Rabbi Rebecca Lillian on the Malmö JCC Attack

Photo: AFP (via Tablet)

Please read this blog post by my dear friend Rabbi Rebecca Lillian, who currently lives in Malmö, Sweden. You may know that Malmö has experienced its share of anti-Semitism of late and that some members of the Jewish community have left the city as a result.

Sadly, the Malmö Jewish Community Center was damaged last week by an explosive device and rocks that were thrown through the Center’s windows.  Rebecca, who happens to live in the JCC, wrote powerfully about her experience of the attack – as well as the subsequent show of solidarity by Malmö’s Network for Faith and Understanding (which includes local churches and mosques.)

In her post, she also has some choice words to say about how the Jewish press and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in particular has been egregiously misrepresenting the situation in Malmö for political purposes:

The real jolt came after Shabbat, as I read the Jewish press. That ubiquitous hyperbolic headline about the blast “rocking” our building irritated me, but the articles were essentially accurate. I was disappointed that nobody had followed up with a story about the multi-faceted vigil. Readers all over the world who have been following the story of anti-Semitic hate crimes in Malmö should also learn about our concerned neighbors who literally rushed to our side. What made me explode, though, was that the Jewish Journal of LA had the chutspa to publish a Reuters photo of the vigil next to an indefensible rant by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper.

Rabbi Cooper has already declared Malmö an unsafe travel destination for Jews. Now he suggests that those of us who live here might soon need to flee for Israel or elsewhere. “Ayn Soamchin Al Haness” — we cannot rely on miracles to secure the safety of Jewish children. “Clearly time is running out for Malmö,” he writes, along with other overstated claims.

Rabbi Cooper must know that it is dry season in the Jewish blogosphere. Pamela Geller, she of the Isalmophobic ads on New York City buses, borrowed from Cooper’s screed to come to the offensive conclusion that “Malmo has become as bad for Jews as Berlin at the height of the WWII. With its very large Muslim population, Islamic attacks against the Jews are part of the social fabric in Malmo. It’s pure hell.”  Such mendacity desecrates the memory of those Jews who died in Berlin and dishonors those who survived. She cynically uses their name to buttress her anti-Muslim fabrications, which have zero to do with the Jewish community of Malmö.

Time has not run out for us. On the contrary, while the bursts of hate are anonymous and cowardly, the eloquent expressions of support are said aloud by well-known community leaders and residents from all over the region. It is time for Cooper and Geller and the countless Jewish bloggers who quote them to stop crying wolf.


4 Comments on “Rabbi Rebecca Lillian on the Malmö JCC Attack”

  1. sheree waks says:

    Thanks for this. It is certainly a relief to hear there is an alternative to the hateful behaviour being shown, and that so many from other faiths are expressing support. I certainly didn’t see reference to that when reading about Malmo elsewhere.

  2. Sylvia says:

    We the “tribalists” who have been eating their fingernails for years watching witth anguish one community slowly disappear, are accustomed to those well-meaning bursts of “interfaith piety”. And despite “dialogues” and “interfaith forums” and the like, the reality that must be confronted is that the Malmo Jewish community is now reduced to one third of what is was just a few years ago, not to mention those Jews who have had to cede their home or business and investment of a lifetime for next to nothing because it has become untenable and unsafe.

    Here is a *2010* direct response – among many – by BBC reporter Wendy Robbins who went to investigate – in 2010 I repeat – the situation in Malmo. An apt response to Rebecca Lillian and other enablers.

    “Malmö’s Hate Crime Prevention Forum: More Diatribe than Dialogue”

    http://swedenisrael.blogspot.co.il/2010/12/malm%C3%B6s-hate-crime-prevention-forum-more.html

    • Sylvia,

      As Rebecca actually lives in Malmö and participates actively in the community there, I believe she is a much better position to judge the actual situation there than you. And as she has very convincingly addressed the content and agenda of the Jewish blogosphere’s reporting on this issue, I’d say you are making a fairly paltry case by linking to an anonymous post from a Jewish blog.

  3. @Sylvia:
    I appreciate your interest in the Malmö Jewish community. I do not understand, however, how my report contradicts the content of the anonymous blog you cited. I mentioned the local rabbi who has endured deplorable physical and verbal attacks; who understandably feels under siege. If the recent events had—has v’shalom—included another such assault, my remarks would have been quite different. When I spoke with the rabbi shortly after last week’s anonymous act of violence against our building, incidently, he clearly stated that they are planning to stay in Malmö.

    Whence your data that the Malmö Jewish community has “shrunk by one third?” The only barometer we have for knowing precisely how many Jews live here is by the number of households who belong to the Jewish community. This has shrunk, but not because Jews are fleeing Malmö. They are still here but, sadly, they have found fewer and fewer reasons for keeping up their membership. This is not a problem unique to Sweden. Most American rabbis I know say the same thing.

    We have greater challengers here, though. Until about 18 months ago, there was only one congregation in Malmö, the Orthodox one. The small egalitarian group that now exists does not have the resources to be a full-service synagogue. Nonetheless, there were at least 150 people in the room last May 5, when we celebrated the first Bat Mitzvah in Malmö. Word is slowly spreading that there are alternative ways of being Jewish here. A sizable group of Malmö Jews—several of whom are not (yet) members of the community—are on the steering group of Öresundslimmud, which also has members in Lund and Copenhagen. (See http://www.oresundslimmud.org ) A recently formed group, “Jewish Families with Young Children,” is reaching out to families of every constellation who wish to raise Jewish children.

    From where I sit—on the 5th floor of the Malmö Jewish community center—it is far more productive to create meaningful Jewish experiences for the diverse Jews who live here than it is to bite one’s nails. If you would like to help us build our community, we would certainly appreciate any donation that you would offer.


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