In this Swedish city, a rabbi and an imam are working to overcome integration troubles

July 4, 2018

An Israeli rabbi explains why he swapped the West Bank settlement of Tekoa for strengthening cross-community ties in Malmö
“We, the Jews and Muslims in Malmö, have only one thing to say to one another: Salaam, Shalom.”
Those were the words chosen by the Jewish and Muslim communities for their public declaration in the southern Swedish city of Malmö last month, inspired by an earlier advertisement in the Daily Telegraph in the UK.
In previous years, the integration problems faced by Malmö’s large, mainly Muslim migrant population have earned it a reputation as a “problematic city”, with frequent reports of antisemitic attacks against people and property.
But the advert, published in the Swedish daily Sydsvenskan on a Friday last month to mark the end of Eid, was part of an effort to project a different image for the city.
“We, the Jews and Muslims living in Malmö, are uniting against any display of discrimination, hatred, prejudice and xenophobia,” the advertisement read.
“Jews and Muslims in Malmö stand together in the fight against antisemitism, Islamophobia, and any form of racism and discrimination against minorities.
“We believe meeting and getting to know one another and our traditions will help us better appreciate and respect one another.
“We are convinced this is the only way forward for a shared, better and safer future in the city of Malmö. Shabbat Shalom, Eid Mubarak.”
It was signed by Malmö’s Jewish and Muslim communities as well as Amanah, a project aimed at building trust and better relations between the two.
Such an advertisement would not have been possible even a year ago, Amanah’s Israeli co-director Moshe David Hacohen said.
Rabbi Hacohen, 38, started the organisation with local prominent imam Salahuddin Barakat after moving to Malmö from the West Bank settlement of Tekoa with his family in the spring of 2017.
His explicit mandate was to both serve as the city’s rabbi and to foster dialogue with the Muslim community.
Since then, he and Imam Barakat have visited dozens of schools and organised text-based learning nights covering topics relevant to both faiths — such as the binding of Isaac (or Ishmael, according to the Muslim tradition); circumcision; and rules relating to food.
According to the rabbi, the advertisement shows that the work to build trust between the two communities and to change the conversation about them is bearing fruits.
“We didn’t want people to think that our initiative was carried out by individuals without the backing of the larger communities,” he said.
“For this reason, after Salahuddin and I came up with the idea of an ad similar to the one published in the UK, we brought it before the boards of the Jewish Community of Malmö, and the Malmö Muslim Network.
“After all the work we have done together, they approved it without thinking twice.”
He also attended an iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast of every evening, with the representatives of ten different Muslim communities.
But not everything has gone smoothly.
Rabbi Hacohen had been invited to speak at a major Eid celebration attended by over 10,000 people, but the invitation was rescinded by organisers after some protests.
“Some people call me naïve and think that I should be more demanding,” the rabbi said.
“I believe it is crucial to understand how difficult it is for many Muslims to accept someone like me, not only a rabbi, but an Israeli, a settler even,” he explained.
“However, at the same event, before the same audience, the mayor of Malmö Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh mentioned the ad and the importance of our work and for me this is already a step forward.”
“We still have a long way to cover, but it is important to acknowledge the progress we are making.”
The article was published on The JC

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Trieste Jewish Community

The Trieste Jewish Community is an active and vibrant organisation that serves the Jewish population of Trieste, Italy. It is dedicated to preserving and promoting Jewish heritage, culture, and religious practices.

The community organises regular religious services, educational programmes, cultural events, and social activities. It also provides support and assistance to its members, including social services and welfare aid. Additionally, the community is involved in interfaith dialogue and outreach, fostering understanding and cooperation with other religious and cultural groups in the region.

Through its diverse activities, the Trieste Jewish Community aims to strengthen Jewish identity and continuity while contributing to the broader societal fabric.

Saying ‘Never again is now’ to European Jews is an insult

Never again? If European governments are not prepared or are unwilling to turn words into action, these important words will have just been a platitude. And an insulting one at that.APRIL 12, 2024 10:54A DEMONSTRATOR holds a sign that reads “Never Again is Now” during a protest against right-wing extremism and the far-Right opposition Alternative for Germany (AfD), in Cologne, in January.(photo credit: Jana Rodenbusch/Reuters)Never again. Everybody knows those words. They are on every politician’s lips on Holocaust Memorial Day.And in 2025 we will mark the 80th liberation of the camp that prompted these words to be uttered: Auschwitz.What exactly do they mean? No more concentration camps? No more mass murder? One would certainly hope so, given Europe’s turbulent and bloody treatment of the Jewish people.And what about never allowing the circumstances that led to these barbaric and inhuman manifestations of hate to happen again? Does “Never again” mean that too?The Jewish communities across Europe certainly thought so. It appears that we were laboring under a misapprehension, brought into vivid and stark relief in the aftermath of October 7.Antisemitism continues to rise at alarming ratesSince the Hamas pogrom, reported cases of antisemitism have gone through the roof – in the UK, Spain, and France the percentage rise is over 1000%. Today, as I write this, Jews are facing levels of antisemitism last seen in 1939 in Nazi Germany.Protesters participate in a demonstration against antisemitism in Parliament Square in London, Britain, March 26, 2018 (credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)This is an unbelievable and incredible sentence to have to write.Things were already bad. Like a dormant volcano before October 7 , there were regular tremors and some eruptions, but we hoped for the best. The war awoke it. Jewish Communities are daily facing molten streams of hate everywhere across the continent.In Holland, earlier this year, they canceled Holocaust Remembrance Day events at universities over security concerns and because of vociferous opposition to the memorializing. Just recently, in Amsterdam, there were protests at the opening of a new Holocaust museum.Rabbis are slapped in the street and verbally abused. In capitals across the continent – mainly in those with significant Muslim populations – there are regular protests displaying Nazi images referring to Jews, images drawing parallels between Gaza and Auschwitz, and you can hear calls for Jewish genocide and ethnic cleansing “From the river to the sea.” You can read placards calling Jews terrorists, and the blood libel of “child killers” is regularly used.Death threats against rabbis are common. Jews are insulted on the street on a daily basis and our children cursed at.Those European citizens who have served in the IDF are outed in their communities through letter campaigns pointing out that a “child killer” is living next to them; flights arriving from Israel are tracked and met by protesters.The Jewish community president in Porto takes his child to nursery wearing a bulletproof vest. The principal Jewish organizations here in Belgium have had to write to their prime minister, urging him not to abandon them.A Brussels commune, in which NATO HQ is located, just this week raised the Palestinian flag above their town hall.To paraphrase Nietzsche, as Israel stared into the abyss, Jews in Europe have seen the abyss staring back at them in their neighborhoods in London, Paris, Madrid, and Brussels. Just because they are Jews.At least Israel can fight back. What can we do? We place our lives and our trust in the hands of our respective governments. Are we right to do so? Let’s take a minute to look at the evidence.Back in 2021, amidst a spike in COVID-related antisemitism, the EU published a detailed strategy for combating antisemitism. The strategy was handed over to the member states, and they in turn were to adopt measures and develop national plans for combating antisemitism. Many did. A great many also signed up to the IHRA definition of antisemitism, patting themselves on the back.But any strategy must ultimately pass the test in the real world. So how have these strategies, plans, and IHRA adoption held up upon meeting the post-October 7 landscape from what you have read so far?That’s right. They have no visible or demonstrable practical application across Europe today. Or to put it as eloquently and simply as a Dutch Jewish community president put it: “They are not worth the paper they are printed on.”The reality is that police departments are hamstrung at openly antisemitic protests, unsure and therefore unable to stop public manifestations of hate and overt antisemitism.A swastika is allowed because it is “context-dependent”; “From the river to the sea” is allowed in some capitals, because it isn’t explicit enough to count as hate speech. (Would they just prefer “Burn, Jew, burn”?).The courts too, seem to have little to no frameworks available to prosecute the anti-Zionists and antisemites who are making our collective Jewish life here in Europe hell.And these Jew-haters are emboldened because they can act with total impunity. They simply moved the goalposts and – when they can be bothered – have just replaced Jew with Zionist, thereby rendering the vast majority of Jews in Europe as the Azazel for their hate. It must be such a relief for them to finally give air to their sulphurous pent-up poison.As I write this, an image from a community in Dortmund has just popped up on WhatsApp. It shows a large graffiti of a Star of David with a swastika inside it.Never again? If European governments are not prepared or are unwilling to turn words into action, these important words will have just been a platitude. And an insulting one at that.The writer is chairman of the European Jewish Association, which represents hundreds of Jewish communities across the continent.

COVID Diary- Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (NL) writes a diary, on request of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, which is published on the website of the NIW, the only Jewish Dutch Magazine. Rabbi Jacobs is the head of Inter Governmental Relationships at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. We will be regularly publishing a selection of his informative, sometimes light hearted, but always wise pieces.
For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page:
Inspired by a wise old lady who very carefully asked my opinion about insulting people, for example in a cartoon, I came to the conclusion that freedom also needs boundaries.
The first question is, of course, what is insulting? I read recently in a paper that “It is to be feared that airline (ELAL) policy will only become more orthodox”. What’s the meaning of this? And what is Orthodox?
To obey the law or not, if that is what is meant by orthodox, is not the same as good or bad. I remember Gerhard and Beppie Caneel, survivors of the war. Good, sweet, gentle people through and through. Both came from the war seriously damaged and yet always cheerful.
They came to the shul every Shabbat, but otherwise they did not really live according to Jewish law. My Judaism is my heart, Gerhard often said. And that was a visible truth. But they were considered Orthodox by members of the congregation who only appeared in the synagogue on the High Holidays, that is, three times a year.
And people who only entered the synagogue on the Day of Atonement thought those High Holiday Jews were orthodox and me probably very orthodox.
In other words: who sets which boundary where? And the most important question: should there be boundaries? Why all those boxes? I am Jewish and just as Jewish as Beppie and Gerhard. And whether I am good? That is determined Above! But I know 100% that Beppie and Gerhard were good people through and through. And so I find “the fear that the ELAL will become more orthodox” a polarising statement. And polarisation is dangerous, whether in word or image.
And so I asked some survivors what they think about that wise old lady’s concern about consciously insulting believers. All survivors I approached shared her view that there should be limits to free speech. Everyone may think that his way of thinking is the only correct one, but there must be room for others to have a different opinion. If I condemn a different religion or way of life in razor-sharp words, it should be possible. But if my conviction calls for killing or discriminating against the other, then I must be called to order and put under lock and key because of sedition.
But what if I just insult? If that is allowed, why are we, as a Jewish community, so excited about the floats in Aalst? Anything and everything is possible, right?
Some years ago I was confronted with an educational audiovisual program from the churches. The images were formed with sand. There were images and a narrator. The subject was the origin of Christianity. Supporters and opponents of the new religion were all Jews.
But in the broadcast, the opponents had long noses, all looked very angry and gave the impression that they were bad people. How will those images affect the youthful viewers of that program? We went to the makers of the program with a minister friend, with the result that they adjusted the entire program. Their intention was absolutely not to incite hatred! I am a staunch fanatical super ultra-orthodox advocate of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But what if violence ensues as a result of being insulted?
What then? That old wise lady is of the opinion that insulting is also wrong. I share her opinion.
I find it unacceptable to destroy fellow human beings spiritually, deeply hurting them. And so I can protest against the float in Aalst because I experience it as insulting.
The Jew with a long nose, tons of money and dollar signs. I can also go to court. But violence against a float that proclaims a message that I find dangerous, taking the law into your own hands or calling for the right to take into your own hands: no way!
And so I think that old wise lady, herself a survivor of the Shoah, is right. Anything and everything is allowed, but not unlimited. And that is why I was so delighted that I was allowed to lay a wreath in front of the Jewish monument with Mayor Marcouch in Arnhem last Sunday, despite corona.
An Islamic mayor and a Jewish rabbi stood hand in hand (because of corona only in spirit) to demonstrate that what could happen then must never happen again. And a few hours later, during the virtual commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Protestant Churches declared loud and clear in a statement that together, from a deep sense of belonging, we will fight against anti-Semitism and for friendship.
Freedom of expression, of the press, of belief: Certainly. But…with limits!

Chanukah distribution of Menorahs and candles

Shabbat Shalom, Europe!
The EJA is happy to announce that we are distributing Menorahs and candles for various congregations across all corners of Europe!
We kindly request that you fill in the form to be found through this link:
Have a wonderful day!

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