Why is a Swedish Jew filing for political asylum in her own country?

Last year we had the pleasure of interviewing a Swedish Jew (and Zionist activist) named Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, who recounted her experiences living in a country plagued by a dangerous rise in antisemitism.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein speaks at a pro-Israel rally in Stockholm, September 2012. Courtesy Black on White.
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein speaks at a pro-Israel rally in Stockholm 2012. Courtesy Black on White.

As the recent poll on European antisemitism by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) confirmed, the already precarious situation for Sweden’s Jews has taken a turn for the worse, and Hernroth-Rothstein’s latest essay at Mosaic Magazine serves as an important personal story to add detail and nuance to the FRA data.

She writes:

Here in Stockholm this fall, we in the Jewish community have enjoyed our 21st annual Jewish film festival, a klezmer concert, and a number of other cultural diversions. I choose the word “diversions” advisedly. It’s thanks to such entertainments that so many of my fellow Jews can allow themselves to say that we’re doing okay here—that there’s no need to rock the boat or cause trouble.

But you know what? We are not okay, and this is not okay.

Kosher slaughter has been outlawed in my country since 1937, and a bill is now pending in parliament that would ban even the import and serving of kosher meat. Circumcision, another pillar of the Jewish faith, is likewise under threat. In my job as a political adviser to a Swedish party, I have dealt with two bills on this issue in the past year alone; a national ban is rapidly gaining political support in the parliament and among the Swedish public. When it comes to our religious traditions, those on both the Right and Left in Swedish politics find common ground; they take pride in defending both animals and children from the likes of us, and from what one politician has called our “barbaric practices.” 

Later, she provides a more personal glimpse into life for Swedish Jews.

In today’s Sweden, home to all of 20,000 Jews amidst a national population of some nine million, the public display of Jewish identity, like donning a kippah or wearing a Star of David pendant, puts an individual at severe risk of verbal harassment and, even worse, physical harm. Synagogues are so heavily guarded that Jewish tourists are turned away if they try to attend services unannounced. Inside the sanctuary, we celebrate our festivals and holy days under police protection. On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, during the five-minute walk to the water for the ceremony of tashlikh, my young son asked a guard why so many policemen were accompanying us. Replied the officer: “so that no bad people can hurt you.”

This is the self-image—the reality—that Jewish children in Sweden grow up with: being Jewish means being under threat of harm from bad people. This is where we are at.

You can read the rest of Hernroth-Rothstein’s story and learn why she is filing for political asylum in her own country, here.

We also encourage you to read her passionate letter titled ‘How to survive as a Jew in Sweden? Shut up and fade into the woodwork‘.

For context on the situation in Sweden, you can read CST commentaries on the FRA poll about European antisemitism here, here, here and here.

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