Swedish TV star says Malmo anti-Semitism made him quit show


A Jewish-Danish actor known for his starring role in “The Bridge,” a Scandinavian TV crime series remade for American audiences in 2013, said “growing” anti-Semitism in Sweden contributed to his decision to quit the show.

“It’s growing,” Kim Bodnia told the Israeli website Walla! last week. “Especially in Malmo, where we shot ‘The Bridge’ in Sweden. It’s not very nice and comfortable to be there as a Jewish person.”

Bodnia quit the show, which has been shown in over 100 countries, after its first two seasons. At the time, he said his decision came down to creative differences with the show’s writers.

“It’s not funny,” he said of the anti-Semitism in Malmo. “We have to deal with it every day.”

Bodnia, who is of Russian and Polish ancestry, in 2014 directed “The Tailor’s Tale,” a play about the life of playwright Bodin Saphir’s Jewish grandfather during the Nazi occupation in Copenhagen.

“The Bridge” was remade in 2013 by the U.S. network FX, but the American version was canceled after two seasons.

Protesters in Sweden chant ‘slaughter the Jews’


Hundreds of protesters in the Swedish city of Malmo were filmed chanting in Arabic about slaughtering Jews and stabbing soldiers.

Pro-Palestinian groups organized a rally Monday in the city center against what they consider Israeli violence and to show solidarity with Palestinians amid deadly measures taken by Israeli authorities to stop the recent spate of attacks on Jews in Israel and the West Bank.

Isaac Bachman, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, posted on his Facebook account a video taken at the rally showing hundreds chanting “’slaughter the Jews, stab soldiers.” In other slogans, the chanters encouraged “heroes to carry out attack after attack” and to “start a third intifada.”

“These are extremely troubling instances of a grotesque but nevertheless very real – and murderous – incitement which must be dealt with by the full force of the law,” Bachman wrote.

His wife, Osnat, wrote about the video: “Swedish people: Is this what you believe in? Is this what you bargained for? Are these your morals? Since I know the answers I feel ashamed in your name.”

Separately, the Scandinavian airline SAS announced on Wednesday that it would stop flights from Copenhagen to Tel Aviv at the end of March, along with Ankara and Russia, citing profitability issues.

SAS spokeswoman Trine Kromann denied claims made in the Israeli media that the line was profitable — the Israel Hayom daily reported Tuesday that the line had seen a 41 percent increase in traffic in 2014 over 2013 — and denied that the decision to stop the flights to Israel was in fact politically motivated.

Kromann said SAS did not share or discuss traffic statistics, “which in any case are only a part of the commercial calculation for determining profitability.”She added: “We also look at, for example, the price we can get per ticket and operating costs.”

The line to Tel Aviv is a particularly costly one for SAS, Kromann also said.

Man beaten in Malmo for hanging Israeli flag


A man was beaten severely for hanging an Israeli flag outside his window in the Swedish city of Malmo, police said.

Several unidentified men assaulted the 38-year-old man with metal bars after they hurled a stone at his window on July 6, the Svenska Dagbladet daily reported on July 7. The victim, who was taken to the hospital, was not identified by name.

After the stone hit the window, the man went downstairs and was assaulted, according to Malmo Police spokeswoman Linda Pleym. She said his injuries were serious but not life threatening,

“He was attacked because of the flag,” Pleym said.

The man managed to escape his attackers and was found prone by passers-by on an adjacent street. Paramedics rushed him to medical treatment in an ambulance. Police have no suspects in custody.

Several hundred Jews live in Malmo, a city of approximately 300,000 where a third of the population is made up of people who were born in Muslim countries or whose parents were born in those countries.

Several dozen anti-Semitic attacks occur in Malmo annually, according to community leaders and police, including repeated attacks on Jewish institutions.

Across Europe, attacks against Jews increase during periods of unrest connected to Israel.

On April 16, the district of Skane, where Malmo is located, declined the Jewish community’s request to increase the number of security cameras around Jewish buildings, according to Michael Gelvan, chairman of the Nordic Jewish Security Council, and Per-Erik Ebbestahl, director of safety and security in the City of Malmo.

The municipality supported the request, Ebbestahl said.

District officials did not reply to request for further information.

In Malmo, record number of anti-Semitic attacks reported


The Swedish city of Malmo is reporting a record increase in documented anti-Semitic attacks.

Swedish police recorded 60 hate crimes against Jews in the city in 2012, up from an average of 22 in 2010 and 2011, the Sydsvenskan local daily reported. During the first six months of 2013, police reported 35 such attacks in Malmo, putting the city on a pace to break last year’s record.

The increase may reflect greater willingness by victims to report the crimes rather than a steep increase in crimes, said Fred Kahn, chairman of the board of the Malmo Jewish community. Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, has several hundred Jewish residents.

“There was some increase in hate crimes, and to combat it the Jewish community is reporting more,” Kahn told JTA. “I think we are reporting a lot more and we are also feeling more confident.”

About 30 percent of Malmo’s 300,000 residents belong to families of immigrants from Muslim countries, according to city statistics. Radical members of that population are responsible for most of the attacks against Jews, the Jewish community has said.

Malmo’s former mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, who left his post in February after 28 years in office, had blamed the rise in anti-Semitism on Jews and advised them to distance themselves from Israel to remain safe.

Last year, Hannah Rosenthal, at the time the Obama administration’s special envoy for combating anti-Semitism, said Reepalu’s words were a prime example of “new anti-Semitism” wherein anti-Israel sentiment serves as a guise for hatred of Jews.

Since Reepalu left, Kahn said, “authorities are more alert to the needs of the Jewish community.”

In neighboring Finland, the Simon Wiesenthal Center asked President Sauli Vainamo Niinisto to intervene to stop the publication of anti-Semitic texts and cartoons in Magneettimedia, a freely-distributed paper published by Juha Karkkainen, owner of a large chain of department stores.

Danish, Swedish Jews hold first joint Limmud conference


About 160 Swedes and Danes attended the first inter-Scandinavian Limmud Jewish learning event.

The March 11 event was held at an adult education center in Lund, a Swedish city situated 23 miles north of Copenhagen.

“Last year we held the first Lund Limmud and this is the first time that the event has gone international,” said the event’s co-organizer, Rabbi Rebecca Lillian.

“Many Swedes can understand Danish and visa versa, but to completely eliminate the language barrier each time bloc included at least one session in Danish or English,” said Lillian, an American Reconstructionist rabbi who immigrated to Malmo from Chicago two years ago.

The event was promoted on social media in Swedish, Danish and English. The 2014 Oresunds Limmud will be held at a bigger venue, Lillian said.

She added the majority of participants were Swedish but a few dozen Danes also came, including former Danish chief rabbi Bent Melchior. In his address, he encouraged Jewish communities to embrace families with only one Jewish spouse.

No hate crime conviction in Malmö in two years, despite record number of incidents


Despite a record number of complaints about hate crimes in the Swedish city of Malmö, not a single person was convicted of such offenses in over two years, according to a recent report.

The local daily Sydsvenskan on Jan. 7 reported that in 2010 and 2011, the Swedish court system did not convict anyone of hate crimes despite a record-number of 480 complaints about such incidents reported in those years.

In total, only 16 cases formed the basis for an indictment, none of them over anti-Semitic behavior.

Approximately 700 Jews live in Malmö, amid tens of thousands of immigrants from Muslim countries. The Jewish community’s leaders say a few dozen anti-Semitic attacks occur here annually.

[Related: Why the fate of Malmö’s Jews matters]

Unidentified individuals detonated an explosive charge in front of the Malmö Jewish Community Center in October and broke the building’s door. Police have no suspects in connection with the attack.

According to members of the community, most anti-Semitic attacks are perpetrated by Muslims, though Malmö Mayor Ilmar Reepalu has denied this.

He advised Jews who want to be safe in Malmo to reject Zionism, which he listed along with anti-Semitism as an unacceptable phenomenon. Reepalu has also said the Jewish community had been “infiltrated” by anti-Muslim agents.

Hannah Rosenthal, the United States former special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, last year accused Reepalu of not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.

According to Sydsvenskan, a total of 4,590 hate crimes were reported to the police in the whole of Sweden in 2012.

Hate crimes are not a punishable category in the Swedish penal code but are considered an aggravating circumstance that can lead to tougher sentencing.

No suspects in Malmö JCC attack, police say


Police in Malmö, Sweden have no suspects in September’s attack on the city’s Jewish community center.

Anders Lindell, a police spokesman, told JTA that all charges were dropped against the two young men whom police arrested shortly after the Sept. 28 attack.

“We have concluded the suspects could not have done it,” he said. “The investigation is ongoing.”

The two 18-year-old men were arrested shortly after an explosion was heard outside the city’s community center, which also houses a day school for Jewish children. The bullet-proof entrance door was smashed in the incident.

Police at first declined to define the attack as anti-Semitic, but eventually classified it as a hate crime.

In 2009, unidentified persons set off an explosive device outside the city’s synagogue. In the past few years, approximately 70 anti-Semitic incidents were reported annually in Malmö, a city whose population is 30 to 40 percent Muslim and whose Jewish community is a few hundred strong.

Malmö's mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, has equated Zionism to anti-Semitism, has said that the Jewish community had been infiltrated by extreme rightists and has advised Jews not to support Israel for their own safety.

The per capita prevalence of anti-Semitic incidents in Malmo is twice that of Stockholm, the capital.

There have been a number of marches to protest anti-Semitism in recent months, drawing both Jews and non-Jews and in one case, Reepalu.

Earlier this week, the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism, an NGO, recognized with an award Siavosh Derakhti, a 21-year-old Muslim from Malmö who filmed an educational trip he had made to Auschwitz.

Derakhti has screened the video in Swedish schools in an effort to educate young Swedes about the Holocaust.

Malmo police see no reason to call JCC attack a hate crime


Police in Malmo, Sweden, said they had “no indication” that a recent attack on the offices of the local Jewish community was a hate crime.

The police arrested and later released two 18-year-old men suspected of hurling a brick and a large firecracker at the entrance of the community’s offices on Sept. 28. The building sustained some damage but no one was hurt.

“The suspects never said or indicated they were perpetrating a hate crime,” Anders Lindell, a Malmo police officer and spokesman, told JTA. He added that the suspects denied any involvement in the attack. The investigation is ongoing, he said.

Willy Silberstein of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, a Stockholm-based NGO, told JTA that he found the decision “very strange.”

“When such incidents are not classified as hate crimes, it does not add to the credibility of government figures on anti-Semitism,” he said.

Sweden has approximately 20,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress. Several hundred of them live in Malmo, according to Fredrik Sieradski, a spokesman for the Malmo Jewish congregation.

In 2011, The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reported 190 anti-Semitic crimes in all of Sweden.

Attack on Malmo’s Jewish community triggers solidarity rallies


Some 70 demonstrators reportedly gathered in Malmö, Sweden, outside the local Jewish community center, to show solidarity with the Jewish community following an attack on its offices.

Hundreds are expected to attend a similar event Oct. 7 in Stockholm.

According to the daily Varlden Idag, the Malmö gathering Sept. 27 took place hours after two small charges exploded outside the building and bricks were hurled at its entrance. The building sustained some damage but no one was injured in the attack.

Malmö's police arrested two 18-year-old men shortly after the incident, but released them hours later. They are still considered suspects in the case, as their car was seen driving away from the scene of the explosion shortly after it happened, according to the paper.

Both denied any involvement in the explosion, Anders Lindell, a Malmö police officer and spokesman, told JTA.

At least two hundred people are expected to gather Oct. 7 at Stockholm's Raoul Wallenberg Square for a rally meant to show solidarity with Malmö's Jews.

“This attack will only make us speak up more clearly about our right to be Jewish and appear Jewish in Sweden,” said Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, a Jewish activist. She is co-organizing the solidarity rally with the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism and the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.

Last month Hernroth-Rothstein used Facebook to organize a show of solidarity with Israel in the Swedish capital which was attended by approximately 1,200 people.

Mona Sahlin, leader of the Swedish opposition, has said she would address the crowd at the solidarity gathering, along with several other Swedish politicians.

Members of Malmö's Jewish community began last year holding marches in Malmö in protest of frequent harassment. Community members speak of dozens of incidents every year, mostly from members of the city's large Muslim and Middle Eastern population.

Last month dozens of Jews from Denmark arrived in Malmö to show their solidarity with the city's Jews, who number approximately 1,000.

Attack on Jewish community in Sweden follows surge of hate crimes


A Jewish community building in Malmö, Sweden was attacked overnight between Thursday and Friday with explosives and bricks.

“I was shocked that this happened now,” Fred Kahn, president of the Jewish Community in Malmö told the TT news agency. “Jewish institutions in Sweden are under constant threat, but we have not noticed anything out of the ordinary recently.”

The community building houses a kindergarten, meeting halls and apartments. Nobody was injured in the explosion, which, according to witnesses, could be heard several blocks away.

According to local police, witnesses saw two speeding cars leaving the scene of the explosion. The police managed to stop one of the vehicles and arrested two 18-year-old men on suspicion of causing severe damage. The police suspect more people were involved in planning and executing the attack.

Read more at haaretz.com.

Swedish police arrest two after explosion rocks Jewish building


Swedish police arrested two men in connection with an explosion that rocked a Jewish community building in Malmö.

The explosion took place early in the morning on Sept. 28, according to Fred Kahn, board chairman of the Malmö Jewish community.

“There was an explosion and someone also threw a rock at the windows at the entrance to the community house,” he said.

The suspects, both 18, have no prior criminal record, according to the daily Skanska Dagbladet. Both denied any involvement in the explosion, according to Anders Lindell, a Malmö police officer and spokesman.

[Related: My Shabbat in Malmo by Rabbi Abraham Cooper]

“Witness reports led us to arrest the two suspects near, but not immediately at the scene,” Lindell said, adding that “the forensics report from the scene of the crime is finished but needs to be reviewed.” 

Kahn added, “We are shocked by this incident, which was definitely a deliberate attack. The community has upped its security arrangements, but we are continuing as usual. The Jewish kindergarten is going to stay open, and all services will continue.”

Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s outgoing special envoy for combating anti-Semitism, has accused Reepalu in the past of making “anti-Semitic statements.” 

Reepalu has advised Jews who want to be safe in Malmö to reject Zionism. He also has said that the Jewish community had been “infiltrated” by anti-Muslim agents and has denied that Muslims perpetrated the attacks on Malmö Jews.

On a Sunday earlier this month, dozens of Jews from Denmark visited Malmö to express their solidarity with the city’s Jewish community. 

700 out of 14 million: Why the fate of Malmö’s Jews matters


I can’t say I was shocked by the phone call and emails from Scandinavia that I received one night after Yom Kippur, telling me that the Jewish Community Center in Malmö, Sweden, had been attacked with an explosive device and bricks through its reinforced entrance just after midnight on Sept. 28. No casualties, thank G-d, this time.

I am not surprised, because precious little has changed since the Wiesenthal Center’s mission to Malmö in December 2011 where we had face-to-face meetings with the city’s police chief, prosecutor and its mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, who long ago made a decision to let the 700 Jewish citizens twist in the wind in order to curry favor with Islamist extremists and virulent opponents of Israel. There are approximately 70,000 Muslims in Malmö.

Incredible, here was a democratically elected administration that had no budget and no stomach to protect its Jews. Here was a democratically elected official who went out of his way to inject the conflict in the Holy Land into the narrative and onto the streets of his city.

Following the shocking 2010 firebombing of a synagogue there, along with assaults on a pro-Israel demonstration and a series of other anti-Semitic incidents, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had had enough and slapped a Travel Advisory on Malmö. A few months ago, Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department’s Envoy on Anti-Semitism, traveled to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, to make a direct and personal plea to Mayor Reepalu, on behalf of the Obama Administration, to change course. He didn’t. As a result, that ban still stands today, and unless and until local, or if necessary, national authorities can secure the Jewish community and its institutions, the ban will remain.

[Related: Swedish police arrest two after explosion rocks Jewish building]

[Related: My Shabbat in Malmo by Rabbi Abraham Cooper]

 

Still, it is fair to ask, in the greater scheme of things, with Iran’s looming existential threat to Israel, with 700,000 French Jews on edge after the terrorist murders at a Toulouse Jewish school of a young rabbi and three kids– including an eight year-old girl executed at point-blank range—do the 700 Jews of Malmö merit our continued concern and activism?

Maybe they should just leave…Considering that young Rabbi Kesselman and his family are serially abused by anti-Semites with nary an arrest, that just last week his car was singled out for vandalism with the word Palestina engraved on its side, perhaps Daisy Balkin Rung, who was born in Malmö, is right when she posted a call on a Swedish TV blog for Jews to leave Malmö before it is too late, making a parallel to Germany in the 1930s. “I call upon all Jews in Malmö to leave the city,” she wrote.

Perhaps, in the end, the Jews may yet have to leave, but if they do — Malmö, Sweden, could become a template for other European cities, in other democracies. If Jews are driven from Malmo, it will empower every anti-Semite, neo-Nazi, Islamist fanatic, and lone wolf terrorist in every western democracy to target US.

While we can be grateful that no one was hurt in this latest attack, there is a Jewish dictum: Ayn Soamchin Al Haness—we cannot rely on miracles to secure the safety of Jewish children. Clearly time is running out for Malmö.

Let us, the 14,000,000, help the 700 draw the line and force the powers that be in Sweden to finally provide equal protection under the law to their Jewish citizens. If they fail to do so, our Jewish brothers and sisters will find new lives in Israel and elsewhere—that is, after all, the Jewish way—but Sweden’s traditions of democratic rule of law, fairness, and tolerance will be left in shambles.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Swedish minister rebukes Malmo mayor as ‘ignorant and bigoted’


The mayor of Malmo makes “recurring ignorant and bigoted statements,” a Swedish minister said after meeting with the U.S. envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

Erik Ullenhag, Sweden’s integration minister, issued the statement just after meeting Thursday with Hannah Rosenthal.

“Mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s recurring ignorant and bigoted statements complicate the work to combat anti-Semitism,” he said in an unusually sharp attack in Sweden’s political culture. “These statements not only have a negative impact on the image of Malmo but the entire country’s credibility in these issues.”

Rosenthal told Ullenhag in their meeting that the hourlong meeting she had Tuesday with Reepalu was essentially fruitless.

In an interview with JTA, Rosenthal described the frustrations of her meeting Reepalu.

“I went through and showed how he was using traditional anti-Semitic language, accusing Jews of being part of a conspiracy, denying Jewish people a homeland when he was vocal of support for other people for a homeland—namely, the Palestinians—blaming Jews for what goes on in another country,” she said. “He kept saying he couldn’t understand why ‘they are doing this to me.’ It was ‘they, they, they.’ He could not hear where this was something ‘he’ has to deal with.”

Reepalu told the media after his meeting with Rosenthal that the two had “a good conversation.”

Rosenthal said she told Reepalu that unless he changed, his legacy following his expected departure from office in 2014 after 20 years would be as a bigot rather than one who has helped revive Malmo.

Rosenthal told JTA that she met with leaders of the Jewish, Roma and Muslim communities in Malmo who have joined to combat bigotry in the city. She said the Muslim and Roma leaders told her that Reepalu’s anti-Semitic statements troubled them in part because they created a hostile atmosphere and contributed to attacks on their communities.

Ullenhag briefed Rosenthal on his government’s efforts to combat xenophobia and noted its efforts to ensure Jewish security.

“We shared the view that all forms of xenophobia, whether it is anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia, is utterly unacceptable,” he said in his statement. “I stressed that the Swedish government is united in standing up for an open and tolerant Sweden.”

Rosenthal also attended events in Sweden marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who intervened to save the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust and later disappeared under Soviet occupation.

She also toured Latvia, where the envoy reviewed efforts to mark the Holocaust in that country. Rosenthal pressed the Latvian leadership on the country’s continued commemorations of Latvian participation in the Waffen SS, the military wing of the Nazi Party.

Rosenthal told JTA that she encountered resistance to her efforts to explain why such commemorations are offensive to Jews.

“They tried to tell me Latvians rounded up Jews but didn’t kill them,” she said. “They said it was ‘complicated.’ I said it wasn’t complicated when it comes to killing Jews.”

My Shabbat in Malmo


From 1932 to 1946, Rabbi Eliezer Berlinger served as the chief rabbi of the Malmo Jewish Congregation. The most important events in the history of this Jewish community in Sweden took place on his watch. There were the numerous Danish Jews who fled deportation and certain death by the Nazis with the help of their righteous Christian neighbors who reached Malmo in 1943 and 1944.


And then came Sept. 17, 1945. Yom Kippur. After Shacharit on the holiest day of the year, Rabbi Berlinger suddenly rose to the podium and announced that the service was over. Everyone was urged to make their way to Malmo’s port. “A shipload of survivors is arriving and we must be there to greet them,” said Eliezer Fishbein, a native of Malmo. When the Sheerit Haplaitah’s passengers disembarked, they were asked what they wanted, and the response was: “It’s Yom Kippur — take us to shul.” Thus began a dramatic silent march through the streets of Malmo led by these Jewish survivors — many too weak to walk — that culminated in prayer at the synagogue that must have surely pierced the highest levels of the heavenly kingdom.

This past Shabbat, I was invited to give the sermon at that synagogue, which serves a community about 1 percent the size of Southern California’s 750,000-strong Jewish community. I came there, because all is not well for Jews in Malmo; particularly if you walk around with a chai or Magen David around your neck, or if you happened to look like the wonderful, Detroit-born Rabbi Shneur Kesselman. The bearded rav had given up calling the police, after they failed to respond to any of dozens of incidents of anti-Semitic threats and intimidation he personally experienced when making his way to and from the synagogue. Most threats had emanated from a small number of extremists in the 70,000-strong Muslim community.

Those incidents came amid other troubling events. Malmo’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu refused to allow anyone to attend a Davis Cup match between Israel and Sweden. Later he would declare that he “opposed anti-Semitism and Zionism.” Then, during the 2009 Gaza war, an outrageous incident took place that still traumatizes the locals. As a pro-peace rally began in the city’s main square, the police chief stood and did nothing as peaceful pro-Israel marchers had to flee down a back alley, after being set upon by rock-throwing, cursing thugs.

We launched our own investigation, and when we confirmed that none of Rabbi Kesselman’s dozens of pleas to authorities had ever led to a single investigation, arrest or prosecution, I traveled last December with my Paris-based colleague, Shimon Samuels, to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, where I informed Justice Minister Beatrice Ask that the Wiesenthal Center was slapping a “travel advisory” on Malmo. When the stunned Cabinet official asked why, I pointed to my kippah and explained: “If you will send a plainclothes policeman to follow me around Malmo, you would understand immediately.”

So, on March 11, Samuels and I met at the Copenhagen Airport and, three short train stops later, arrived in Malmo for a five-day fact-finding mission. We met with political leaders, including the mayor, police officials and activists from minority communities, including the Roma.

The president of the Islamic Center reminisced about visiting his Jewish neighbors on Shabbat as a kid in his native Macedonia. He spoke frankly about the small extremist minority of Muslims who refuse to embrace the democratic values of Sweden. The members of the Jewish kehillah were warm and welcoming. Rabbi Kesselman’s dignified steadfastness and the unstinting commitment of so many of the members of that small community touched us deeply.


My Shabbat morning dvar Torah was based on a brilliant insight by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik from the Talmud Megillah (4). There, two sages provided polar-opposite explanations as to why we read Megillat Esther both at night and on Purim morning. Both sages invoked King David’s Psalms. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi quoted Psalms 22:3: “Oh my God, I call by day but you answer not and at night and there’s no surcease for me.” For him, the Megillah equals prayer, a desperate tefilah brought by a distraught person on the verge of disaster. For Ula of Biri, invoking Psalms 30:13 — “So that my glory may sing praises to You and not be silent …” — Purim is a 24-hour marathon of nonstop joy; so profound a jubilation that Rav Nachman says that reading the Megillah is equivalent to chanting Hallel. Rav Soloveitchik goes on to explain that Purim and Jewish history are composites of both of these contradictory elements.


Indeed, there were people in shul that Shabbat in Malmo and Los Angeles who were in Auschwitz death camp in 1945 and fighting to protect the new state of Israel, just three years later, in 1948.
Our everyday lives, with all their unexpected challenges, often feel like random, inexplicable and unconnected events. The reading of Megillat Esther is a reminder to us that God’s hand is there in everything that takes place, the good and the bad. Our challenge is to care for each other, cry together in times of tragedy and sing Hashem’s praises when we prevail:
Queen Esther understood that the ultimate power of our people emerges when we stand together: “Lech knos et kol HaYehudim.” Gather up all the Jews, she beseeched Mordechai at the pivotal moment of the Purim drama.

As I see it, God still wants Jews to care for each other. It makes no difference if we live in a city with 200 kosher restaurants or in a small community in blustery Malmo. We are required to show areivut — solidarity — with each other. I don’t know if we will be successful in changing the situation in Malmo, but we did deliver a clear, unambiguous message to everyone we met — Jew and Non-Jew: We will not stand silently by and allow for the abandonment of our fellow Jews. 
When Jews live by the areivut principle, good things happen: We strengthen the resolve of wonderful people like Rabbi and Mrs. Kesselman, and find new respect and allies from our neighbors. Happy Purim!

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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