Close to 80 Danish Jews travelled to Malmo Sweden in solidarity with the Swedish city's Jewish community and in protest of anti-Semitic attacks there.
The Danes made the 1 hour bus trip from Copenhagen on Sunday. In Malmo they met with local Jewish leaders at the synagogue and attended a Holocaust memorial ceremony, Rabbi Yitzi Lowenthal of Chabad in Copenhagen, who organised the event, told JTA.
Martin Stern of Jerusalem, who initiated and is partly funding the solidarity visit, said he thought it was necessary because "the Jews in Malmo are in trouble and things are not getting better." Stern said that earlier this week, someone had carved the word "Palestina" on the car of a Malmo rabbi, Shneur Kesselman.
The Danish Jewish community has historical ties to Malmo, referring to the 1943 exodus of Jews out of Nazi-occupied Denmark. Many ended up in Malmo. About ten of the groups participants, were themselves rescued and from Denmark to Sweden during the Second World War.
The solidarity group had representation from almost every Jewish organization in Denmark, the chairman of Wizo, Bnai Brith,The Copenhagen synagogue, Chabad, Danish friends of Haifa University, The begravlse selskab, and the fælles committee for Israel were all present and members of the board of dansk Zionist furbund, Mosaiske troessumfund, Coordination committee, ordet og Isreal and Iben Ezra also participated.
Allan Niemann, President of Bnai Brith in Denmark, who was 3 years old when he came to sweden in a fishing boat a dark night in october 1943, thanked Sweden on behalf of the visiting Danes, but noted the past is not enough, and current anti Semitism has to be confronted head on.
Members of the Jewish community speak of frequent attacks and verbal abuse against Jews on the streets of Malmo, sometimes on a daily basis, according to Fredrik Sieradzki, director of communications for the Jewish community of Malmo.
"Although the two communities are very close physically, at the same time they are far -- perhaps becouse it's a different country, different cultures and different languages," Loewenthal said. "But we hear about Malmo, what's going on there. This is our attempt to bridge that gap. Today there is a bridge from Denmark to Sweden, during the war there was a bridge of love when the Swedes welcomed the danish Jews, and today we come because of our feelings for whats happening here"
There were a number of touching moments during the day, including when kaddish was recited at the graves of the Danes who died during the war and were buried in the malmo cemetery. The cipikoff family, an entire family that drowned on route to Sweden, who's relative recited the Kaddish, and a little baby Goldie birnboum, who's younger sister. Lone Stern, listened in emotionally from their home in Jerusalem. Lone and her husband Martin Stern were the initiators and part sponsors of the event.
From the cemetery to the synagogue, the group marched in solidarity and support of the malmo community. At the synagogue, they were addressed by Fred Kahn and Rabbi Kesselman. Rabbi Kesselman talked of not exaggerating, nor ignoring what was going on. He also spoke of the positive feelings he gets when regular swedes approach him in the street to offer empathy and support. He described some of the attacks that he has been subjected to, and what is being done to counter it.
To end the day, the group visited the Malmo museum, where in addition to the many interesting displays, there is one of the 'white busses' that were used to bring the Danish Jews from Threisenstadt to Sweden, and many survivors to safety in Sweden.
On the journey on the way back to Denmark, whilst some of the men were putting on teffilin, one young man, who had never had a bar mitzvah, decided to put on teffilin, and an impromptu bar mitzvah was held, with singing and candy throwing. Definitely the first bar mitzvah held in the tunnel underwater between Sweden and Denmark.
With thanks to JTA for their help with this article