With kind collaboration from a reader with contacts in Sweden. Lets just hope this scenario does not pan out in Norway…
Jews are leaving Malmö in Sweden and the community Rabbi fears the hatred he meets in the city.
In a unique interview in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter the Rabbi of Malmö blames the political leaders for the hatred growing with young muslims. In peaceful Sweden Jews are not safe and can not walk the streets without fear. It is almost unreal that this is Sweden in 2011, not 1941.
“I wasn’t prepared for the hatred I was to face”
In recent years the hatred of Jews has increased in Malmö. many translocate from there. Rabbi Shneur Kesselman has chosen to stay. But when he came to Malmö seven years ago, he was not prepared for the hatred he would face.
Seven years ago the Jewish Rabbi Shneur Kesselman and his wife moved to Malmö. He grew up in the car city of Detroit in the northern United States.
– We had many Muslims neighbors and never experienced unpleasantness. But in Malmö … when the young guys shout “support Hitler” after me it has gone very far. I wasn’t prepared for the hatred I would meet here as a Jew.
The Jewish community in Malmö today has about 650 members, the number has steadily decreased in recent years. Young people choose to study in other locations, retirees follow their children. Anti-Semitism also make members leave the city. The Kesselman couple have no plans to leave the city.
– It would be giving in to those who hate, to those forces. No, my wife and I want to stay here. We see it as our task to strengthen Jewish identity among Jewish residents of the city.
People have spat at him, threw empty soda cans at him and called him a “Bloody Jew”. Shneur Kesselman, many times in recent years realized what hatred can drive people to and how it feels to be hated.
The Malmö police have a binder with reports he filed. There are some eighty “incidents” recorded. Sometimes Shneur doesn’t have the energy to report the harassment he was subjected to because he is Jewish.
– The words and the people spitting at me is unpleasant. But what scares most is the hatred that I see in the eyes of men, in the eyes of those who want to hurt. I have no idea where their limit is, how far they can go.
He points out that the hatred is not directed against what he has done or not done, what he said or not , what he believes or disbelieves. The hatred is because he is Jewish and he sees it as an attack on his very essence, his basis as a person.
Both Shneur and his wife, born in France, grew up in the Orthodox Chabad movement. Its purpose is to strengthen Jewish identity around the world. Shneur tells that fear is there even when he has not been exposed to it for a while, when nothing has happened for weeks. He feels that he can not walk the streets of Malmö in peace.
In his black coat, his characteristic black beard and with a kippa on his head Shneur is noticed when he moves around town. Recently, two young up came up to him and whispered, “jew” to him when he was in a mall with his children. Then the young medn walked away laughing.
– The children are becoming so big that they wonder how other adults can say such things to me.
Why is there such hatred towards you and the Jews in Malmo?
– This is pure anti-Semitism, a pure hatred of Jews. In a discussion I can accept criticism of such policies that the state of Israel stands for, although I would disagree with the critics. But this is about people who are not drawing a line between politics and religion.
Who express this hatred?
– For the most part it is young Muslims and this should not be ignored. It is tragic that it should be so, that hatred is rampant in religious circles.
Around the country Muslims testify to that they are exposed to hate and threats. Islamophobia seems prevalent in many places and in many circles. Shneur Kesselman doesn’t want to comment on whether there is a difference between hatred of Jews and hatred of Muslims.
– I can only say that we Jews do not hate Muslims, and would not ever get the idea to harass or threaten people who have a different faith.
In recent years the hatred of Jews has become an unwanted part of the image of Malmo. Two years ago, Israeli made bomb raids against targets in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. During a support manifestation for Israel participants with Swedish and Israeli flags in their hands were attacked with eggs, bottles and flares. Then many of them were chased away by counter-demonstrators who shouted “Bloody Jews”.
What blame has Israeli policy towards Palestinians for hatred of Jews?
– I don’t want to comment political issues and about what is happening in Israel. But why should I be threatened and harassed for what is happening in the Middle East?
From where do you think the hatred is coming?
– From above, from the leaders, but also from within. I believe that all people have a good and an evil side. And therefore, it is about taking control of this dark and evil side of us. Hatred can develop by people who want to feed it, but from the beginning, it is there within each one of us.
– For me it’s always about controlling my emotions and my brain. I think that is one way to avoid being hateful.
Do you never hate ?
– Usually I do not. Days when I feel tired, it may be easier to get irritated, but it’s a long way to hate.
– If I lose myself in the moment and start to get angry at someone or something, like those who jeer at me, I try to consciously steer away those feelings. It usually works. One could say that one needs a stop signal in the head.
How can hatred in Malmö stopped?
– That is a difficult question. Parents have the primary responsibility for the values with which they raise their children, then I think that our politicians and schools also have a very important role in this. But unfortunately, the hate seems to be broadly rooted here in Malmö that it will not be easy to stop it.
Is the solution more knowledge?
– Knowledge is certainly an important factor. But we must not forget that many people who hate also are knowledgeable. Those who led the extermination of millions of Jews in Germany and other countries during World War II were often well educated. Doctors, priests, philosophers … many with much knowledge participated and supported this policy. Knowledge is no vaccine against hate, it can actually lead to increased hatred.
– Hatred is here to stay because it’s part of human nature. But everyone has a great responsibility to not allow the evil within to find expression, and to counter the thoughts and feelings that are linked to hate. It can be a part of the solution to reduce hatred in the world.