‘I wish I didn’t have a bat mitzvah and Dan was alive’
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‘I wish I didn’t have a bat mitzvah and Dan was alive’

Mother of girl who celebrated at Copenhagen synagogue recalls the attack that claimed life of Jewish guard

Heavily armed police officers watch a woman laying flowers outside the main synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 15, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Odd Andersen)
Heavily armed police officers watch a woman laying flowers outside the main synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 15, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Odd Andersen)

The mother of the girl who was celebrating her bat mitzvah at a Copenhagen synagogue Saturday when a gunman opened fire outside, killing one Jewish security guard, recalled the attack with horror and grief on Monday, and expressed sorrow at the death of the beloved community member, Dan Uzan.

“Only an hour beforehand I went out to bring [Uzan] cakes and sandwiches,” Mette Bentow told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. “All of the sudden the celebration looks vain. [My daughter] Hannah told me ‘Mom, I wish I had not had a bat mitzvah and that Dan would have stayed alive.'”

Bentow said guests and children were forced to hide in a basement for two hours following the shooting.

“We were dancing and singing, and suddenly the second guard entered and told us to turn the music down,” she said. “We were not aware that there was gunfire outside.”

This photo, provided by Sebastian Zepeda, shows the scene near a synagogue where police reported a shooting in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 (photo credit: AP Photo/Rasmus Thau Riddersh)
This photo, provided by Sebastian Zepeda, shows the scene near a synagogue where police reported a shooting in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 (photo credit: AP Photo/Rasmus Thau Riddersh)

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.

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, according to Yair Melchior, the country’s chief rabbi.

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 the 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 Melchior.

“He was a person who was always willing to help. An amazing, amazing guy,” said Melchior, who later described the 37-year-old as “irreplaceable.”

Copenhagen Jewish community guard Dan Uzan, killed in a February 15 terrorist attack (screen capture: Channel 2)
Copenhagen Jewish community guard Dan Uzan, killed in a February 15 terrorist attack (screen capture: Channel 2)

Adam Melchior, a cousin of the chief rabbi who is currently serving in the IDF’s Givati Brigade, also spoke highly of Uzan, his friend.

“He was a great guy, always loving and charismatic. He was a loyal friend,” the soldier told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

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, Rabbi 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.

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.

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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