Carinne Sjoberg peeling off a sticker that neo-Nazis left on the door of what used to be the Jewish community center of Umea, Sweden. (Courtesy of Sjoberg)
MALMO, Sweden (JTA) — When Carinne Sjoberg dissolved the Jewish Community of Umea in northern Sweden, she knew it would send shockwaves far beyond the small congregation that she had spent decades building.
The move in May owed to intimidation by neo-Nazis, making it the first time in decades that a Jewish organization in Western Europe acknowledged that it felt compelled to close shop over safety concerns.
Neo-Nazis from the Nordic Resistance Movement, beginning in 2016, pasted stickers with fascist imagery on Umea’s Jewish community center, “making the place look like after Kristallnacht,” Sjoberg said. The closure followed surveillance activity on the center by the neo-Nazis, who published details about individual visitors.
“I didn’t take it lightly,” Sjoberg, a 56-year-old Jewish mother of two, told JTA about the decision to close. “I hate giving neo-Nazis this victory. But I can’t bear the responsibility for people’s lives, not under such threats,” she said of her city’s Jewish community of 70 people.
The closure caused a national uproar. Amid intense media coverage in Sweden of the affair, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven mentioned it in a speech denouncing anti-democracy forces in his country.
But the indignation did little to change the fact that in Sweden, Muslim extremism and the far right are part of a broader set of challenges to Jewish communal life. So while the Jewish community of Stockholm may be growing, the problems are nonetheless causing some Swedish Jews to fear for their future as a minority here.
“We have a vibrant community in Stockholm but even here we face multiple threats, from Muslim extremism to far-right violence,” said Aron Verstandig, president of the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities — an umbrella group with approximately 6,000 members out of Sweden’s estimated 20,000 Jews.
Przyslal Natan Dammas