• Sweden edition
 
Port city 'no haven' for Swedish Jews

Port city 'no haven' for Swedish Jews

Published: 31 Jul 2013 07:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 31 Jul 2013 07:43 GMT+02:00

Attacks against Jews in Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, have left members of the community questioning their future in a place known for its multiculturalism.

Jewish people have lived in Malmö for over two centuries, often arriving in the south Swedish port city, a safe haven for generations, after fleeing persecution and intolerance in other parts of Europe.

But though waves of immigration over the past two decades have made the area more diverse, hate crimes appear to be on the rise and many people, paradoxically, say they feel less secure. Highlighting a problem many Swedes had thought long relegated to history, the US special envoy for anti-Semitism even visited Malmö last year.

Typically, but not exclusively, the perpetrators of anti-Semitic hate crimes are "young men with roots in the Middle East", according to Jehoshua Kaufman, a member of Malmö's Jewish congregation.

Parents are especially worried about their children being subjected to abuse at school. Bullying has been a problem "not for everyone, not always, but very often", said Kaufman, as he took part in a regular march known as the "kippah walks" -- referring to the Jewish skullcaps worn by the demonstrators -- organised to battle anti-Semitism.

Around a third of Malmö's 310,000 residents were born abroad, with the largest minorities coming from the Balkans, Iraq and neighbouring Denmark. The total number of Jews in the city is estimated to be around 2,000, with around 600 that are members of its synagogue.

In 2012, 66 anti-Jewish hate crimes were reported, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. According to figures from Malmö police, 60 reports were made, compared with just 31 in Stockholm, with more than three times the population. Thirty-five have already been reported in Malmö so far this year. The figures seem to be on the up - in 2010 and 2011, a total of 44 reports were made over the two years combined.

Shneur Kesselman, a US-born orthodox rabbi, has had insults and objects hurled after him on the streets of Malmö more times than he can remember. With his traditional Hasidic black clothing, fedora hat and beard, he cuts an incongruous figure in the traditionally working-class, immigrant-heavy eastern half of the city.

But he insists on staying. "It's a little hard to explain. My wife and I have made Malmö our project. We feel a sense of responsibility for Jewish life here," he said.

The response by local authorities has been patchy at best.

Malmö's former mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, gained notoriety after suggesting members of the Jewish community had themselves to blame when a rally they organised during the 2008-2009 Gaza War was attacked with bottles and eggs.

"I wish the Jewish congregation would distance itself from Israel's violations of the civilian population in Gaza," Reepalu told a local newspaper.

Last year, the then Social Democrat mayor courted more controversy by saying the Jewish congregation had been "infiltrated" by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats -- a claim he later retracted.

The Sweden Democrats have sought to use the attacks on Malmö's Jews for political gain, framing them as a by-product of Sweden's generous immigration laws.

"It's clear that misguided skinheads aren't the major threat against Jews in Sweden today, but the imported anti-Semitism from the Muslim group," parliamentarian Kent Ekeroth wrote in an op-ed.

But members of Malmö's Jewish community say that anti-Semitism is not just the preserve of immigrants. In an incident in 2010, local youths in Vellinge, a middle-class town with few immigrants on the outskirts of Malmö, shouted Nazi slogans at people attending a weekend event for children at a Jewish recreation centre and threw eggs at the building.

"But in Malmö it's the young Muslim guys that are the problem, that has to be said. They come from countries where there are racist, anti-Semitic TV programmes," said Barbro Posner, a member of the Jewish community.

The authorities now appear to be addressing the problem. Ilmar Reepalu's successor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, who assumed the mayorship this month, told AFP the city's schools were trying to combat racism by providing special training for teachers. The city has also invited community leaders to a "dialogue forum" tasked with "combatting religious and ethnic discrimination".

Ala-Eddin Al-Qut, head of the local chapter of Sweden's Islamic Association, said the group had been able to change people's attitudes after getting Muslim organisations to address anti-Semitism in their Friday sermons. The Malmö Palestine Network had also banned some signs and slogans from its anti-war demonstrations, he said.

"You have to distinguish between Jews and Israelis," Al-Qut said.

Sofia Nerbrand, co-founder of the kippah walks, said the rest of Sweden viewed Malmö as a litmus test for whether multiculturalism could work in the once homogenous country, especially in the wake of a series of gang-related shootings involving immigrants.

In late 2011 and early 2012, five people were shot dead in Malmö in less than six weeks. At least some of the killings appeared to be linked to organised crime, prompting Reepalu to call for stricter gun laws.

"If we fail here, people will say: 'Look what happens when you bring in too many Muslims'," said Nerbrand.

Jehoshua Kaufman said the racism he and other Jews had encountered was not limited to just Malmö but simply more visible there than in places like Stockholm due to the city's compact and less segregated centre.

Sören Billing/AFP

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag visits a school in Tensta, one of the neighbourhoods mentioned when he and his colleagues first floated the new start zone proposal. File: TT

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input

Sweden has abandoned a plan to ease taxes for small companies in blighted areas after the European Commission challenged its legality. READ () »

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'
A typical Swedish Easter egg. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'

A Swedish microbiologist has warned that traditional Swedish Easter eggs laden with candy are an open invitation to the spread of bacteria and viruses. "Is this really a good idea?" he asked. READ () »

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour

PICTURES: A truck got wedged inside a tunnel in central Stockholm on Thursday, with authorities concerned the accident may have damaged cables in the tunnel's ceiling. READ () »

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
A Swedish Easter witch holding daffodils. File photo: TT

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter

In India, I'd notice Easter only from the traffic jam outside the churches, but here witches, egg hunts, and feathers mark the Christian holiday. The Local's Deepti Vashisht brings you the various shades of Swedish Easter. READ () »

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Chemtrails?: Shutterstock.

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe

A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. READ () »

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid
Fredrik Reinfeldt answers the constitutional affairs committee's questions. Photo: TT

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid

Sweden's prime minister on Thursday said Vattenfall itself, not its owners the Swedish state, had responsibility for the loss-making Nuon deal. READ () »

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer
Photo: TT

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer

A Swedish lawyer says the Swedish military may have broken the law when it raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp. READ () »

Good weather could blight Easter traffic
Easter traffic two years ago on the E4 motorway. File: Jessica Gow/TT

Good weather could blight Easter traffic

Traffic experts have cautioned Swedes heading to the countryside for what should be a sunny Easter, warning that the most serious accidents often take place when the weather is clement. READ () »

Saab offers Gripen lease to Malaysia
Jas Gripen jets in flight. File photo: TT

Saab offers Gripen lease to Malaysia

Swedish defence giant Saab has offered to rent out fighter jets to Malaysia. READ () »

What's On in Sweden

What's On in Sweden

Check out what's happening with The Local's guide to the main attractions and events in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö - in association with DoToday. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Advertisement:
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

748
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com