Jewish population: 18,000
The dominance of anti-Jewish hostility propagated by the Lutheran Church prevented Jews from settling in Sweden until the late 18th century.
King Gustav III, motivated by the need to accelerate Sweden’s economic development, lifted the ban on Jewish immigration and granted Jews the right to settle in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Norrköping. The economic freedoms allowed to Jews were encouraging, but religious liberties were not generous. Nearly complete emancipation was granted in 1838. However, a negative reaction from certain sectors of the population forced the monarch to maintain limitations on cities of residence and on the holding of political office. The final restriction on Swedish Jewry, the right to hold ministerial office, was removed in 1951.
From the moment of emancipation, when Swedish Jewry numbered perhaps 1,000 people, the community’s size grew steadily to 3,000 in 1880 and to 7,000 in 1933. The community tended to favor the liberal model of religious practice pioneered by the German Reform movement.
In the years preceding World War II, Swedish Jews were alert to the dangers facing their co-religionists to the south, but Sweden’s stance against the acceptance of refugees prevented many Jews from finding safety there. From 1933 to 1939, 3,000 Jews were admitted into Sweden, and another 1,000 were allowed to use Sweden as a point of transit. By 1942, when the murderous nature of Nazi policies was revealed, and Germany’s military fortunes deteriorated, the Swedish government had a dramatic change of heart and welcomed refugees.
Sweden’s doors were opened to 900 Norwegian Jews in 1942, setting a precedent for the rescue of Danish Jewry in October 1943. At that time, some 8,000 Danish Jews and partly Jewish relatives or spouses escaped to Sweden on scores of fishing boats and other small ships.
The remarkable efforts of the Budapest-based Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, have been given considerable attention in Sweden, and are a source of national pride. Between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and housed Hungarian Jews, thus saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives.
In 1997 the Swedish government established a committee to investigate the issue of Nazi gold transferred to Sweden during the war. In 2000 it hosted a major international conference on the Holocaust, attended by political leaders from 50 countries. In recent years, antisemitism has become especially problematic. In particular, the city of Malmo, with its large Muslim population, has earned a reputation as an especially inhospitable city for Jews and has been the scene of repeated anti-Semitic incidents. The legal system in Sweden generally allows the free expression of antisemitic, racist, and xenophobic ideas, including Holocaust denial. Right-wing extremist groups, often with neo-Nazi sympathies, have perhaps a few thousand members. Some of these groups have links to Europe-wide extremist networks.
The absorption of thousands of wartime refugees greatly influenced the Swedish Jewish community. As a result, Swedish Jewry is particularly active in international Jewish welfare organizations and in supporting development projects in Israel. The community boasts local affiliates of organizations such as WIZO, the General Organization of Jewish Women, Hobonim and Bnei Akiva. There is also an organization of Jewish students.
Since 1999, the community has been recognized as one of the official National Minorities in the country. Yiddish is an officially recognized, non-territorial minority language, and an estimated 3,000 mainly Polish-born Swedish Jews still speak the language.
Sweden and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1949.
115 23 Stockholm
104 40 Stockholm
Tel: +46 8 528 06 500
Fax: +46 8 528 06 555
Stockhom has three synagogues (two Orthodox, one Conservative) and two rabbis. Synagogues also operate in Gothenburg (one Orthodox, one Conservative) and Malmo (Orthodox). The country’s Great Synagogue (Conservative) seats 900 people and was built in 1870 in a pseudo “oriental” style.
The furnishings of the Adat Yeschurun (Orthodox) synagogue originally came from a congregation in Hamburg that escaped the destruction wrought in Kristallnacht in 1938 and was shipped to Sweden just before the outbreak of World War II. The synagogue has been moved to the Jewish Community building during the construction of the new Judaica House.
Because of the law prohibiting shechita, all kosher meat is imported. Stockholm boasts several kosher shops and a bakery.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
Sweden’s largest Jewish community is in Stockholm with some 4,500 members. It is believed that there are at least another 3,000–5,000 unaffiliated Jews living there. Large communities also exist in Malmo, and Gothenburg. Smaller ones are found in Helsingborg, Lund,and Norrköping. There are also Jews living in Borås, Eskilstuna, Uppsala and Västerås.
The contemporary Swedish community is primarily composed of descendants of pre-war refugees and of Shoah survivors who arrived immediately after the war. It also includes refugees (and their descendants) who fled Hungary in 1956 and others who left Poland in 1968. In recent years, Sweden has become home to migrants from the former Soviet Union. The number of members in the Jewish community of Malmo has decreased as a result of the high number of anti-Jewish incidents and hostile ambiance.
All synagogues are linked by the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden.
Wahrendorffsgatan 3 B
P.O. Box 7427
Tel: 46 8 58 78 58 00
Fax: 46 8 58 78 58 58
The Judaica House (Jewish community center) maintains a mikveh, communal library and hosts activities such as Hebrew-speaking and Yiddish-speaking groups, Israeli dancing, and sporting events. It also currently hosts the Hillel school and kindergarten while construction is underway for a completely new school and cultural center, which will be a new home to cultural, youth and social activities including café and library. The new facilities will be inaugurated in July 2015. The bimonthly Judisk Kronika is widely read.
The Society for Yiddish in Sweden (Sveriges Jiddischförbund) has over 200 members, many of whom are mother-tongue Yiddish speakers, and arranges regular activities for the community and in defense of the Yiddish language.
A Jewish primary school and a separate kindergarten operate in Stockholm. Paideia, the European Institute of Jewish studies, is a Stockholm-based pan-European institute that was founded in the year 2000
There is a Jewish museum in Stockholm that regularly arranges special exhibitions focusing on different aspects of Jewish life in Sweden. The names of 8,500 victims of the Holocaust (all related to Jews in Sweden) are engraved on a 42-meter wall leading from the entrance of the Great Synagogue to the Jewish Community office building. It was inaugurated in 1998 by King Charles XVI Gustav
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