There are some 1,200 Jews in Norway, most of whom live in Oslo. There is also a small community in Trondheim. Some 500 Jews, about half of them Israelis living in Norway, are not affiliated with the community.
Norway, for centuries part of the Danish kingdom, shared the same Lutheran-inspired laws that effectively restricted Jews from settling in the western regions of Scandinavia. Some flexibility was allowed for Portuguese Jews to have links with Norway, at this practice was essentially in order to make use of these Jews’ trading connections.
In the 1840s, the liberal literary figure Henrik Wergeland initiated a campaign to lift restrictions on Jewish immigration. After 10 years of public debate and lobbying, Wergeland’s initiative succeeded in having the Storting (parliament) accept a resolution allowing Jewish migration to Norway. Only a small number of Jews took the opportunity to immediately make Norway their home, but by the end of the 19th century, some 650 Jews had arrived, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe. The two focuses of settlement were Olso and Trondheim.
When Norway was invaded by Germany in 1940, 1,800 Jews were living there; all but 200 were Norwegian citizens. When the army eventually surrendered after a ferocious struggle against the Germans and the state was taken over by the collaborationist government led by Vidkun Quisling, Nazi demands for anti-Jewish legislation were accepted and implemented quickly. In 1942, when the Germans requested that Norwegian Jews be handed over, the Quisling government complied by sending 770 Jews. Only ten of them survived; the rest perished in Nazi death camps. The Norwegian underground succeeded in smuggling 900 Jews across the Swedish border to safety. In 1996, due to public pressure and revelations in the media, the Ministry of Justice appointed a commission to examine the issue of restitution of Jewish property confiscated by the Quisling regime. A fund was eventually established to compensate Jews for their material losses.
In 2009 Norwegian King Harald V visited Oslo’s Jewish community as part of an effort to reach out to the country’s minorities. It was the first time the monarch visited the Norwegian Jewish community. “The king is in fact giving the Jews the feeling that anyone who lives in this country is part of Norwegian society,” said Rabbi Joav Melchior of the Oslo Jewish community, whose father Michael Melchior also served as chief rabbi there before him.
The Mosaiske Trossamfund (Mosaic Community) represents the Jews of Norway. There is one rabbi in Norway, who officiates at the synagogue in Oslo and who also supervises the kosher food shop in the capital (shechita is prohibited). There is a second synagogue in Trondheim. The Oslo community runs a kindergarten and an after-hours Hebrew school for primary and secondary school students. There are local chapters of B’nai B’rith, WIZO, and the Union of Jewish Women. The B’nai Akiva youth group organizes seminars and camps for all ages and holds weekly meetings on Sundays with 20–30 youth in attendance. Every year, the organization also sends an Israeli shaliach [emissary]. Maccabi is also active. The community owns a country estate that is used for summer camps and Shabbat seminars. In 1988 a Jewishold-age home was opened. The Oslo community produces a magazine called Hatikwa.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
COMMUNAL REPRESENTATIVE ORGANIZATIONS
Det mosaiske trossamfunn i Trondheim
Visits: Ark. Christies gate 1b
Postal address: Det Mosaiske Trossamfunn Postboks 3563 Hospitalsløkkan 7419 Trondheim
There are two synagogues in Norway—one in Oslo and one in Trondheim. The synagogue building in Trondheim was once a railway station—and it is often claimed that it is the northernmost Jewish house of worship in the world.
There are small Jewish museums in Oslo and Trondheim, while at Bygdøy in Oslo, the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities contains an exhibition of the Holocaust. At the Ostre Gravlund cemetery, there is a monument to the victims of the Shoah.
Israel and Norway have full diplomatic relations. Norway played a key role in bringing together Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which resulted in the Oslo Accords. The Norwegian capital has become synonymous with that agreement. Some 350 Jews from Norway have made aliyah to Israel since the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948. Norwegian society has been especially critical of Israel and at times, elements of the Norwegian press have published material that could fairly be called anti-Semitic. On the other hand, Norway is home to a large community of active Christian Zionists.