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Norway’s Jewish Community is Small but Active

Although the majority among some 50 Israelis who established themselves here are married to non-Jewish women, the local Jewish community is not troubled by mixed marriages. This view was expressed here by the president of Norway’s Jewish community. Harry Koritzinsky, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. This, however, might be due to the fact that in all of Norway, there are only some 15 Jewish marriages each year, Koritzinsky noted. The Jewish community was founded in Norway on June 5, 1892. Some 935 Jews now live in the country, including 100 Jews in the town of Trondheim.

The Trondheim community is worried by the lack of any religious leadership. There are currently vacancies for the posts of town rabbi, synagogue cantor and ritual slaughterer or shochet. As for Oslo, there is a rabbi there, but not more than 15 to 20 Jews come each Saturday to synagogue. This creates a problem that a minyan may not always be assured. The synagogue is a modest but extremely handsome building situated at 13 Bergstien Street. Nearby, on 15 Bergstien Street is the new building of the community center.

In all of Norway there are only three synagogues, and of these, two only are active. The government of Norway pays the Jewish community $4,50 for each inscribed community member, and the local municipalities provide an additional $1.50 grant to their communities for each congregation member. On the bright side, Koritzinsky observed, all congregation members attend Yom Kippur services in Oslo, thus providing their solidarity with Jewry. The official attitude is extremely philo-Semitic. A specific law exists, forbidding anti-Semitic utterings or behavior. But there has hardly been any need at all to implement this piece of legislation.

MANY ORGANIZATIONS FLOURISH

In spite of its small numbers, the local Jewish community has an extremely active life and many organizations flourish in Oslo and elsewhere, according to Koritzinsky. The Zionist Organization of Norway was founded in 1912. Many Norwegians have participated in the Zionist congresses held since that year. The Zionist Organization is currently headed by Hermann Kahan. Norway’s WIZO, in existence since 1914, is headed by Mrs. Berit Demborg.

In 1919 a chapter of the Jewish Scandinavian Youth Organization was founded in Oslo and has continued its work uninterruptedly since then. The Jewish community in Norway participates in summer holiday camps held jointly with the Jewish communities of Sweden and Denmark. Other organizations which are very active here are the local chapter of B’nai B’rith, founded in 1952 and the Jewish National Fund.

The Jewish community center of Oslo was built in the years 1958-60. The building, which cost some $200,000, contains two conference halls, three flights of rooms for community officials, a classroom, library and various meeting rooms for young community members. A “kosher food sale” is held twice a month and on the eve of all Jewish holidays. This year, 325 of Norway’s 935 Jews paid dues to the community, Koritzinsky stated.

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