Mosaic Magazine

Response to: "You Only Live Twice"August 2013

How to Survive as a Jew in Sweden

Shut up and fade into the woodwork.

  

The following, written as a private letter to Michel Gurfinkiel, appears here by permission of the author.

Dear Mr. Gurfinkiel,

On April 26 of this year, I was on a train with my five-year-old son Charlie. We were on our way to spend shabbat with friends in the city. You see, our town, significant in the history of Swedish Jewry, shut its synagogue in the late 90s. All that remains now is a plaque stating that there was once Jewish life here, while we are left with an hour-long train ride every weekend to attend services.

 My son was wearing his kippah as we got on the train. He loves his kippah. He is not yet old enough to know the dangers entailed in wearing it, for this is a fact from which I have tried to protect him. But April 26 would change all that.

There was a gentleman sitting in our reserved seat. An Arab, maybe fifty years old, listening to music. Apologizing for the inconvenience, I asked him politely for our seat. He got up, inspected my son, and then leaned over me, saying: You people always take what you want. You need to learn.

He then walked straight into my son, causing him to fall over, and took the seat behind us.

We sat. Hiding my trembling hands from my son’s sight, I picked up Shabbes for Kids and started to review the week’s Torah portion with him. We hadn’t progressed as far as a page before the man stood up and screamed:  Quiet! I don’t want to hear that! You take what you want and never think of others! Shut up!

He stamped his feet, grunting and glaring at my son. Fighting tears of rage, I assured Charlie that the man was just grumpy and tried to turned the episode into a game, one that required us to remain super quiet for as long as possible. I even managed to coax a conspiratorial smile out of him.

But even this failed to appease our tormentor, who spent the rest of the trip repeatedly kicking the back of my son’s seat. At one point I glanced around our compartment: there were four other people there, four adults witnessing a single mother and her five-year-old child being attacked by a grown man. They did nothing. I tried forcing them to meet my gaze; but they just turned away, put on their headphones, stared at their screens, ignored what was happening in front of them.

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.

In your fascinating and informative article you mention that ritual slaughter, kosher as well as hallal, is under threat in Europe. Well, 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.

In your essay you mention that Jewish religious and cultural activities in Western Europe are everywhere on the rise. This, too, is not my reality. 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.

There are 20,000 Jews in Sweden, a country of close to nine million. As for Muslim immigrants and their children, they, as you point out in your article, amount to 10 percent or more of the population: perhaps as many as a million people, fifty times the number of Jews. Still, I would not say that demography is the only threat to Jewish life in Western Europe, and maybe not even the biggest one. 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.

In the “Comments” section following your essay, I noticed a debate among readers over the perceived harshness of your article. I am writing to you because I do not believe it was harsh enough. I value Jewish thought, but I crave Jewish action. More than I need eloquent eulogies, I need people—the same people who so passionately debate our future in Mosaic and elsewhere—to help me fight.

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 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.

With kind regards,

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein

____________________________ 

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a Swedish writer and political commentator and an activist in support of Israel. In September 2012 she organized the first public pro-Israel demonstration in Sweden in seven years.

Comments

  • Françoise Michaelis

    The best thing to do is to prepare your son’s future and to leave the country.

  • Popidoarizeli

    With the possible exception of London, the rest of Europe is experiencing the same. What does the writing on the wall say? Jews out! Fine—come to Israel where life can be more difficult but it is real.

    • Luisa

      I am currently studying in London and I can tell you it really depends on where you live. My school is in East London, the med school in Whitechapel with the majority of the population being Bangladeshi. Not easy being there for sure and it’s in zone 2, so still central.

    • Doro

      My good friend, it seems like you have not been in London recently. Like the rest of Europe, it has given in to the Muslim and leftist anti-Semitic, anti-Israel hatefest. Sadly, even London has been lost. Jews must either stand up for themselves or move on to greener pastures to avoid living as scared victims.

  • David Polovin

    Keeping shtum in the face of anti-Semitism and persecution is a survival mechanism for Jews that “worked” for a long time until it didn’t. I know its easy for a Jew like me living in South Africa where religious tolerance is the norm, to recommend that you resist the abuse that you experienced and that keeping quiet about only encourages more of the same. I am confident that the Jewish community in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe can unite into a force to combat anti-Semitism by using the courts and other institutions that these so-called liberal democracies proclaim. The more you resist the more effective you will become. The reverse is also true. The secret is to unite and organize. Meek and submissive behavior is not the answer.

  • Noomi Stahl

    Sad and accurate in equal measure.

  • Mack Hall

    Well and bravely written.

    God have mercy on us for letting this happen all over again. Maybe Woody Allen, too, will have the courage to speak up for faith and culture. Maybe the rest of us will too.

    • rashelika

      Mack, please do not take Woody Allen to be representative of us all. I am not religious, by any means, but I try to stand up and speak back when people are anti-Jewish. He would never have the courage to speak up for our faith and our customs. He presents Jews to the rest of the world to all be money obsessed/sexually repressed and culturally backwards. Do you think that he even speaks a second language? Or goes even once a year on Yom Kippur to temple? Or even cares? And all this from an old crotchety man who marries his (step)daughter? I am an American and it makes my blood boil when foreign Jews think I must be like him.

  • David

    Annika’s experience on the train with her son was a very disturbing incident. The question to my mind is whether it is representative of an everyday situation. It would be wrong to condemn a whole country, or people because of what happened to her, terrifying as it was. I had a different recent experience of being in Sweden, admittedly as a tourist, not a resident. I went with a small group of friends, I wore my kippah, rode on trains, buses, and taxis, went to synagogue and the Jewish museums in Stockholm and Gotenburg, and spoke Hebrew, without experiencing any difficulty, or racism. My experience is no proof that there is no anti-Semitism in Sweden, but when talking to members of the Jewish community I did not have the sense that they were so threatened that they wanted to leave the country. On the contrary they seemed very defiant and wanted to stay. I was told that even in Malmo things have calmed down.

    • Natalie

      I can tell you that what happened to her on the train is common. I wear a Star of David almost every day, and you wouldn’t believe how often Arabs (or other Muslims) who notice it will whisper “Yehud” behind my back, push me, or call me disgusting. Once a friend of mine called me in a panic from the back of a city bus, saying that I shouldn’t go home since the Somalis at my school were sitting on the bus planning my murder. But you’re right on one thing; that we are defiant. My mother begs me not to wear my Star of David, but I do anyway. I won’t bend to their threats.

    • Brianna

      “I did not have the sense that they were so threatened…. On the contrary they seemed very defiant”

      If they weren’t being threatened, then what were they being defiant of?

  • A. Stanton, Dallas, TX

    One fine morning in the not too distant future, Europe will wake up and find that all of its remaining Jews have departed for Israel and the U.S. Europe will look around and discover it is alone. The people will visit their Holocaust museums and memorials and say, “What have the Jews done to us?”.

  • ScottB

    Yasher Koach for your brave letter. Jews in the United States organized themselves for Soviet Jewry, watched in admiration as Jews were rescued from Islamic countries–Yemen, Ethiopia, have been steadfast in supporting Israel, yet fail to lift their voices to support co-religionists in Europe. How many dead Jewish children in France will it take; how many stories of outrageous degradation and anti-Semitism will it take; before the rank and file of America’s Jewish community says, “Enough” and does something about it?

  • BernardZ

    Norway is even worse.

    Leave.

  • amy caplan

    How about boycotting Swedish products? No IKEA and no Volvo. I had no idea that ritual slaughter had been banned in Sweden for so long. I wonder why exponents of boycott and divestment don’t seem to be bothered by gender apartheid in the Muslim world – how about boycotting oil from countries who practice it? That would make a statement.

  • gabriel m gurman

    I do not understand what are you doing in Sweden?!!
    When I was a kid, I got almost the same treatment in Romania, but at that time Israel did not exist.
    So, leave the Swedish and join us in the land of Jews.
    I did it 42 years ago and I think it the was the best decision I have taken since I was 13.

  • Ben Tzur

    A crucial comment in the above article by Annika Hernroth-Rothstein relates to those other people in the train carriage that refused to look at her and countenanced the abusive racist behavior of her Muslim persecutor. They were not Muslims, I presume, but “ordinary Swedes.” But anti-Semitism has a long history in Sweden, going back to its Lutheran roots and reflecting Luther’s own anti-Semitic views of Jews. This was boosted by the Nazi influence during the war years, and the effects still linger. In 1990 I was guest lecturing in a number of Swedish universities, and, despite my invitation, the anti-Semitic environment I encountered there was the most extreme I have ever experienced. This was at a time when a leading member of the Faculty of Theology at Uppsala University, a professor of the history of religions, who gave courses on Judaism to ministerial students, testified at the trial of the rabid anti-Semite Ahmed Rami as an “expert witness” on Judaism’s teachings. Rami, who ran a Stockholm radio station called Radio Islam, had often broadcast extremist anti-Semitic claims, even claiming that the Talmudic rabbis taught that all gentiles without exception should be killed, starting with their children, and that to this day this is the “secret teaching” of rabbis to fellow Jews which “explains” Israeli behavior to Palestinians. The Uppsala University professor testified on behalf of Rami that it is indeed one of the formal 613 commandments of Judaism to murder non-Jews, including, he believed, their children. He said that this teaching definitely continues today, and for example is taught by Rabbinic authorities to all Israeli soldiers as a religious obligation explicitly including non-Jewish civilians. He was sharply challenged on that by Jews, including two Swedish rabbis, who, together with a non-Swedish academic in the field of Jewish Studies, petitioned the University of Uppsala to remove him from teaching courses on Judaism. The University solicited advice from the Theology Faculty, which completely exonerated and endorsed the claims of their own professor. The University dropped their investigation at that point. But the Chairman of the Theology Faculty then went on the attack, circulating an internal memo to the University Faculty accusing the critics of being part of an international Zionist conspiracy to fight the University, the Church, and Social Democracy itself, and to subvert the Western judicial system as such. After many months of further intense debate involving even submissions from scholars of Hebrew University, the University of Uppsala reversed its previous stand and accepted the criticisms of Jewish scholars and rabbis, banning the anti-Semitic professor from teaching Judaism as requested. But the entire Faculty of Theology fought this vigorously, and it remained a cause célèbre with frequent student protest rallies on behalf of the Faculty until in May-June 1994 the University Board put its foot down and forced the Faculty of Theology to submit.

    During this period, ordinary Jews in Sweden reported frequent unpleasant conversations at work and in the streets. I myself was astonished by a particularly heated, lengthy, and gratuitous attack on me as a Jew during a train trip, during my brief visit to Sweden in 1990, the only such (verbal) attack on a train trip I have ever experienced, though I have traveled the world.

    This sad tale illustrates both the presence of extremist anti-Semitism among Muslim militants in Sweden and also among significant numbers of other Swedes, even at the highest levels of Swedish society, so that the two groups can make common cause. The result can be silent acquiescence by “ordinary Swedes” as bystanders in Jewish persecution. But this account also shows that there are also sufficient numbers of decent Swedes, who, when protest is persistent, and the truth is sufficiently clarified, can fight and counter this anti-Semitism. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is to be congratulated for her courage and steadfastness in her attempts to organize such public demonstrations of support. This is clearly a necessary response to the situation she and other Swedish Jews face on a daily basis.

    • RoxanneRoxanadana

      Your story demonstrates the Uppsala professor was as dishonest as many “expert witnesses” in so many countries. Sweden demonstrated intolerance for such dishonesty, something all of us could learn from. It takes a lot of chutzpah to go after these fiends, especially when they have student support, but it can be done, given sufficient effot & time.

      We had a case of gross academic dishonesty with respect to a “Professor” named Ward Churchill, an “expert” on Native America who claimed he was an American Indian even though there is no evidence a drop of Native American blood flows through his veins. After he made all sorts of anti-Jewish claims, people looked into his writing & found it was crudely dishonest. It took years to get him off the faculty, but it occurred. So what happened? The guy fought things in the court room & lost. He then attempted to take matters to the Federal courts, where he lost again. At least in Sweden, no court took up this man’s cause.

  • Ann

    I recently visited Malmo, to meet a distant cousin and some friends–all Jewish, all born in Poland, who had emigrated to Sweden when they were thrown out of Poland in the late 1960s. None of them is observant, but they are very strongly identified as Jews. And they all send their children to Israel–for at least a year. They are all worried about the Arab influx into Southern Sweden, but committed to staying. I hope their children will leave. It would serve Europe right to be finally Judenfrei, by the Jews’ choice.

  • IDoBeWhatIBe

    Europe is toxic for Jews, plain and simple. The only countries in Europe that might be tolerable are Holland, the UK, Italy, Portugal, and Bulgaria. I feel that the Jews need to leave and go to better places. You may find the Far East and sub-Saharan Africa remarkably hospitable.

  • Joseph Rapaport

    Sobering and sad! Yet, I do not hear J-Street, Peter Beinart and their ilk calling for the boycott of and divestment from Swedish and European products. As with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity, “I know it when I see it”, I recognize the anti-Israel vitriol for what it is, namely anti-Semitism. I know it when I see it whether the source is a Swedish Arab train rider, a European diplomat, a United Nations spokesman, or tragically, members and leaders of Jewish organizations.
    And to my Ultra-Orthodox brethren, where do you expect these future survivors of Europe to flee to? Boro Park, Lakewood, and Monsey? Don’t you think it is appropriate to recognize the State of Israel if for no other reason than to fulfil the duty of Pikuach Nefesh, saving an endangered life, which suspends the operation of all the Torah’s commandments?

    • Gil Kulick

      Mr. Rapaport, why the utterly gratuitous and extraneous swipe at J Street? J Street’s mission is to support U.S. efforts to bring about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to broaden the discussion concerning Israel in the American Jewish community. It does not concern itself with issues of anti-Semitism in Europe or anywhere else and does not advocate boycotts of anyone.

      • Gwen Sunderland

        Because, Mr. Kulick, J Street is gratuitously anti-Semitic. Or is that not sufficiently nuanced for you? Maybe I can “broaden the discussion” for you: Sweden has a two-state solution (one set of rules for Jews and one for Everyone Else) and the author of this article and her son got firsthand experience of it. But J Street (your words) “does not concern itself with issues of anti-Semitism in Europe or anywhere else.” What a noble stance!

      • Gary Rosen

        “J Street … does not concern itself with issues of anti-Semitism in Europe or anywhere else”

        Because of course it’s impossible for anyone to oppose Israel and be anti-Semitic.

  • ks

    I’ve seen and experienced equal and worse public anti-Semitism in Louisiana and other parts of the US South. And much of what you describe as proscribing Jewish life is simply the operation of a society with a strong secular ethic.

    Its worth pointing out that Sweden took in the entire Danish Jewish population when they were smuggled out in a single night in WWII—in an era when the US turned away boats of Jewish refugees, with lethal results.

  • IDoBeWhatIBe

    It’s true that Sweden took in the Jewish refugees from Denmark, but that was then. I don’t believe that today’s generation of Swedes would do it. Sweden and Norway have become nations of craven leftist cowards and they’re going to get what’s coming to them, as the Muslim population flexes its muscle.

    The Jews of Sweden and Norway need to leave there before it all goes belly up, and check out certain sub-Saharan African countries that are hospitable to newcomers, Jews included, and are looking for investments.

    • RoxanneRoxanadana

      They may have taken in the refugees from Denmark, but that was in October 1943, after Stalingrad, after it became quite obvious Nazi Germany was kaput. Sweden kept neutral, for reasons that are still unclear. Moreover, the role of Sweden as respects Nazi gold is quite suspect. A very disturbing book about the country has recently been published, The Blood Track, by Mr. Eidum, which proves Sweden helped Nazi Germany conquer Norway. Queen Silvia’s father, Walther Sommerlath, was certainly a Nazi fan. Count Folke Bernadotte arranged in 1945 with Heinrich Himmler to acquire as many Aryan persons in concentration camps as possible. Alack & alas, the mission was not completely pure because about 1,600 of the some 21,000 were Jews! The buses moved 10,000 more after the war. For this feat of courage, he was given all manner of Huzzahs.

      Now no Swede born after, say, 1934 can possibly be blamed for any of this. No one is guilty of their parents’ sins, but to pretend Sweden was a great country during that conflict is flawed.

  • Julie

    It is Swedish culture to mind one’s own business. It has been this way for centuries. Please do not mischaracterize societal norms as anti-Semitism. Almost every Swede I know is furious with the amount of Arabs coming into the country and the unwillingness of illegal immigrants to learn the language and conform. It is such an issue that SD Social Democrats are asking for a stop to immigration from the Middle East and Africa and deportation regardless of residential status.

    • Charles

      Julie, you say “Please do not mischaracterize societal norms as anti-Semitism. Almost every Swede I know is furious with the amount of Arabs coming into the country and the unwillingness of illegal immigrants to learn the language and conform.”

      Societal norms can be modified if lives are at stake. Political correctness is what triggers European and American fears. Both cultures have histories of racism, and for decades have been trying to show how inclusive they are, even at the cost of promoting their demise.

      You as Swedes have to raise your voices and make demands. You cannot keep your culture and remain silent when “Asians” are attacking Swedish citizens because of their religion.

      Unless you find the moral courage to fight, you are doomed as a nation, as a culture, and as an important part of Western civilization.

    • David Crompton

      What a nasty culture that looks the other way when a woman and child are being harried like this. I would be ashamed to be Swedish.

  • Paul Marks

    I see – so kosher killing of animals is “barbaric”, but Islamic killing of animals (which is also about getting rid of blood) is not.

    No doubt Jewish circumcision is “barbaric”, but Islamic circumcision is “beautiful”.

    The hypocrisy is endless – staying in Sweden is not wise.

  • Christopher Davies

    The Swedes are not so much anti-Semites as complete cowards. They fear the Muslims and being seen to defy them. They prefer to overlook or excuse Muslim anti-Semitism rather than confront it. If a Christian Swede had intervened on your behalf and been as rude to the Muslim as he was to the Jews, he would have been charged with racism.
    If the Swedes ban kosher slaughter, why don’t people demand that the ban be equally applied to halal, since the supposed objection applies equally? Why are the Muslims not upset about a ban on circumcision?

    • lisa

      The excuse is that halal slaughter allows for anesthetizing the animal before draining it of blood, while kosher slaughter does not.

      Regardless, the entire debate is skewed and unintelligent. With their rhetoric and arguments, they should be condemning all animal slaughter in general, including the western “humane” way (if “humane” is even an epithet that can be attributed to the act of placing animals on a conveyor belt, shocking them in the head with a stun gun, and passing them through a machine). In order to truly live up to their own standards and “values,” and truly protect animals, they should be encouraging everyone to become vegetarian. But they don’t.’

      For a true believer in animal’s rights, one slaughtering method should not be seen as “better” than another. Especially when the one being vilified is truly the most natural method. The entire argument is frustratingly at such a low intellectual level.

  • Eric Zamir-Zimmerman

    Why don’t you do what most intelligent Jews have been doing? Leave! Sweden is not your country, neither is any other country, no matter how friendly or tolerant, except for Israel, with all its ups and downs.
    I have US and EU citizenship, and was raised in the US and Europe, but have cast my lot with Israel. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I love the European lifestyle. Yes, I’m sure I’d be “fine” in Northern Italy, or Australia or Canada, and most of the US. But for how long? Under what conditions? Is money everything?
    We have enemies here too, but we also have each other—over 6 million and counting. Your son, and you, need to be here.

  • David

    As an Israeli living in Australia for many years, there are only twp places in the world where you will be safe from persecution, treated with dignity, have a good life and be permitted to live as you wish: Israel and Australia. Do it now.

    • Richard Lafontaine

      I would hope Canada would also be a safe haven, with many, many vibrant Jewish communities. And I’d think most of us are proud of Prime Minister Harper’s staunch support of a strong and secure Israel. As a Catholic Christian, I would welcome Jews from Europe or anywhere else. People of faith, personal conviction and compassion make excellent citizens when they are provided the opportunity to thrive.

  • Garek

    As a Muslim, I am disheartened by this Muslim man and his hateful and blind actions for you. I agree with one of the commenters above, that fear is part of the Swedes’ silence. May G-d be with you.

  • Tom

    It’s quite obvious that countries that ban Kosher slaughter are anti-Jewish; they don’t ban hunting . As for circumcision I haven’t heard complaints about the Moslem circumcision of females in the U.S.
    Even most Christians are circumcized.

  • Jonathan

    What do you mean, Eric Zamir-Zimmerman, that you have EU citizenship? There’s no such thing, only citizenship of the indiviudal countries that make up the EU (British, French, Austrian citizenship etc).

  • Mofink

    I’ve thought a lot after reading this article. Was it really anti-Semitism, or was the guy disturbed, compounded by people being too afraid to get involved? There was an incident on my bus (in Bristol, UK) a few months ago. A young Asian man got on. He was wearing sunglasses and a hoodie. He went straight to the back of the bus and started blasting his laptop, which was broadcasting a speech of a Muslim fundamentalist, roaring about fighting the Israel/Zionist conspiracy, and you could hear (in the broadcast) people cheering. I look around and everyone was very uncomfortable and trying to ignore him. It was very, very disturbing. I told the bus driver, who thanked me for alerting him to it. Didn’t immediately do anything. I kept making eye contact with another man on the bus, who got up, walked over to the hooded figure, and said, “Hey, mate. Why are you playing that so loud? Why are you wearing a hoodie? You’re freaking everyone out.” I was scared for him and scared for us. I went up to the driver and asked to be let off. He said ” is he still doing that”. (yes). At the next stop, the driver walked up to the young man and told him to either turn off the broadcast or get off the bus. The young man was angry and said “it was a free country” “I can play what I want”. The bus driver said “No you can’t. Turn it off or leave. All the while, I did worry for the bus driver and for us that the guy would pull out a weapon. it was really tense. The guy got off a few stops later. When the other man got off, I thanked him. People can become paralysed with fear. What would I have done on that train in Sweden? That man sounded very scary and very disturbed. He could have turned on anyone. It doesn’t let people off the hook for taking some sort of action, but it does explain why some respond with no response. And I don’t think is just a Swedish response.

  • ED

    I have several Swedish friends in the US(Cal)and I have heard them make offhand anti-Semitic comments at times. At the same time,they have Jewish friends and work with Jews. The comments are usually generalized and employ the usual canards. Even though they have lived in the US for over 20 years, I think their mindset is a result of having grown up and been schooled in Sweden.

  • Yochan

    I live in Venezuela; we cannot wear a kippah in the streets. Many of us have departed to the US and Israel. The latter is the best place to live as Jews.

  • Agneta Rosén

    To Julie’s point, it’s true that it is Swedish culture to mind one’s own business, and I have experienced similar train rides with my daughter despite neither of us wearing kippot.

    Christopher Davies has it right, I would not have been able to intervene in your case either because I am blond. As for the slaughter, I’ve always said that if we allow halal we have to allow sami and Jewish traditional slaughter as well.

    I’m sorry, I am leaving Sweden. I wish it hadn’t come to that, but I don’t see it changing for the better any time soon.

    • Brianna

      If it’s Sweden’s culture to ignore Jews being harassed, no reason it won’t be Sweden’s culture 20 years from now to ignore Jews being killed. God knows it’s happened before. I think you are wise to leave now.

      • A A

        “If it’s Sweden’s culture to ignore Jews being harassed.”
        No it is not. Unfortunately, anyone being harassed on the train is very unlikely to get any help from passers-by. Unless things get really serious (violence). This is just Swedish culture of minding your own business and most people don’t feel comfortable at all intervening or even talking to strangers. I know this is a pretty bad side of Scandinavian culture but it is not because the victims were Jewish. However the police, security guards and train conductors would certainly help if the situation required it.

  • George Gilder

    These Swedes are simply afraid to offend an obviously angry and irrational Arab man in a train. In similar situations I have intervened. It didn’t work.

    It is understandable, though not brave, to try to avoid or confine what would likely become an ugly confrontation with a possibly armed man. One of the great illusions of liberalism is that reason can prevail in such situations.

    The Islamist believes he is righteous and is ready to fight. He is maniacal and delusionary and relishes violence. The train riders merely want to reach their destinations as the letter writer did.

  • Raymond Volshenk

    I am truly hurt on the lady and her son’s behalf. My opinion, for what it is worth, is if you believe that activism, or any other form of resistance will change things, then you are deluding yourself. It will, not may, get worse, and increasingly universal. Israel is truly your home, but one has to wonder when there will be peace for Israel and Jerusalem.

  • Zev Klein

    It is most saddening and distressing to read an article like this. All the more so, in the 21st century.
    History, unfortunately, has a way of repeating itself — for those who didn’t learn the first time.
    Had the Jews of 1930-40s Europe moved somewhere else, many of them would have escaped the Holocaust. But they didn’t, because Israel had not yet been established, and there were few sympathetic safe havens to run to.
    2013 is completely different. Israel is welcoming and waiting for Jewish people to move there.
    As a Canadian, I currently feel safe in Canada, and don’t realistically think of moving to Israel. But I think I would move there very quickly were things here to become like they are in Sweden.
    The real problem is the acquiescence of the general population. What they probably don’t realize is that Jews are like the canary in the mine. What evil-doers want to do to the Jews, they will eventually end up doing to others that they perceive as unworthy.
    Christianity doesn’t have a clean record in this regard either. But for Jewish people the handwriting on the wall seems, once again, very ominous, very frightening, and should best be taken at face value, and responded to with forward-thinking reality, rather than palliative nostalgia.

    • RoxanneRoxanadana

      The countries that would actually ban religious circumcision, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, maybe Belgium, are tiny in general, with microscopic Jewish populations. Thus, anything done can be readily accommodated by the rest of us. What will be fun to watch is after all of us leave there and they really try to impose this on Muslims (if they actually ever try to do so).

      A vital point. German Jews did emigrate; the mere 600,000 remaining before the war would have found sanctuary elsewhere as had been true for about 2,000 years. The real issue related to Jews in countries not yet acquired by Germany. Suggesting emigration because of dangers fellow citizens pose is reasonable; suggesting emigration due to anti-Jewish activities of persons beyond your country’s borders is bizarre.

      Nuremberg deemed the crime against the peace the Supreme Crime. Stupid is taking that out of context and applying it to truly small potatoes like the US bombing of Yugoslavia, the Turkish acquisition of North Cyprus, or the Isreali acquisition of the West Bank, even if you think any of those acts “illegal”. None of those were continental conquests.

  • carol johnson

    Perhaps she should have gotten her phone out and recorded his rudeness that continued for so long. And taken pictures of those who sat by and did nothing to defend a child. Are there no anti-bullying laws? What about hate-crime laws that protect folks from being selectively discriminated against? Muslims are always the first to voice complaints about how they are treated, which is usually minimally rude compared to the standards they hold for those who stand up to them. She could not have been arrested for fighting or causing a scene, but she would have documentation for complaints as soon as she got off the train. Can’t argue with the logic either pro or con for staying or leaving. Both are reasonable positions.

  • Sad

    Very sad to read this. But I fear that it would be the same in Germany.

    Germans would welcome you, and would embrace the Jewish religion. But due to the our Turkish/Arab immigrants, I would not easily be able to recommend to you a life in Germany any more.
    I would not agree too much with the Statement on Northern Italy either: mass immigration from Northern Africa through Sicily is also bearing its fruits there.

  • Marcus

    You will be hated because they do not want to hear the truth…but the end is near and those who follow other gods will know that the Jew worships the true God.

  • Eric R.

    The sad fact is that Europe is too far gone for Jews to be of help. If Jews elsewhere speak up, Europeans will point to it as a Jewish conspiracy, and redouble their hate. If you keep quiet, they will be emboldened and redouble their hate.

    Europeans are fanatical, irrational, and insatiable when it comes to hating Jews. Nothing—and I mean nothing—not sex, not soccer, not money, not socialism—matters to them more than Jew hatred, and they will pursue it even if it harms them. Yes, hating Jews matters more to Europeans than their own lives.

    You must leave and leave the Europeans to their fate. While you are in Israel (or the USA), Europe will collapse into poverty and a continent-wide war between European natives and Muslim immigrants—who have nothing in common but their hatred of Jews. But without Jews there, they will turn on each other, and kill each other by the millions.

    And they will deserve all the misery they inflict on one another.

    • aall55

      You said it the best . The silver lining is that the Jews will have to go home , Israel will have its people back.

  • Brianna

    I’d recommend you come to America (always happy to get more Jews), but our immigration laws are such a mess that coming here might take forever. But you do have to leave; I don’t think Europe has even 10 years left before it becomes completely unlivable for Jews. Go to Israel now, and go to America from there if you decide you don’t like it. But for your own sake and your son’s, get out of Europe.

  • Olga

    What are you still doing in Sweden?

  • Robert J. Augenlicht

    I lived in Norway for a few years and although I was not very religious at that time, your story is not in the slightest bit surprising. Jews living in those countries face discrimination from all sides: a right wing that hates foreigners, a left wing that hides its traditional anti-Jewish populism behind anti-Israel sentiments and a Muslim population that hates Jews without bothering to dress it up in any sort of ideological garb. Unfortunately, that covers just about everyone there.

    The trends in Western Europe against kosher meat and circumcision represent the newest front in their assault on Jewish people. As it is politically unacceptable (thank G-d) to advocate destroying Jews because they are “subhumans,” the new approach is to limit our “aggressive” and “barbaric” practices. In short, Amalek will now present himself as a champion of human and animal rights to destroy our culture.

    I visited Stockholm earlier this year and went to Chabad to buy kosher meat for shabbos. This was my first experience at a maximum-security Chabad house and it made me want to cry to know that all of you have to live this way. What sickens me the most is how much Norwegians and Swedes like to imagine that they are champions of human rights and progressive values. The fact that none of them would do nothing to help you and your child shows exactly what sort of people they are. I have been asked by Scandinavians why there needs to be a state of Israel. What I cannot explain to them is that, aside from the religious imperative, they are exactly the reason we must have our own state.

    Barukh Hashem, your son should grow up to be a proud Jewish man and wear his kippa with pride. He will have to learn how to fight, verbally and, unfortunately, probably physically as well, but this has always been the lot of our people. Please teach him to never give in to bullies and thugs. Our history has taught us that these people can never be appeased or reasoned with, only confronted and destroyed. I wish you and your family well. I would love to know how Jews living in America and Israel can help our brothers and sisters in Western Europe.

  • Samir Halabi

    No one is denying that Sweden took in the Danish Jews fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II; but Sweden was also handling gold stolen from the Jews and supplying the Third Reich with steel for the Nazi war effort that was more than likely funded by stolen Jewish property. However all this happened over 70 years ago; today things are completely different in Sweden. You try and comment today about the 1,000,000 Jewish refugees who outnumbered the Arab refugees from the former British Mandate of Palestine by almost two to one and you will be stopped in your tracks by the so-called left-wing alliance of the Arab-world. Sweden is in total denial of any Jew-hating: attacks on the Jewish community, attacks on Jewish communal buildings, Jews being verbally abused, spat upon, and even young Jewish schoolchildren being harassed and attacked by so called Swedish-Muslims. Today Sweden is completely different from the country it was 50, 40 30, or even 20 years ago. I would only feel safe walking the streets of Malmo with my massive protector/bodyguard military-trained Canine, weighing around 82kg and standing to his shoulders (withers) at around 82cm.

  • Ray

    Is public display of the cross or the crucifixion still permitted?

  • lisa

    “The dead, suffering Jew is glorified; the healthy, active Jew is vilified.”

    This statement literally blew my mind. I never inspected the issue from that angle, and after reading that one sentence, it occurred to me that you are absolutely 100% right! I have been trying and trying to understand why… and the only reason I can see is the explanation offered by British author Howard Jacobson in response to Jew-Nazi comparisons, which he believes emanate from Europe’s unresolved guilt over the Holocaust.

    Quote: “If you can turn a Jew now into a Nazi, it’s a kind of retrospective blame of Jews. It’s almost as though you couldn’t be the victims of that thing then, because you are guilty of it now. It unwinds history. If it turned out that all along we were gonna be a bunch of murderous Nazis ourselves, if that doesn’t deny the Holocaust, it three-quarters forgives it.”

    The way I interpret the glorification you make reference to in your article is that these people feel guilty and they feel shame for what happened during WW2 and the Holocaust. Simultaneously, however, there is this retrospective blame of Jews, as described by Howard Jacobson, hence the vilification of the healthy, active Jew. It’s really a sickness. It’s a perverted fixation on Jews, and, by extension (since its inception) on Israel, stemming from unresolved – and contradictory – issues within the collective European population’s cultural heritage.

    I agree with you that it is sad, and as much as part of me agrees with you that actions should be taken to fight back against the attacks on Jews and (most frighteningly) the majority-population’s silence and unwillingness to help (as well as their continued efforts to cripple Jewish practices and traditions), the other part of me no longer sees the point in doing so.

    Jews that immigrated to Sweden post-WW2 have significantly contributed to Swedish society in many fields. Among others, let us remember the likes of Jerszy Einhorn, the Sarnecki family, and countless others who became significant in Swedish cultural life, and helped shape it. What did (and do) the children and grandchildren of these men and women receive in exchange for their families’ (and even their own, in present-day Sweden) contributions and advancements? Nothing. Instead, Jews are vilified and forced to hide and/or deny their Judaism, as you have poignantly described in this article, increasingly losing the rights to practice Jewish traditions/religious practices, as well as lacking public condemnation and adequate protection of violent verbal and/or physical attacks.

    Let the Jews return to Israel, and let the Europeans wallow in their ensuing misery, following the mass-emigration of intellectuals, academics, doctors, authors, journalists, etc, that I (and many others) envision. Jews finally have a refuge in this world, and there is no longer a need to stay in ungrateful, antisemitic societies, punishing those who contribute the most, as has been the norm for 3000 years in the Diaspora. Take your family and move to Israel. Help yourself, and help other Jews and Jew-friendly minority-groups with shared/similar exposure and vulnerability. Do not stay and make efforts to better a society that does not value you or your worth.

  • Marlene Newesri

    This letter, as well as some of the comments here, only serve to prove the double standards that are utilized by people. I have seen a photo of Ms. Rothstein in another paper as she appeared at a demonstration supporting Israel. So the question becomes, if Ms. Rothstein believes that Jews are not treated with equal rights in Sweden, and are treated so discriminatorily, then why on earth does she support Israel where the Jewish population has supreme rights over those who are not Jewish, especially those who are Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, and who are treated with different laws and policies, as well as have to face the everyday bigotry there, again based on the fact that they are not Jews. If we were to include the territories that Israel occupies, then you have an entire population of people who are oppressed and brutalized only because they are Palestinians regardless of whether they are Christians, Muslims, etc.

    If anyone here wishes to speak for the rights that one feels are unjustly denied them, then those people need to take a stand against all injustice, and not just as it concerns them. So, in essence, those who do support Israel actually are supporting whatever they are complaining about insofar as it concerns Sweden.

  • Mohsin

    It is sad when a person can not practice his or her religion it does not matter if you are a Jew, Muslim, Christian or any other religion.You should also be allowed to have kosher, halal or any other type of diet requirements. It is sad to see so much hate directed at different groups of people.

  • Wael Hesham Abdelgawad

    As an Arab Muslim, I am ashamed of the actions of the man who assaulted you and your son. There is no excuse. Even if he was a Palestinian refugee dispossessed of his home, even if he lost family members to the Israeli occupation, to terrorize an innocent woman and child on a train is despicable.

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