The latest on Malmo....
They actually tried to run the Rabbi down with a car...
Finally, the shouts of "Heil Hitler" that frequently greeted Marcus Eilenberg as he walked to the synagogue were too much. Fearing for his family's safety, Eilenberg moved himself, his wife and two children to Israel.
"I didn't want my small children to grow up in this environment," Eilenberg said. "It wouldn't be fair to them to stay in Malmö."
Sweden, a country long regarded as a model of tolerance, had been a refuge for Eilenberg's family. His paternal grandparents made a home in Malmö in 1945 after surviving the Holocaust. His wife's parents came to this port city from Poland in 1968 after the Communist government there launched an anti-Semitic purge.
But the combination of a rapidly growing Muslim population living in segregated conditions and widespread anger at Israeli policies and actions has been toxic for local Jews. As in many other European cities, Jews in Malmö report being subjected increasingly to threats, intimidation and actual violence as stand-in targets for Israel.
Malmö, Sweden's third-largest city with a population of roughly 294,000, including fewer than 800 Jews, reached a turning point of sorts in January 2009 during Israel's military campaign in Gaza. A small, mostly Jewish group held a demonstration billed as a peace rally but seen as a sign of support for Israel.
The demonstrators were attacked by a much larger mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists. Police seemed unable to stop the violence.
"I was very scared," recalled Jehoshua Kaufman, a Jewish community leader. "Scared because there were a lot of angry people facing us, shouting insults and throwing bottles and firecrackers at the same time. The sound was very loud. And I was angry because we really wanted to go through with this demonstration, and we weren't allowed to finish it."
Alan Widman, a non-Jewish member of the Liberal Party who represents Malmö in Parliament, said simply: "I have never been so afraid in my life." The demonstrators were eventually evacuated by the police.
A bomb exploded on the steps of the Malmö synagogue shortly after 2 a.m. July 23. The police classified the explosion as an act of vandalism, crimes that receive low priority and are rarely solved, according to a Swedish police official. Anti-Semitism in Europe has historically been associated with the far right, but the Jews interviewed for this article say the threat in Sweden now comes from Muslims and from changing attitudes about Jews in the wider society. There are an estimated 45,000 Muslims in Malmö, about 15 percent of the city's population. Many of them are Palestinians, Iraqis and Somalis, while others came from the former Yugoslavia.
But the problem is not just Muslims, and not just Malmö's.
A continent-wide study conducted by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, released last December, found that 45.7 percent of the Europeans surveyed somewhat or strongly agree with the following statement: "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians." And 37.4 percent agreed with this statement: "Considering Israel's policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews."
"(There is) quite a high level of anti-Semitism that is hidden beneath critics of Israel's policies," said Beate Kupper, one of the study's researchers, in a phone interview, citing a tendency to "blame Jews in general for Israel's policies."
Kupper said that in places where there is a strong taboo against expressions of anti-Semitism, such as Germany: "Criticism of Israel is a great way to express your anti-Semitism in an indirect way."
According to Bassam Tibi, professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Göttingen in Germany and author of several books on the growth of Islam in Europe, Muslims form a significant subset of this problem. "The growth of the Muslim diaspora in Europe is affecting the Jews," said Tibi. He said many European Muslims think "every Jew is responsible for what Israel is doing and can be a target."
In Malmö, this population's role is seen as especially significant. Most of Malmö's Muslims live in Rosengard, the eastern part of the city, where the jobless rate is 80 percent. Satellite dishes dot the high-rise apartments to receive programming from Al Jazeera and other Arabic-language cable networks that keep Malmö's Muslims in constant touch with Arab-Israeli developments.
Sylvia Morfradakis, a European Union official who works with the chronically unemployed, those who have been without work for 10 to 15 years, said the main reason why 80 percent to 90 percent of Muslims between the ages of 18 and 34 can't find jobs is because they can't speak Swedish.
But Per Gudmunson, chief editorial writer for Svenska Dagbladet, a leading Swedish newspaper, is critical of politicians who blame anti-Semitic actions on Muslim living conditions. These politicians offer "weak excuses" for Muslim teenagers accused of anti-Semitic crimes, he said. "Politicians say these kids are poor and oppressed, and we have made them hate. They are, in effect, saying the behavior of these kids is in some way our fault."
The plight of the Jews worries Annelie Enochson, a Christian Democrat member of Parliament. "If the Jews feel threatened in Sweden, then I am very frightened about the future of my country," she said in an interview.
Because he is the most visible Jew in Malmö, with his black fedora and long beard, Malmö's only rabbi, Shneur Kesselman, 31, is a prime target for Muslim anti-Jewish sentiment. In his six years in the city, the Orthodox Chabad rabbi, an American, has been the victim of more than 50 anti-Semitic incidents. He is a gentle man with a steely determination to stay in Malmö in spite of the danger.
The rabbi recalled the day he was crossing a street near his house with his wife when a car suddenly went into reverse and sped backward toward them. They dodged the vehicle and barely made it to the other side of the street.
Newspapers report the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Malmö doubled from 2008 to 2009. Meanwhile, Fredrik Sieradzki, spokesman for the Malmö Jewish community, estimates that the small Jewish population is shrinking by 5 percent a year. "Malmö is a place to move away from," he said, citing anti-Semitism as the primary reason. "The community was twice as large two decades ago."