Jewish population: 6,400
The Jewish Community in Denmark is an officially recognized religious community with approximately 2,400 members, though according to most estimates there are some 6,400 Jews in Denmark.
Denmark was the first Scandinavian country to permit Jewish settlement (Jews were prohibited entry into Denmark after the Reformation in 1536). In 1622, King Christian IV invited Spanish and Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam and Hamburg to settle in Gluckstadt on the Elbe estuary (then in Denmark). While these Jews were granted economic and religious freedom, Ashkenazim from Germany were subject to many restrictions. In 1684, the unified Jewish community of Copenhagen was established by ordinance of King Christian V. Civic equality was eventually granted to Jews in 1814, and by 1849 they had attained full citizenship.
Only a small number of Jews resided outside Copenhagen. Remnants of now-defunct provincial communities can still be found in ten Danish towns. The two oldest Jewish cemeteries were established approximately 300 years ago in Fredericia and Nakskov.
As the Enlightenment reached Denmark in the late 18th century, the king instituted a number of reforms to facilitate the integration of Danish subjects into the larger society. Jews were allowed to join guilds, study at university, buy real estate, and establish schools. The early 19th century saw a flourishing of Danish-Jewish cultural life, and a number of Jews rose to prominence, including the art benefactor and editor Mendel Levin Nathanson, the writer Meir Aron Goldschmidt, and the founder of the newspaper Politiken, Edvard Brandes.
In the early 20th century, pogroms in Eastern Europe, the Russo–Japanese War in 1904, and the Russian Revolution led to an influx of several thousand Jewish refugees into Denmark, of whom approximately 3,000 settled permanently in the country. With the advent of Nazism, a small number of Jews from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia also found sanctuary in Denmark in the period before the German occupation.
Although Denmark was occupied by Germany in April 1940, the Danish monarch and the Danish government remained in the country and the Jews generally lived unmolested. In 1943, with a German roundup of Jews imminent, about 90 percent of the Jewish population was spirited to safety in neutral Sweden. All in all, 5,191 Jews, 1,301 people of part-Jewish parentage, and 686 Christians married to Jews were rescued. Four hundred and sixty-four Jews were rounded up and deported to Theresienstadt, and 49 perished there.
After the war, the Jewish community was reconstituted. In 1968, 2,500 refugees from Poland, victims of a Communist Party witch-hunt, settled in the Copenhagen area. Today, the Jewish community of Denmark is the second largest in Scandinavia (after Sweden).
The central body of Danish Jewry is the Det Mosaiske Troessamfund (Jewish Congregation in Copenhagen). Most of the Jewish organizations and institutions are headquartered in the Jewish community center, which, among other facilities, maintains a mikve. The Dansk Zionistforbund (Danish Zionist Federation) is the leading Zionist body. B’nai B’rith, WIZO and Maccabi (HaKoach) have chapters in the community, as does the B’nai Akiva youth movement.
The community is run by a council of 20 delegates elected by its members. A board of seven representatives is elected by the council. The chief rabbi presides over the religious needs of the community. In recent years, Chabad has also established itself in the country.
Social institutions include two homes for the aged and one seniors’ condominium with self-contained apartments, pre-schools, and the Caroline Jewish Day School (Carolineskolen) located in the suburbs of Copenhagen. The school, founded in 1805, has an enrollment of some 200 pupils, about half the Jewish children in the 6- to 16- year age group.
A Jewish magazine, Jodisk Orientering, is published eight times a year. The bi-monthly popular magazine Goldberg is available at various stores around the city. The royal library in Copenhagen is an important repository of Judaica and houses the famous Biblotheca Simonseniana, as well as a Jewish department.
The Danish Jewish Museum, dedicated to Jewish culture, art and history, is housed in a building designed by Daniel Libeskind.
Danish Jewish Museum (Dansk Jodisk Museum)
DK-1218 Copenhagen K
Tel: +45 3311 2218
Det Mosaiske Troessamfund (WJC Affiliate)
Krystalgade 12, DK-1172
Tel.: +45 33 12 88 68
Chief Rabbi: Bent Lexner
DK-2100 Copenhagen O
Tel: +45 39 29 95 20
Ole Suhrs Gade 10
DK-1354 Copenhagen K
Tel: +45 33 16 18 50
Fax: + 45 33 79 33 86
Israel and Denmark maintain full diplomatic relations. Since 1948, around 1,500 Danish Jews have emigrated to Israel.
In Jerusalem, a boat-like monument was erected on the 25th anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry, and a school was named in Denmark’s honor. Many cities and towns in Israel have a street or square commemorating the heroism of the Danes. Moreover, one of the prominent items on display in Yad Vashem is a small boat that was used to ferry Jews to safety in Sweden. On Israels Plads in Copenhagen there is a monument from Eilat stone with an inscription in both Danish and Hebrew, a gift of the people of Israel. Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II was the patron of the 1993 events marking the 50th anniversary of the rescue operation of Danish Jews.
DK-2900 Hellerup, Copenhagen
Tel: +45 88 18 55 00
Fax: +45 88 18 55 55
Kosher food is readily available, and Denmark exports kosher meat to Sweden and Norway where shechita is not permitted. For a list of Kosher products in Denmark, click here.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
There are three synagogues in Copenhagen. The Great Synagogue, completed in 1833, is the seat of the rabbinate. It was designed by Gustav Friedrich Hecht, who was inspired by the architectural style of ancient Greece. It is also one of the few synagogues of its period to incorporate Egyptian elements in the columns, ceiling and cornice over the ark. The Jewish community center is located next to the Great Synagogue. There is a second, smaller, Orthodox synagogue, Machsike Hadas, which maintains a Mikveh. In 2001, the progressive Jewish congregation Shir Hazafon was established with the purpose of creating a strong Jewish progressive community in the Öresund region (Copenhagen, Malmö, and southern Sweden).
Great Synagogue (Orthodox)
DK-1172 Copenhagen K
Machsike Hadas Synagogue (Orthodox)
Ole Suhrs Gade 12
DK-1354 Copenhagen K
Tel: +45 33 15 31 17
Shir Hazafon (Liberal)
Tel: +45 23 70 97 57