JF-Malmö the Jewish Community of Malmö




When the special law prohibiting Jews to settle outside the four Swedish towns: Stockholm, Göteborg, Norrköping and Karlskrona, was abolished in 1870, Jews were officially permitted to settle wherever they wished in the country.

The first official records concerning residents with, what was called at that time,"Mosaic Persuation" in the Malmöhus Province of southern Sweden, are however from 1862. It was a family of a merchant, Isac Leipziger, his wife and daughter and their servants.

It is also possible that some individuals of Jewish origin could have settled in Malmö prior to that date. It is even known, that an immigrant from Germany, Abraham David Brody settled in Malmö in 1770. He was allowed to do that after he had been baptized in the German Protestant Church in Malmö.

According to the official register of population, 251 Jews were residents of the Malmöhus Province, 209 of them in Malmö Town in 1870.

On the 2nd of December 1871 the Jewish Community of Malmö was officially established and shortly after that recognized by the municipality of Malmö. The first Jewish institution was established in 1872. It was the cemetary. At the beginning, various facilities were rented for synagogal purposes.
The board started to function in 1873. The first steps taken by the board, was to contact the leaders of the neighbouring Mosaic Congregation of Copenhagen, Denmark asking for help to organize a Jewish communal life. The next important institution was the religious school. In 1895 the first religious teacher was employed. The congregation appointed its first Rabbi, Dr Josef Wohlstein, in 1900. In 1903 the Malmö Synagogue was built. The ritual in this synagogue has always been Orthodox.
In the years 1932-1946 the Chief Rabbi of the Malmö Jewish Congregation was Rabbi Elieser Berlinger. Other rabbis were employed afterwards under shorter periods. It should be mentioned that the community has been employing cantors, among them Israel Gordon (1927-1950).

The main bulk of the first members of the community originated from Germany. By the end of the 19th century and duringthe first decades of the 20th century many Jewish immigrants arrived from Poland,Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Many of them settled in the university town of Lund near Malmö and created a sub-community there, with a synagogue etc. It is still a rather independent so called "Daughter Community", with a synagogue, located nowadays in a building, which even houses The Institute of Jewish Culture and The Jewish Student Club.

Another existing sub-community is Judiska Samfundet in Helsingborg in northern part of the district of Scania. There is a beautifully located synagogue with attached facilities for education, social events etc. Two previously active subcommunities: in Landskrona and Kristianstad were closed during the early nineties. The interior and ritual items from the dissolved synagogue in Kristianstad were removed to Israel, mainly to a "Scandinavian" congregation "Lechu Neranena" in Raanana.

A very important milestone in the history of the community was World War Two. Numberous Danish Jews managed to escape to Sweden and they were well received even in Malmö during 1943-1944. Thanks to the famous Count Folke Bernadotte´s action, thousand of survivers from nazi concentration camps were saved. Many of them died however short time after their arrival. There is a whole section of those so called "Refugee Graves". In order to commemorate all the victims of the Holocaust, a monument, created by a famous Swedish-Jewish artist, Willy Gordon, was raised at the cemetary in Malmö.

By the way, it can be mentioned, that some interesting people were burried at this cemetary, such as the son of the well known Yiddish writer, Shalom Aleichem and two RAF pilots, one British and one Australian, whose bodies were found on the Swedish coast after being shut down by German forces by the end of World War Two. After 1945, the survivors, their children and grandchildren constitute a major bulk of the membership file of the community.

Near the synagogue building there is a Jewish Community Center, built in 1962 and financed by repation means from Claims Conference against Germany, some Swedish government funds and internal fund raising.

The Community Center houses: a ritual bath - Mikvah,offices, clubs, an auditorium, a small Kosher restaurant, The "Chinuch"-kindergarten, The "Cheder" Afternoon Religious School, apartments for retired etc.

Another major immigration took place by the end of the sixties, when some 2000 Polish Jews escaped from the antisemitic development in Poland after the Six Days War in 1967. Some of them joined the community.

A new Jewish cemetary was established in 1978. Since 1988 the community runs a summer camp, located in a seashore resort of Höllviken, a few miles outside Malmö.

In recent years the community received about one hundred refugees from the former Soviet countries, mainly from Russia, Ukraine, Estonia but even from Kirgistan.

Nowadays the Jewish Community of Malmö numbers about 1200 registered members. The community has an open attitude towards the general society. Every week many groups are received in the synagogue for lectures about Judaism and demonstration of the ritual etc. There is a group of so called "Witnesses of the Holocaust", who frequently visit schools for lectures about Holocaust.

The community owes a company, which is in charge of marketing of Kosher food. Nowadays the company, Kosher Delikatesser Malmö AB, cooperates with a local Konsum Grocery Shop in The Triangel Shopping Center in Malmö. In its so called Kosher Corner, mainly imported Kosher food can be purchased.

There is also a lot of cooperation with interfaith organizations, the municipalities and the University of Lund, especially with Sweden´s only Section of Judaism, within theFaculty of Theology.