Malmo Jews Not Cowed by New Attack

Firebombing at Community Center Strengthens Determination

No Surrender: Jews and supporters gather outside a community center in Malmo, Sweden that was hit by a firebomb attack.
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No Surrender: Jews and supporters gather outside a community center in Malmo, Sweden that was hit by a firebomb attack.

By JTA

Published October 10, 2012.
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Hours after the late-night explosion outside the Jewish community center in Malmo, Sweden, the scent of baking challah already was wafting from the center’s ovens into the chilly morning air, as it does every Friday morning.

Later, the Jewish preschool at the site would open as usual.

A smashed bulletproof glass window and two police officers standing watch were the only evidence of a Sept. 28 attack in which assailants set off an explosive device and threw bricks at the center’s door, according to Rabbi Rebecca Lillian, who lives in the building.

Swedish police arrested and then released two 18-year-old male suspects whom witnesses had placed at the scene; the city’s prosecutor is considering whether to indict them.

Some Swedish Jews said the attack was yet another unwelcome reminder that they must bolster their public campaign against anti-Semitism, which only recently began to gain steam in the Scandinavian country after years of attacks and intimidation against Jews, often by local Muslims.

“The attack on the synagogue may have been an attempt to intimidate us back into submission,” said Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, a 31-year-old Jewish woman from a city near Stockholm who has helped organize some of the recent Jewish solidarity rallies in Sweden.

“The decision by Swedish Jews to rally against anti-Semitism is perceived by perpetrators as provocation,” she told JTA. “We must go on: It may need to get worse before it gets better.”

Fred Kahn, board chairman of Malmo’s Jewish community of approximately 1,000, said he insisted on a business-as-usual approach after the attack “to show our enemies they have no chance of intimidating us.”

The rallies against anti-Semitism in Sweden – at least 10 so far – began last December when a few Malmo synagogue-goers decided to keepon their kipahs after services and, in violation of security protocol, marched with them through town. Several more “kipah walks” followed, all organized by members of the community through Facebook.

One gathering in August in Stockholm drew about 400 Jews and non-Jews, including government ministers. A similar number showed up for a rally in Stockholm on Sunday, including some leading politicians.

Another solidarity march is planned for Oct. 20 in Malmo.


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