Anti-Semitic Violence in Copenhagen: Responding With Solidarity, Not Cynicism


Another week, another tragic hate crime – this time in Copenhagen, in which a gunman attacked a cultural center during a program on freedom of expression, killing 55 year old film director Finn Nørgaard, then shortly thereafter shot and killed Dan Uzan, 37, who was guarding a synagogue during a Bat Mitzvah celebration. Three police officers were wounded during the first attack and two during the second. The gunman, whose identity has not yet been made public, was reportedly “on the radar” of Danish intelligence services and may have been “inspired by militant Islamist propaganda.”

There was a chilling similarity between this attack and a murderous incident in a Parisian kosher market in which four Jewish hostages – Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada – were brutally executed. I use the word chilling because I know all too well that incidents such as these conjure up our worst fears about Jewish life in Europe.

Alas, there are many in the Jewish community who are more than willing to respond to these kinds of attacks by cynically playing on those fears. None more so that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu who, in the wake of the Paris killings exhorted French Jews to flee Europe and immigrate to Israel:

To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home…This week, a special team of ministers will convene to advance steps to increase immigration from France and other countries in Europe that are suffering from terrible anti-Semitism.

At the time, I couldn’t help but wonder at the twisted logic of Netanyahu’s invitation: telling the Jews of France to flee their homes to the safety and security of a over-militarized Jewish garrison state in the Middle East, where just last summer Israeli citizens spent day after day running for their lives to bomb shelters?

And on still more twisted level, I couldn’t help but note how Netanyahu’s attitude toward Europe ironically plays into the designs of the worst European anti-Semites. Ha’aretz bureau chief Chemi Shalev nailed it perfectly with this tweet:

Call for mass Jewish emigration helps terrorists finish the job started by Nazis and Vichy: making France Judenrein.

Following the Paris attacks, I was enormously heartened by the strong response of French Jewry to Netanyahu’s heavy-handed overtures. After he spoke at a Paris synagogue, he was forced to stand by awkwardly when the congregation spontaneously burst into the French national anthem. He was also dressed down by Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, who said in an interview:

Every such Israeli campaign severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are. The reality is that a large majority of European Jews do not plan to emigrate to Israel. The Israeli government must recognize this reality… and cease this Pavlovian reaction every time Jews in Europe are attacked.

Netanyahu clearly has not gotten the message. Following yesterday’s attacks in Copenhagen, he’s played the same cynical card, calling for “massive immigration” and making a thinly reference to the Holocaust by telling Danish Jews:

Jews were killed on European land just because they were Jewish. This wave of attacks will continue. I say to the Jews of Europe – Israel is your home.

Again, it seems European Jewry is having none of it. Denmark’s Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior has said today that he was “disappointed” in Netanyahu’s remarks, adding “Terror is not a reason to move to Israel.”

No, the answer to European anti-Semitism is most decidedly not to adopt a Zionist victim mentality and urge the poor Jews of Europe to flee for their lives. Quite the opposite.

I said as much during my sermon this last Yom Kippur:

What should be our response as we read these reports of rising European anti-Semitism? I would suggest that the answer is not to put our faith in nationalism and militarism to keep the Jewish people safe. I believe our first response should be to understand that anti-Semitism is but one form of racism and prejudice – and as such it is no different than the intolerance that is directed toward any people or group in the world who are perceived as “other.” The appropriate response, it seems to me, is not to recede behind higher walls or build stronger weapons, but rather to find common cause and solidarity with all who are being targeted in this way. To publicly affirm that the well-being of the Jewish people is irrevocably connected to the well-being of every group victimized by racism.

From Paris to Chapel Hill to Copenhagen: the answer, as ever, is to redouble our efforts toward solidarity, democracy, and pluralism no matter where we happen to live.

11 thoughts on “Anti-Semitic Violence in Copenhagen: Responding With Solidarity, Not Cynicism

  1. Joe Casey

    Do we know for a fact that the 4 Jewish hostages were “brutally executed” in France as asserted by this article. I closely read news reports on that event and, while they certainly were written in such a way to imply that is what happened, nobody ever came right out and said so or gave any details to support that conclusion. And given that their deaths occurred during the police assault, I would guess the likelihood is that they were accidentally killed by the cops. But this does not fit anyone’s narrative. Certainly not the police and the French government and also not the “Jews are always victims and always under assault ” crew.

      1. Joe Casey

        Rabbit Rosen. Still waiting for you to inform me as to where I can read those eyewitness testimonies you assert you have read. I have scoured the internet. And wondering why you reference a body camera since none of us have seen any video from this camera you claim the terrorist wore. I know you couldn’t just be making stuff up.

    1. Arthur

      The 4 victims from the Kosher supermarket attack were killed at the very beginning: Coulibaly shot three of them when he got into the place, and the last one was killed when he tried to pick one of his weapons but was shot before he could use it. No one except for Coulibaly was killed during the police assault as the police were able to get a pretty good idea of the disposition of the place thanks to the help of a technician who had made some maintenance work there the week before and to a worker there who had managed to escape.

  2. 2skipper

    Another very tragic tale of anti Jewish sentiment in Europe. Although I do believe the incidents have increased along with the attacks on the press and newspapers and others the response of the prime Minister of Israel was totally avery negative and inappropriate response. To suggest that know all Jews must run to Israel is foolish and driven with instilling a paranoia toward europe. incidents such as the ones that happened are nothing new just as attacks on many other countries in the world. People have long standing roots in many of these Countries such as Jews do in the United States. this is just an election ploy by the prime minister.All countries must band together to stop these horrific acts from happening. turning to Israel for protection is unwise and dangerous. all Countries in Europe have responded with increased protection toward Jewish communities and the populations in most countries seem to be one of solidarity in the countries they live in.

  3. agata_niedermann

    Thank you for this text, Rabbi. It must be emphasized over and over again that another exodus from Europe, out of fear will lead to a stronger establishment of anti-Semitism and racism in Europe. For Israel, on the other hand it will create new highly qualified, experienced workforce, but also…another pretext to expand, and expand its territory… The problem is not even the lacking security in Israel, as in fact, many feel much more secure in Israel than in some European countries. The real problem is that this time we must simply not allow another outflow of Europe. This would be a defeat of democracy and of freedom, we so much want to believe in in Europe.
    It’s really high time for the European Jews to speak out. But not to limit themselves to talk about the past, about the Shoah. Not to get dragged into political discussions about Israel, but to make it clear that they don’t consider migration to Israel out of support for this state’s policies, but out of lack of choice, out of fear. It’s time to share the fears and the experiences with the societies they live in and not let others (read: Netanyahu and co.) speak for them.

  4. Alvin

    The secular left and moderate Muslims must stand up for the Jewish people in their midst…wherever that may be….there is no other answer…not withstanding what ever actions Israel takes…the world can not hold their Jews hostage against Israel…

  5. Jan Fearing

    Thank you very much Rabbi Rosen for this insight. I had for decades been an American Christian Zionist – without have a clue what that means. Now I am a Christian, still in love with the Jewish people (and Muslims now) but no longer supportive of everything Mr. Netanyahu says and does – or other Israeli leaders either – which has led me to be accused of anti-Semitism! I appreciate your honestly.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s