Denmark’s shaken Jewish community on Sunday grappled with the morning attack on a Copenhagen synagogue that killed a security guard who was a beloved member of the community, with some saying they anticipated an attack of this kind for some time.
“People are shocked, but not surprised. People thought this kind of thing would come to Denmark and even the synagogue,” Adam Melchior, a member of Copenhagen’s Jewish community, told The Times of Israel.
“They knew there was a possibility that this would happen,” Melchior said, explaining that a community crisis response team was set up before the attack.
There are an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Jews in Denmark, including about 2,000 active members of the Jewish community. The community had voiced complaints that the threat of anti-Semitism was getting increasingly more widespread — particularly from elements within the country’s Muslim population.
Melchior, who is currently serving as a volunteer in the IDF, said he is considering immigrating to Israel and maintained that the attack would likely drive other community members to do the same.
“If people were considering aliya before, they will probably consider it ever more now,” he said.
‘An amazing, amazing guy’
Dan Uzan, the attack’s sole fatality and an active member of Copenhagen’s Jewish community, was labeled as a hero in the wake of the shooting. Uzan had volunteered to protect the synagogue on Saturday night as a bat mitzvah celebration was held inside.
The slain guard was a talented basketball player, received a degree in politics, spoke fluent Hebrew and lived in Israel for a period of time, according to Yair Melchior, the country’s chief rabbi.
“He was a person who was always willing to help. An amazing, amazing guy,” said Rabbi Melchior, who later described the 37-year-old as “irreplaceable.”
Adam Melchior, a cousin of the chief rabbi who is currently serving in the IDF’s Givati Brigade, spoke highly of Uzan, his friend.
“He was a great guy, always loving and charismatic. He was a loyal friend,” the soldier said.
Bat mitzvah guests hide in the basement
The shooting occurred just after midnight, as 80 friends and family members were celebrating the bat mitzvah of a community member.
The mother of the bat mitzvah girl told Israel’s Channel 2 news that guests and children were forced to hide in a basement for two hours after the gunman opened fire on the Jewish house of worship.
The guests were eventually escorted out under heavy guard through a back door, and put onto buses which took them to a police station, where they stayed until 8 a.m.
She thanked the police and other guards for being “heroes” and worrying about the guests’ safety.
— Vibe Klarup (@VibeKlarup) February 15, 2015
The community had previously asked police for enhanced security, and following last month’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, Denmark police began reevaluating security arrangements, Rabbi Melchior said.
After an earlier shooting attack Saturday at a free-speech event in the city, police beefed up security at the Jewish community building where the event was being held, Melchior said. The gunman who killed Uzan in the attack just after midnight on Saturday-Sunday, who was later named as Omar El-Hussein, a 22-year-old Dane, also shot and wounded two police officers outside the synagogue.
Uzan’s family is active in Copenhagen’s Jewish community, Rabbi Melchior said, and Uzan attended Jewish school and joined the community’s security efforts from a young age.
Uzan wanted younger community members to replace him in the security detail, the chief rabbi said, but the community convinced him to remain at his post.