plate number in my head and wrote it up the next day."

The judiciary has never managed to get any offender convicted, although Shneur Kesselman reported dozens of anti-Semitic attacks. Still, Malmö police take the problems more seriously today than a few years ago, he thinks.

"Then when I called the police they didn't even bother questioning the owners of the cars."

When a Swedish hear the word anti-Semitism they often think of Nazi skinheads.

If you are older and interested in politics you may remember fascist leader Per Engdahl. He wanted to distinguish Jews from other Swedes, stop "mixed marriages" and prohibit Jews from holding management positions in society.

Engdahl was admired by Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, which Elisabeth Åsbrink writes about in his award winning book, "And in Wienerwald trees are left standing."

Remnants of Swedish kitchen table anti-Semitism are still alive in some quarters. A group of Jewish children between seven and twelve experienced it when they were at camp in Hollviken south of Malmö, during a weekend in October 2010.

The center was surrounded by a great bunch of local teenagers who threw eggs, beat on trashcans and trampled down the fence. Youths shouted "Heil Hitler", "Jude Shit destroys Hollviken" and "You shall be gassed".

The Jewish children were frightened. Sixteen students were later identified as participants in the attack.

The old, traditional Jew hatred exists.

But if one wants to understand the contemporary anti-Semitism in Malmö the image of the Nazi skinhead is wrong.

In Malmö it is most often young men roots in the Middle East accounting for harassment of Jews. Last year I interviewed Henryk Grynfeld, a teacher who repeatedly met with hatred of its pupils on Herb School in Malmö.

Once students gathered outside his classroom and chanted: "Fucking Jew, fucking Jew!"

Henryk Grynfeld summed up the situation:

"In Poland, I was'fucking Jew.' When I came to Sweden, I was 'fucking Pole.' Now it's back to 'fucking Jew' again."

As contempt for Jews was once mainstream in Swedish newspapers, with racist cartoons, anti-Semitism is common in many Arab countries' media.

The Muslim world's famous television preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose words carry weight for many residents, has called the Holocaust a "divine punishment."

"With God's will, the next punishment to be carried out by the faithful," said Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in 2009 on TV channel Al-Jazeera.

Henryk Grynfeld says that several of his students and their parents watch much Arab television.

"They see programs that sometimes have the same Jew rhetoric that German Nazis had. Syrian television showed kegs of nails. In the barrels, the Jews kept children whose blood was mixed in with matzoh, the television channel told their viewers."

Jew Hatred in Malmö is often interwoven with anger against Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

The rabbi noticed it last year when someone had carved PALESTINE in the paint on his car.

62-year-old Barbro Posner, growing up in Malmo, talks about when she met two young men during a walk in the Möllan neighborhood.

One of them looked at Barbro Posner's necklace in the shape of a Star of David, and said, "Fucking Jew."

"What do you mean?" asked Barbro Posner.

"I hate Jews. You're killing children," said the young man.

In 2009, during the Israeli bombing of Gaza, the mixture of Israeli criticism and anti-Semitism was extra clear. A strange SMS chain message was sent around:

"The staff at McDonald's has concluded that all profits on Saturday to go to Israel, try not to eat of the accursed Jews. Even Coca-Cola, Fanta, and Sprite is Jewish. Avoid those too."

A rally with Israeli flags in the Great Square was attacked with bottles, eggs and rockets. The cry of "fucking Jews" drove participants to flight.

30-year Malmo teacher Sophia was one of those who fled from the Square.

"Many of those who shouted hateful things were my former students. Guys who I once taught to tie their shoelaces," says Sofia when DN met her at an outdoor café in the castle town in central Malmö.

Sofia is now working at a school in a rural municipality - her choice. Antisemitism at the Malmo School became too much.

The pupils told her that Jews mix Palestinian children's blood in Coca-Cola. One day there was a nine year old student standing outside her classroom. This was a kid that Sophia really liked.

"Why don't you go in?" she asked.

"Mom and Dad don't want me to," the boy replied.

"Why not?"

The nine year old hesitated. Finally he said: "You are a Jew."

"Malmo has become the symbol of anti-Semitism - but the problem exists in all of Sweden," says Petra Kahn.

When she was a substitute teacher in a school in Vårby, south of Stockholm, she said the other teachers told her to hide her Jewish identity. Many students at the school do not like Jews, declared colleagues.

When Petra Kahn heard a student say that all Jews should be shot, she could not keep quiet. She told them: I am a Jew. Word spread quickly, remembers Petra Kahn.

"Several students came up and asked: 'Are you Jewish?' It was creepy. A sort of aggressive curiosity."

But far worse than the students' hostility was her colleagues' requests to keep quiet because she was Jewish, says Petra Kahn. "It felt like the Swedish society adopted this behavior."

32-year-old Emilia grew up in Malmo but moved with her husband and son to Copenhagen last summer. Not because they have found jobs in Denmark...

"My son's childhood should be safe - which is better in Copenhagen than Malmö."

In Copenhagen, there is also a Jewish school, says Emilia, which Malmö lacks. "It is easier to live as a Jew there."

A Copenhagen Rabbi, Yitzi Loewenthal, arrives. Like his Malmo colleague Shneur Kesselman, he wears a beard and traditional Hasidic attire.

Yitzi Loewenthal visited Malmö several times. On two occasions, he has been harassed.

"People shouted ugly things. This rarely happens in Copenhagen."

The rabbi recalls that Malmo has a special place in Danish Jewish hearts. During the German occupation many Jews in Copenhagen went in fishing boats across the Strait in autumn 1943 to escape the Nazi extermination camps.

In Denmark elderly Jews still remember how they were welcomed with open arms. How strong Malmö police officers helped pull in the boats.

"Because of that, the pain from the situation in Malmö is that much worse," says Yitzi Loewenthal.

58-year-old Malmöbon Kaj Gellberg shows up .... His own children are too old to play Little League teams, but Kaj and his wife have been driving over the bridge to Denmark to cheer SK Hakoah.

Kaj Gellberg is a positive person who downplays the dangers of being a Jew in Malmo.

If you wear no Jewish symbols, then you have no problem."

Kaj Gellberg's ancestors were involved in founding the synagogue in the 1800s. It is tragic that Jewish life now fades away, he thinks.

But maybe, he considers, there's hope for Malmö. He points out that the situation of Jews in Hungary is difficult. Politicians from the extreme party Jobbik have demanded registration of Jews and anti-Semitic events are being organized.

"Maybe we can get Jewish refugees from Hungary to move here."

Is he serious? He shows no sign of making a joke.

And there's a horrible logic in the reasoning. Historically, it is actually Jewish persecution in other countries - Russia, Poland, Germany - which meant that Jews fled to Malmö.

Kaj Gellberg says it again:

"Hungary, yes. It's probably the only chance for a fresh start for the synagogue in Malmö."

(h/t BlazingCatFur)

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