In Denmark, ‘When, Not If’

In Denmark, ‘When, Not If’

By Suzi Brozman

Johanna Bach-Frommer, a half-American woman who is integral to Copenhagen’s tightknit Jewish community, was away from Denmark when news broke early Feb. 15 of a shooting death at the city’s largest synagogue.

She and her family instinctively knew who the victim was.

Dan Uzan, 37, was a 6-foot-5 volunteer guard described as a gentle giant, a warm and protective person always doing anything and everything for others. He died helping police protect some 80 guests celebrating a bat mitzvah.

Copenhagen’s Jews are convinced that Uzan and the armed guards, on duty in response to recent anti-Semitic violence in Europe, prevented a massacre.

Uzan had been a volunteer guard since age 17 and took courses to increase his skills. He was active in the Jewish community, played baseball and soccer, and took part in the Maccabi Games.

Flowers outside the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen on Feb. 15 memorialize the Jewish man killed there in a terrorist attack.
Photo by Kim Bach from Taastrup, Denmark.

“He was one of those people everyone liked — such a nice guy,” said Bach-Frommer, connected to the Atlanta Jewish Times through a friend. “You always felt safe and protected when he was around. And he gave his life for it in the end.”

Being a volunteer guard is a Jewish custom in Copenhagen. Parents and others, usually under age 40, volunteer at synagogues and at the facility for Jewish nursery school through high school.

Within hours, police killed the suspected attacker, described as a 22-year-old Palestinian who spent most of his life in Denmark but did live in a refugee camp in Jordan and is believed to have become radicalized during a year in jail.

“Dan would have hated if his memory would have been used to divide people. That would not have been in his spirit,” Bach-Frommer said. “We appreciate the outpouring of love and solidarity. We are in shock but not shocked. It was a case of when, not if.”

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