Jewish Woman's Asylum Request Brings Attention to Anti-Semitism in Sweden

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein Makes Point With 'Absurd' Plea

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein (in white coat) at a pro-Israel demonstration on Nov. 22, 2012 in Stockholm.
JTA
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein (in white coat) at a pro-Israel demonstration on Nov. 22, 2012 in Stockholm.

By JTA

Published November 21, 2013.
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There are indications that many Swedish Jews already feel afraid.

A recent survey of Jews in nine European countries found that Swedish Jews were the most likely to avoid publicly identifying themselves as Jewish for fear of anti-Semitism. In the survey, published this month by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, 34 percent of Swedish Jews reported practicing such avoidance. They were followed by France at 29 percent; Belgium, 25 percent; Hungary, 20 percent; and Germany, 14 percent.

Hernroth-Rothstein is intimately familiar with such fears. In Stockholm, she has led “kippah walks” – marches by Jews and non-Jews who don yarmulkes as a protest against anti-Semitism and a sign of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community.

The problem is especially acute for the approximately 1,000 Jews who live in Malmo, a southern Swedish city where about a third of its approximately 300,000 residents are either immigrants from Muslim countries or their children. Malmo last year saw 60 anti-Semitic attacks, which accounted for 40 percent of the anti-Semitic hate crimes documented in Sweden, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

Yet, seen in context, there are worse places to be a Jew in Europe, said Lars M. Andersson, an Upsala University historian who has researched Swedish anti-Semitism and the country’s refugee policy.

“There is definitely a problem with anti-Semitism in Sweden which needs to be addressed,” he said. “However, that problem should not be exaggerated. It is far less acute than in Hungary, for example, where a member of the Jobbik party spoke in parliament in favor of registering all Jews.”

Still, Andersson is supportive of Hernroth-Rothstein’s asylum request.

“I see no problem with the asylum move, which is obviously designed to attract the sort of media attention which will help treat the issue,” he said.

As for Hernroth-Rothstein, she says that if the migration board fails to address her request, then she will file a new one – next time outside the European Union.


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