Refugees who experienced hate are now calling Sweden home
MALMO, SWEDEN —
With many people seeking a safe place to live following the refugee crisis, one group has experienced hate by some who are now calling Sweden home.
Built in 1903, it remains the only synagogue in Malmo, Sweden. It is historic, but look closer, the windows are shatterproof, a sturdy fence lines the perimeter, decorative steel barrier bars keep cars and trucks from driving into it, and all around security cameras. It’s more of a fortress as opposed to a house of worship.
“To be Jewish in Malmo is both fun, interesting, engaging and sometimes frightening,” said Fredrik Sieradzki, Jewish spokesperson.
Sieradzki says this security is needed because in the past few years Jews have been targeted here. Most recently, following President Trump’s announcement of recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel.
Some took to the streets, chanting death to Jews.
“So we’re a small but very active community, but also there are of course problems here in Malmo in terms of anti-Semitism,” said Sieradzki.
“I mean people will shout “F*** Jews” and support Hitler and things like this,” said Niklas Orrenius.
Journalist Niklas Orrenius who lives in Malmo has reported on the rise of anti-Semitism in his country. His theory for the increase:
"I've covered a lot of stories about anti-Semitism in Malmo. Because many of the refugees, and immigrants from the Arab countries come from cultures that are, where anti-Semitism is basically mainstream."
With more than a quarter-million refugees in the past few years applying to live in Sweden most hailing from middle eastern countries, Sieradzki says some have brought with them their anger and hatred.
“In terms of people who are coming in now, of course that’s a challenge, because you don’t check out your preconceived ideas, your prejudices just because you check into a new country. I mean you bring them with you.”
So the Jewish community is working with Muslim church leaders to bring the two groups together to promote peace and understanding.
"We are always working together with the Jewish community here in Malmo, to fight anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism,” said Roland Vishkurti.
Imam Roland Vishkurti holding weekly meetings to engage faiths to openly discuss the problems, and find solutions.
"We call it faith and tolerance, and we meet up every Monday,” said Imam.
But the reality: tensions over the years shrunk the Jewish community here in Malmo. In the 60’s this synagogue had 3,500 members, now Sieradzki says they have 450. Some of the decline is because members have passed away, but he knows families that have moved to Stockholm where there is a larger Jewish community, and others he said have moved to Israel.
What is the future of Judaism in Malmo?
“Well it’s very hard to tell. It’s very hard to tell something especially about the future. I would say there is a possibility that the community could die out.”