Terrorism is now permanent a feature of our lives as is the constant need to guard against it. With the upsurge in antisemitism all over Europe, a terrorist incident with antisemitic overtones was bound to be on the cards. The murders in Paris therefore while shocking were not so surprising.
Copenhagen though was a different matter. There has been no long record of antisemitism in Denmark and the exemplary record of the Danes during the Second World war is well known. As there was no colonial engagement between Denmark and the Muslim world it was not to be expected that the country had a large Muslim population containing potential jihadists.
All this made the killings in Copenhagen more shocking, not only to Jews around the world but to the Danish government and public. Last night a ceremony was held in the main synagogue in Copenhagen to mark the end of the shivah for Dan Uzan the heroic security guard killed in the attack. The Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, (Neil Kinnock’s daughter in law) attended as did the leaders of all but one of the political parties in Denmark – the one missing leader had attended the day before and was represented by his deputy. Ms Thorning-Schmidt had not wished to speak but simply to attend and pay her respects.In the event she dis speak, movingly, and emphasised the vital role Jews play and have played in Danish society and history.
The service took place in an Orthodox synagogue but was cross communal with mixed seating and was both dignified and moving. I attended as a representative of the Board and the bodies to which it is affiliated, the ELC and WJC. I could not help being touched by the presence of so many of the religious denominations in Denmark as well as the great and the good of that country.
As I left the impressive 19th century building I saw a plaque commemorating the visit of King Christian on the 100th anniversary of its construction. The plaque was dated 1933. Just two months after the visit, the Nazis came to power and the Danish monarchy and government sent an unequivocal message to their mighty neighbour to the south that its attitude to Jews was very different from that of Hitler’s. The ocean of flowers outside the synagogue last night conveyed the same message. We have allies outside our community and should be grateful for them.
Vivian Wineman is the Board’s president
Is your synagogue or organisation thinking of joining the Board of Deputies?
Contact: email@example.com for further information about what is involved, the election timetable and procedures.