Copenhagen’s slain synagogue guard, Dan Uzan / Facebook
As I struggle to wrap my mind around the horrible attacks that terrorized my city, Copenhagen, this weekend, all I can see is a memory from a few years ago.
I was attending Tuesday night practice at the local Jewish soccer club, Hakoah Copenhagen. Thinking myself rather skilled with the ball, I tried to pass our big goalkeeper, eight years older than me and a lot more experienced. I ended up on the grass, as Dan neatly tackled me and took possession of the ball. Being a hothead sometimes on the pitch, I shouted out something about a free kick and tried to make everybody understand what a grave injustice had just been done to me. The game went on, and Dan just picked me up and smiled at me and said, “You’ll get there someday.”
That smiling man, Dan Uzan, was the volunteer guard who was killed outside the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen.
Blissfully unaware of his death, I was having dinner at a restaurant with my girlfriend on Saturday night. I’d been feeling a bit under the weather, so I went to bed early. I had of course read and heard about the horrible events that had transpired at a debate meeting earlier in the day, when shots were fired, ending the life of an innocent spectator. It happened pretty close to where my mother lives, but I thought that it would blow over. Honestly, at the time I did not imagine that anything bad could happen to the Jewish community.
When I woke up early on Sunday morning, my phone showed a message from the assistant coach of the soccer team. It said the game on Sunday had been cancelled due to the horrible events that had happened during the night at the Great Synagogue. I was a bit confused, since I hadn’t heard anything about an incident there. Immediately, I scoured the internet (as one does) and found out that a Jewish security guard had been shot in the head outside the synagogue, where the local community centre is also situated.
This seemed unreal. I tried desperately to find out who had been shot. Could it have been someone I knew? It turned out that the tall guy I had known my whole life, the one who went seven grades above me in the Jewish School and who loved sports like me, had been killed. Dan was no more among us.
The rest of Sunday was a blur. It didn’t take long for people from local and foreign media outlets to knock on my door, seeking comment. On top of that, being a board member at the Jewish football club, I also had to talk with many who, like me, had known Dan for years. I mostly turned down anyone who approached me from the media and only gave quotes to an Israeli TV channel and a friend at a local newspaper who’d known Dan personally.
It’s hard to believe that terror has hit us right here in Copenhagen. Jewish life has been present here for more than 200 years, and just two weeks ago our club, Hakoah, celebrated its 90th anniversary.
Being a Jew in Copenhagen has never been a bad experience for me. I’ve never felt unsafe, say, representing the Jewish soccer club. Sure, there have been some minor incidents throughout the years, but I’ve always dismissed them as coming from stupid individuals who are not worth taking seriously.
Yet the events of this weekend have left me very sad and disappointed. That a man like Dan had to be taken away from us, just because he was standing outside the synagogue, is beyond belief. To say that we had all expected it seems false to me, as no one could have imagined that the events we watched with horror in Paris would soon come to Copenhagen.
To attack freedom of speech and to attack Jewish sites is horrendous, and I am sad that the Jewish community, Copenhagen and Denmark had to experience these events. Sunday, February 15, 2015 will never be forgotten here.
It was just a bit over two weeks ago that Hakoah Copenhagen celebrated its 90th anniversary with a big party attended by almost 500 people. Speeches, dinner, music and laughter filled the night. The party was held at a local hotel and casino, and Hakoah had rented a whole floor right upstairs from the lobby.
We had security at the place and, being a representative from the club, I was standing next to Dan at the entrance. As a security guard, he, along with me, made sure that only the right people joined in on the party.
After standing there for almost an hour, Dan spotted some pretty girls and told me that he hoped those girls were coming to the party. Unfortunately, they joined a poker game on another floor instead. We laughed about it, and I went to the party and Dan stood outside for the rest of the night, protecting us, like he always did.