(JTA) – Several hundred kipah-wearing Jews and non-Jews marched in Sweden as a sign of solidarity with Malmo’s Jews.
Some 400 marchers gathered Saturday outside the synagogue in Malmo and walked to Mollevangs Square, a part of the city with many Muslim immigrants from the Middle East.
Speakers included Brigitta Ohlsson, minister for European Affairs; Willy Silberstein, head of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism; Social Democratic politician Lucian Astudillo; and Jehoshua Kaufman of the Jewish Community of Malmo.
“The idea is to show ourselves and others that we refuse to be afraid or hide our Jewish affiliation,” Fredrik Sieradzki, director of communications for the Jewish community of Malmo, told JTA before the march.
Earlier this year, a rabbi from Malmo was physically assaulted.
In 2010, Malmo Mayor Ilmar Reepalu said that a group of Jews in Malmo who were attacked by Swedish Muslims during a peaceful protest in support of Israel brought the violence upon themselves for not distancing themselves from Israel and its actions during the monthlong Gaza War in 2008-09.
The first walk began in Malmo in January when members of the local synagogue decided to keep on their kipot upon exiting their synagogue. Reports about the march on Facebook helped draw more marchers. Saturday’s walk was the fourth such event in Malmo, which has a Jewish population of approximately 1,800.
It was the first time that a kipah walk was organized by Stockholm’s much larger Jewish community.
On Friday, the newspaper Sydsvenskan ran an Op-Ed by Ohlsson in praise of the kipah walk.
Sieradzki wrote that members of the community were being regularly harassed “predominantly but not exclusively” by young members of Malmo’s large population of residents of Muslim or Middle Eastern background. Anti-Semitic incidents involving members of the community who are visibly Jewish can occur on a daily basis, he said.
“The statement is that Jews should be free to walk in Malmo without fear, and that is sadly not the case right now,” Lena Posner-Korosi, president of the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, told JTA. “Many Jews are frightened to show their affiliation. We in Stockholm are having a kipah march in solidarity with the Malmo community, but for our own sake as well. It`s a signal which says, ‘We are here, we don’t harm you, so don’t harm us.’ ”
Anti-Semitism in Malmo first drew international attention in 2009, when riots broke out due to the presence of Israeli tennis players in the city, which was hosting the Davis Cup.