How to Survive as a Jew in Sweden? Shut up and fade into the woodwork.


Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing a Swedish Zionist activist named Annika Henroth-Rothstein, who recounted her experience advocating for Israel in a country whose tiny Jewish population continues to dwindle due largely to a dangerous increase in antisemitism.  

ANNIKAPIC1

Annika Henroth Rothstein

Recently Ms. Rothstein published a letter which she sent to a writer named Michel Gurfinkiel in response to his extremely important essay at Mosaic (published earlier this month) about the future of European Jewry.  Here it is:

Dear Mr. Gurfinkiel,

On April 26 of this year, I was on a train with my five-year-old son Charlie. We were on our way to spend shabbat with friends in the city. You see, our town, significant in the history of Swedish Jewry, shut its synagogue in the late 90s. All that remains now is a plaque stating that there was once Jewish life here, while we are left with an hour-long train ride every weekend to attend services.

 My son was wearing his kippah as we got on the train. He loves his kippah. He is not yet old enough to know the dangers entailed in wearing it, for this is a fact from which I have tried to protect him. But April 26 would change all that.

There was a gentleman sitting in our reserved seat. An Arab, maybe fifty years old, listening to music. Apologizing for the inconvenience, I asked him politely for our seat. He got up, inspected my son, and then leaned over me, saying: You people always take what you want. You need to learn.

He then walked straight into my son, causing him to fall over, and took the seat behind us.

We sat. Hiding my trembling hands from my son’s sight, I picked up Shabbes for Kids and started to review the week’s Torah portion with him. We hadn’t progressed as far as a page before the man stood up and screamed:  Quiet! I don’t want to hear that! You take what you want and never think of others! Shut up!

He stamped his feet, grunting and glaring at my son. Fighting tears of rage, I assured Charlie that the man was just grumpy and tried to turned the episode into a game, one that required us to remain super quiet for as long as possible. I even managed to coax a conspiratorial smile out of him.

But even this failed to appease our tormentor, who spent the rest of the trip repeatedly kicking the back of my son’s seat. At one point I glanced around our compartment: there were four other people there, four adults witnessing a single mother and her five-year-old child being attacked by a grown man. They did nothing. I tried forcing them to meet my gaze; but they just turned away, put on their headphones, stared at their screens, ignored what was happening in front of them.

I did not summon the railway police. I did not scream back at the man. I know better. I know that the only way to survive as a Jew in my country is not to be seen as one. Not to be exposed but to shut up and fade into the woodwork. I’ve known this for quite some time. Unfortunately, my son knows it now, too.

Read the rest of the letter here.

71 comments on “How to Survive as a Jew in Sweden? Shut up and fade into the woodwork.

  1. The Swedish never seized to be Nazies. Nevertheless, Muslim shaped punishment is on its way.

  2. Having known many folks from Sweden in the US and having spent a week, although many years ago, in Sweden, I see them as dedicated social conformists and would imagine that the Muslims would bother them far more than the Jews. It may be that they are more fearful of Muslim numbers and reputation for violence that they take out all their discomfort on the Jews. Luckily, Swedish Jews will be welcomed when they finally make aliyah. So many Scandinavians enjoy Eilat in the winters.

  3. The guy is a cowardly basket and could use a punch in the face. Having said that I was bemused to read that the writer , althugh Swedish was ” advocating for Israel”

    In your “How we define anti Semitism ” you accuse people of anti Semitism if they ( are )

    “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations”

    Is it time to reconsider your guidelines?

    • When accusing without a shred of proof, then yes, it’s antisemitism. It’s only a word or two away from accusation of blood libel.

    • jasper I will phrase this as simply as possible as I know you have a disconnected relationship with the English language and truth.

      I am European, EU passport holder, born in Wales which makes my nationality Welsh and I advocate for Israel. In advocating for Israel not only is it not against the interest of my own nation, quite the opposite a strong and secure Israel, and the defeat of Islamist terrorists and their fellow travellers, is in the interest of Europe and my nation.
      Is that clear enough for you?

    • “I was bemused to read that the writer , althugh Swedish was ” advocating for Israel””
      Really? As bemused as you would be at Rashid Khalidi advocating for “Palestine?”

      • Moron, there is no Palestine.
        Palestina, as the Romans dubbed it, was where the vacancy left buy JEWS stood.
        and even the Koran states that Israel is for the “People of the Book” or JEWS, so, please STFU!

    • @ jasper

      Neither Annika Henroth Rothstein nor CiFWatch said she was “more loyal to Israel” than e.g. Sweden.

      Strange that you should interpret “advocating for Israel” in that manner …

  4. I wonder whether the other passengers were seeing this man as their proxy in his treatment of Annika and her son, or were they simply afraid to intervene. My feeling at least one of them was both. In any case, Swedes were/are generally seen as “spare Germans”, as in “spare parts”.

  5. I am neither Jewish nor a resident of Europe, but my response to Ms. Hernroth-Rothstein is in the nature of advice, the same advice I give to white Americans who live in majority-black cities, neighborhoods and states: move to where you will be able to live free from threats and violent attacks on the person of you and your child. Nothing else will protect you, as your civil authorities and your fellow Swedes will not protect you. Do so now, before you or your son are the victims of the senseless violence of the Muslim population of Sweden or of your fellow Swedes who are anti-Semites. I do not say this out of animosity toward you or toward Jews, rather in an attempt to persuade you to save your life, as the hatred you have already experienced and the legal climate in your country make it clear that it is 1933 once again in Europe.

    • Geneva Convention on Human Rights stipulates that we have the right to freely choose our place of residence and to live there in peace and safety. We also have the right to demand of our governments to implement and guarantee that these basic rights are upheld. It is NOT Ms. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein who violated these rights. Why should she move from HER country?

      • But what if those rights you speak of no longer exist? Will you help your fellow Jews into the boxcars?

        • No, I’d sabotage the railway tracks before trains start rolling. I learned my WWII resistance history lessons well.

      • The Geneva convention will protect you and yours as well as the law did in this case. Belief in governments’ interest in protecting individual rights is the height of stupidity. Logic dictates =that one moves to where where one’s family can be safe.

    • You’re right Ike. Perhaps Annika should move into a ghetto with her fellow Jews. I’m sure she’d be much safer there!

      • It is not my place to tell her where to go. My advice is and was to move to somewhere where she can feel that she and her children will be safe. A ghetto is not, historically, a safe place; it was designed as a place where you had to be so that the rulers and the bigots could find you easily and do what they wanted to do to you. Israel would be my choice, were I a European Jew in the 21st Century. America would be my second choice. Considerations? Safety.

  6. Ike, just one point on one sentence: I’m wondering what advice you give to black americans who live in majority-white cities (i.e. most cities in the US) where a bias to distrust and profile the non-normative is built into the operation of every institution.

    • If I were a black American, I would prefer to live in a majority-white city rather than a majority-black city. Reason? Safety. Black males commit about 97% of the murders of black people in America. Whites? About 3% of the murders of black people in America. Source? FBI violent crimes report for 2010. That is the advice I would give to black Americans. Your remark about there being, “…a bias to distrust and profile the non-normative …” is entirely disingenuous. Every society distrusts and profiles the deviant; it is a characteristic of a society. Not every society kills the non-normative and therefore it is to one’s advantage to leave a society where it is established that your ethnic group has been killed in wholesale lots before and signs point to another wave of such murders. Distrust and profiling do not equal killing, neither as a practical matter nor as a moral issue.

  7. Trudy, the issue is not mis-trust or “soft” prejudice but the “harder” kind, which completely ostracises and then subjects to physical intimidation and violence.

    For all its ostensible evils, the USA never caused its minority populations to flee en masse. Not so, however, the mass flight of Jewish populations from European and Muslim countries.

    • Mensch:

      “For all its ostensible evils, the USA never caused its minority populations to flee en masse.”

      Really?
      Relocation doesn’t count?
      Reserves doesn’t count?
      Sounds like the native american are still not a part of the US to some.

      • At the risk of sounding rude, America has a long way to go to match Europe’s mistreatment of its ethnic minorities. Yes, blacks were lynched in the “Jim Crow” era; approximately 9,000 of them over a 50-year period. How many “undesirables” were killed in the gas chambers of the Third Reich? How many Armenians were murdered in Turkey? How many … do I need to go on? Further, I would point out that in the last ten years in America more blacks have been killed by blacks than were lynched by whites in the entire Jim Crow era.

  8. The author had me until the point where she said the prevention of animal torture and child mutilation was an assault on the Jewish people.

      • Don’t be so sure . I read it twice before I slowed down and kept thinking about the fact that I have called an anti-Semite for mentioning the fact that some Jewish people seem to think loyalty to another county isn’t weird. Here people are admitting it openly.

        In fact if I had said to Adam before he went to Israel he was disloyal to the US I would have been called an anti semite according to the rules of CIFWatch.Yet there he is.

        • jasper are you being deliberately obtuse? Or are you genuinely obtuse?
          There is not a third option.

          Make up your mind, and then as my Scots friends say “Away and bite your arse!”

        • jasper:

          ” some Jewish people seem to think loyalty to another county isn’t weird.”

          Many people have dual nationality or move to another country and have feelings for both.

          But to you racist jasper, if a Jew does it it must be bizarre.

          I guess to some natural selection was less kind.
          jasper must be one of those stubs that will decline or maintain its ability while humans may rise.

        • Jasper is an Obtuse, Flaming ARSE!!
          I should find every post you have commented on and haunt you.
          But I will just call you the ARSE that you are..

  9. Sadly this happens in many parts of Europe and not only against Jews.
    People are scared to get involved not realizing that tomorrow it could be them.

    Saying that this particular incident is disgusting and certain people on this thread like jasper (with a lower case “J” none the less – must be thinking highly of himself) seem to excuse it by insisting that the Jew lady deserved it cause she supported Israel at one point in her life or another.

    • I am not saying you cannot be loyal to two countries.My complaint is that in the section “How we define anti Semitism ” one of the signs of being an anti semite is saying Jewish people are loyal to Israel.

      I am asking that this section be revised. People here are falling over themselves to prove my point

      • “…one of the signs of being an anti semite is saying Jewish people are loyal to Israel. ”
        No jasper that is NOT what the section says, as you should know. You ‘copied and pasted’ it yesterday at the start of this thread. To refresh your memory this is what it says;
        “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations”

        If you cannot, or more likely do not want to, see the difference then it says a lot about you.

        • “More loyal to Israel? ”

          Several posters here have said she should go to Israel. Is that being more loyal ? And what about the thousands who have left the strongest country in the world to emigrate. Are we even allowed to mention their loyalty or does that bring a cascade of ” anti semite ”

          ” it says a lot about you.”

          You have no idea about me …not a hundredth of one percent. And me you. Kindly put away the crystal ball .

          • “You have no idea about me ”
            At least you are consistent jasper.
            Consistently wrong that is.

            Every time you post on this site it leaves a ‘footprint’ of the kind of person you are.
            You might think you are covering your tracks by using all sorts of made up names and persona. But one, you do not have the intellectual ability to pull it off and two, it just exposes your true character even more.

            No one needs a crystal ball to see what you are jasper, all anyone needs to do is read your posts, painful as they are, and it is clear for all to see.

            • You are such a lightweight I am amazed you can keep your feet in a gale. You are trying to pigeon hole me and could not do this with a team of dedicated students.

              I want a powerful Israel, a safe Israel as a Jewish state . I condemn any attack on any Israeli even an IDF soldier in uniform . I simply want Israel to abide by world opinion and move to the 67 lines.

              Israel in in great danger. The US is sinking on a daily basis and can only afford to be a quartermaster for another few years. Then the billion people pissed off on a daily basis will stir. It wont be pretty.

              • “You are trying to pigeon hole me ”
                No jasper, you ‘pigeon-hole’ yourself without any help from me or anyone else.

                “I simply want Israel to abide by world opinion and move to the 67 lines.”
                Wrong, as usual, jasper. That is not ‘world opinion’ , whatever that is, it is not even the meaning and intent of Resolution 242.

          • jasper:

            “Several posters here have said she should go to Israel. Is that being more loyal ?”

            Nope, that’s seeking a refuje.

            “You have no idea about me …”

            Best check your mirrors more often when you drive. There could be a Mossad shark lurking about.

  10. I am a Christian who loves God, and loves the Jewish people, but even beyond that with religion aside, I am an ex-Canadian soldier from the mid 80′s…… and old fashioned. I would have stood up and helped in any way I could have. When a lady is in distress, it’s what men are supposed to do shame for people not brave enough to help.

    • Careful Martin. Jasper is going to accuse you of being a traitor to Christianity. After all you “love the Jewish people”. He doesn’t see that it might be possible for someone to have affection for one thing/place/group while remaining loyal to another. For him, to be a good Christian, you must entirely reject all others (except the Palestinians of course) otherwise you are a traitor.

      • ” you “love the Jewish people”. ”

        Hes not alone. My entire life has been shaped by Jewish people I know many disagree that Marx was Jewish but his intellect was surely created because of the astonishing literacy that has been the hallmark of these people throughout history . Also as a very young child in America I watched Sid Caesar , the Marx Bros and a hundred others, my 2 favourite singers in the 60s were Jewish .

        I am a comedy writer and I often think I could have been a wonderful Jewish comic because I am so influenced by Jews. However unfortunately Im not funny!

  11. No one standing up for a child!!
    Of all the unmitigated gall, to bully a child!
    This man should have been hung, drawn and quartered from a pole in the public square.
    Forget your religion, your heritage, as a FATHER, as a HUMAN, love a CHILD!
    Those people who witnessed this atrocity, may their minds suddenly become aware of what they have put a CHILD through.
    I am an AMERICAN, and although this country is wavering, those of use who still pursue justice, will be here one day for you too.
    Stand for Justice, for Right, for Children..

  12. The disappointing thing is that no one assisted her in the train. That seems to be classic ‘Swedes not getting involved’. Sweden has done itself a major disservice by allowing in so many Moslems. The whole nation will severely regret it as they continue to multiply at an alarming rate. Annika, you either need to live in an area covered by an erev, where there are other ‘Frommers’ such as yourself, or you’re probably going to get more trouble from these momsers.

    • “. The whole nation will severely regret it as they continue to multiply at an alarming rate. ”

      Hilarious. True comedy. You just cannot see it can you? And we all thought Leni Riefenstahl died ten years ago. But her legacy certainly hasn’t.

      • And we all thought Leni Riefenstahl died ten years ago. But her legacy certainly hasn’t.
        Correct jasper. Your posts are the best evidence.

        • ” Your posts are the best evidence ”

          Tu quoque ? Is that really all you have to offer ? How many nobels in Literature have your people won and you use tu quoque? I guess there has to be a disappointment in every family.

    • I think Judaism will destroy itself through internecine conflicts, just like Islam.
      And exactly what part of the article supports that contention?

  13. The United Nations Association of Sweden published a report on racism in July 2013.
    This is from the section on the ‘Jewish Minority’

    “THE JEWISH MINORITY
    MAIN CONCERNS
    • Sweden was among the top three countries in Europe in 2009 in reported
    crimes connected with anti-Semitism.
    • 30 % of hate crimes with a religious motive are anti-Semitic.
    • One out of five high school students has a negative attitude towards Jewish
    people.
    The number of reported hate crimes with anti-religious motives increased
    between 2010 and 2012, and 30 % of these crimes were registered as anti-Semitic
    hate crimes. According to a study on high school students’ attitudes, one out of
    five declared to have a negative perception of Jewish people. It is common that
    hate crimes with anti-religious motives take place in religious buildings, such as
    synagogues. Studies show that the threat against Jewish congregations is aggravated when Jewish organizations are visible in the media.
    An international survey shows that Sweden was among the top three countries
    in Europe in 2009 in reported crimes connected with anti-Semitism. Jewish
    congregations are commonly exposed to threats and vandalism.”

    http://www.fn.se/global/Pdfer/CERD%202013.pdf

  14. You are a coward and you are teaching your son to be a coward. You should have bunched the Amalekite bastard in the face the moment he made his first comment.

    • Her son is four years old. Added to which, if she’d started with physical violence, not only would she likely have received the worst of it (in front of her son), she would also have committed a criminal offence (assault).

      Not the best lesson for a mother to teach her son, is it?

    • Rikayon and what lesson do you think the other passengers who just sat there deaf and mute, while a Mother and young child were being abused, taught the child?

    • Earlier I suggested that the guy could use a punch but I am a guy. I cannot believe you are ignoring the fact that women are not as strong as men. To call her a coward is harsh . We can all be heroes in our living room…you probably know this already

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