Strongly Muslim Swedish town trains teachers to combat anti-Semitism

City hall and Jewish community join forces to combat racism in Malmo, where the number of hate crimes against Jews has risen

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Illustrative photo of a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 20, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 20, 2009. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A project to train up to 300 teachers how to counter anti-Semitism and other forms of racism has been launched in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, where one in five residents are Muslim.

Funded by the Swedish government’s youth and civil society agency, it is a joint project of the city and its Jewish community, the Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Hate crimes against Jews in the city have been on the rise and many members of the 15,000-strong Jewish community are reported to be scared.

Teachers who opt to participate in the anti-racism training are being encouraged to use short videos and exercises to help broach the subject of anti-Semitism with their pupils.

The course forms part of a wider program that has produced an exhibition, a book and a DVD based on interviews with Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

Danish Jews arrive in Malmo, Sweden, to show their solidarity with the city's Jewish community. (Photo credit: Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)
Danish Jews arrive in Malmo, Sweden in September 2012 to show their solidarity with the city’s Jewish community. (Photo credit: Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

“We have to talk openly about anti-Semitism and not keep a low profile,” said Fredrik Sieradzki, who runs the Jewish Information Center in Malmö, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

“If we don’t do it, then who will?”

He added: “We have to do something about the hatred that Jews face. That’s why we’ve launched this initiative. We’re also in dialogue with politicians and we’ve taken a number of other initiatives such as kippah walks through the city and offering tours of the synagogue.”

Swedish media has carried reports of teachers concealing their Jewish identity from pupils.

The city’s former mayor has been criticized for failing to address anti-Semitism.

Today, there is deeper understanding of the situation among city officials, Fredrik Sieradzki said.

“We hope to reach those who teach in areas where a large portion of the population has roots in the Middle East, but we can’t control which schools take on the program. It’s up to the school leadership and to individual teachers.”

Two of US president Barack Obama’s special envoys to monitor and combat anti-Semitism have traveled to Malmö to meet city officials and members of the Jewish community, the Chronicle said.

The Malmö Synagogue, the city's one and only (photo credit: CC BY-SA jorchr, Wikimedia)
An illustrative photo of the Malmö Synagogue in Sweden. (photo credit: CC BY-SA jorchr, Wikimedia)

Israel and Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom have locked horns on several occasions over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the wake of last November’s terror attacks in Paris, she identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the factors explaining why “there are so many people who have become radicalized” — comments Israel called “appallingly impudent.”

In December, she accused Israel of carrying out “extrajudicial executions” in response to the spate of attacks by knife-wielding Palestinians.

Appearing at a pro-Israel rally in Stockholm in August, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid accused the Swedish foreign minister of anti-Semitism, for attacking Israel in a way that did not reflect the reality on the ground.

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