By Suzi Brozman / email@example.com Photo by Kim Bach via Flickr – Flowers line the fence outside Copenhagen’s Grand Synagogue the day after the fatal shooting of volunteer Jewish guard Dan Uzan during a bat mitzvah party Feb. 15.
Last month I interviewed Johanna Bach-Frommer, a half-American, half-Danish woman who was a close friend of slain synagogue guard Dan Uzan. My article focused on the immediacy of his death, the pain and the details Bach-Frommer could add to the sparse information available through international media.
But we also talked at length about what is on everybody’s minds these days: How do Denmark’s Jews cope with what seems to be an inhospitable environment? How do they get along with the Muslim population? What is life like in a community under siege?
Denmark’s prime minister has promised loudly and often to protect the Jews. They are Danes, citizens and an integral part of Denmark’s fabric.
Many Danish Jews are furious at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for suggesting that the country’s, and the entire continent’s, Jewish population should immigrate to Israel.
“We are Danes, and we are at home,” Bach-Frommer said. “Yes, there are problems. Police guards with rifles may have to protect schools. We don’t know for sure or for how long. Being Jewish is a nonissue here ordinarily. We aren’t supposed to wear a chai, a kippah, a Star of David right now. There’s no need to provoke people, and no one can guarantee safety in this case.”
Despite the closing of Copenhagen’s one Jewish radio station and the temporary closing of the Jewish school, there is a spirit of cooperation and support between the Jewish and Muslim populations, taking advantage of organizations that exist to foster communication.
An outpouring of love and solidarity has come not just from Jews and from Muslims, but from Danes of all beliefs.
The problem, according to many commentators, is the attitude toward Israel. Anti-Israel activities and organizations have wide government support. Israel is accused of human rights violations, and Jews are often tainted by that broad brush.
It’s also an election year, putting extra emphasis on events and situations that hurt the Jewish population. People wonder whether the synagogue attack early Feb. 15 was a one-off Danish event or part of the series of terroristic activities across Europe.
“Denmark likes the underdog,” Bach-Frommer said. “Muslims are the Jews of the new generation, based largely on what is going on in Israel. We need to protect the minority — the Jews are now the minority, and we need protection. But we also need to be careful that our reactions don’t become overreactions.”
She wrote on Facebook: “The lump in my throat and heart thawed when we saw the many people who came to pay their respects to Dan at the funeral today. Dan touched so many lives with his warmth and humor. As our Rabbi said, the most important thing is how we live our lives while we are here. People came not because Dan died, but because of who he was when he was alive. Dan created joy around him. That joy and warmth is not buried with Dan today, we take it with us. Thank you Dan.”