Norwegian Jews reluctant to be members of Jewish congregations

Lifted from Vårt Land

Jews do not dare join Jewish communities


The Jewish community in Norway has shrunk by nearly a fifth in ten years. Fear of making themselves visible as a Jew, is one of the reasons, the leader of the Jewish Congregation in Oslo, Ervin Kohn believes.

by: Geir Ole Bjartvik

Figures from Statistics Norway show that the number of members for the two Jewish congregations in Norway has decreased from 1,015 to 819 members over the past decade. This corresponds to a decrease of almost 20 percent.

According to Ervin Kohn, Chairman and Trustee of the Jewish community in Oslo, this decline  is due to a mix of different factors:

  • Some members have moved from Norway.
  • Some marry out of the congregations.
  • The Member Register has undergone a clean-up.
  • Members pass away.

– As we do not proselytize, we do not have this avenue for growth.

Fear visibility.

Kohn says that the fear of making themselves visible as Jews, keep some from joining. Others drop their membership because they think it’s too scary to be registered as a member of the Jewish minority.

– I just spoke with one person in Stavanger, who said that  the desire to keep a low profile was the main reason for not becoming a member, says Kohn.

He says the congregation in Oslo is now working to provide its members improved security. The congregation currently uses almost half of its membership revenues for security measures. Last week Kohn had a new meeting with the Ministry of Justice to seek support for this and to continue the electronic and physical security system to protect the Synagogue and the community center against intruders.

The Ministry has twice in recent years refused to provide finical support for improved security surveillance of the Synagogue in Oslo, but Kohn said the meeting with state secretary Terje Moland Pedersen last week gave new hope.

– Our concerns were understood, Kohn sums up.

New threat assessment.

Kohn believes that several new factors have entered the field since the previous refusal. Not least, this week’s threat assessment by the Police Security Service (PST) that said that Norwegian Islamists represent more of a threat than before (do click this link to see how Islamists who were given the permission to demonstrate in front of the Storting against the war in Afghanistan, as a token of gratitude threatened our constitutional and political leadership!).

Kohn also refers to the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Through it,  Norway has committed itself to protect persons who may be subjected to discrimination, hostility or violence as a result of – among other things – religious identity.

– I think it sometimes is forgotten that Norwegian Jews are a national minority in Norway, says Ervin Kohn.

Vårt Land has called for a debate on how Norway should protect its Jewish minority on its debate forum, Verdidebatt.no, but has paradoxically failed to remove a blog entry linked to the original article which holds every Jew in the world responsible for Israel’s actions. Maybe they should hire a professional mediator to ensure that anti-Semitic trash is kept off their pages, even if by a single link to a mentally deranged person?