The cautious members of the Jewish community in Denmark

After a terror attack in 2015, the Danish Jews have had to get used to being surrounded by military. But is the military security enough to make the around 7000 Danish Jews feel safe and secure in their Jewish identity?

By Johanne Jedig Wejse

The Copenhagen Synagogue where the terror attack happened in 2015 has now increased security, where most tourists and people aren’t allowed inside. The synagogue is located in Krystalgade 12, Copenhagen. Photo by: Shanie Barenboim

In Denmark, there are around 7.000 Jews, according to the Jewish Information Centre. Most of the Danish Jews live in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, and around 2.000 of the Danish Jews are members of a Jewish congregation. 

The 15th of February 2015 was a tipping point for the Jewish community in Copenhagen. Dan Uzan, a voluntary guard, was killed when a terrorist attacked the main synagogue during a bat mitzvah. The attack came after numerous terror attacks against Jewish targets in Brussels, Toulouse and Paris.

Before the terror attack, the Jewish Community in Denmark had long asked for help to increase security by the Jewish congregations without results, they write on their website. Immediately after the terror attack, the Danish Security and Intelligence Servite (PET) deployed 24-hour security outside of the main synagogue. Now, more than four years later, the military has replaced the police as the 24-hour guards. The military guards are guarding the main synagogue, the congregation centre and the Jewish school. 

Afraid to be Jewish in Denmark

Sofie Lave Nielsen was 17 in 2015. She was at the synagogue the 15th of February to celebrate her cousin’s Bat Mitzvah, girls’ 12th birthday. She recalls people yelling and being told to go down to the basement, where she and many of the guests waited for several hours, while reading online news about the terror attack going on just above them. Today, the traumatic experience has made her more secure in the identity.

– Before the terror attack, I didn’t consider myself Jewish. Yes, I have a Jewish family background, but I’m not a “Jew”. Today, after the terror attack, I consider myself much more Jewish than before. Maybe because I experienced how someone wanted to kill me just because I’m Jewish. I think it’s scary and sad, Sofie Lave Nielsen says.

Head of Djus Denmark, the youth organisation in The Jewish Community in Denmark, Yoel Tschernia, recognizes that feeling. He talks about how feeling threatened as a Jew in Denmark really depends on, how proud you are in your Jewish identity. A big part of the Danish Jewish community are experiencing violence if they are showing that they are Jewish – for example by wearing a David’s star. Still, he wouldn’t say that he is afraid to be Jewish in Denmark: 

– I think that we need to use the term ‘cautious’ and not the word ‘fear’. Sometimes people are showing us as victims, but it is not something the Danish Jews feel. We are being cautious, but we don’t feel like victims. We are not afraid, but we don’t feel completely safe. It’s somewhere in the middle, says Yoel Tschernia. 

If you ask Sofie Lave Nielsen, she is more prepared to say that she if afraid.

– I know that many Jewish people in Denmark think that being a Jew is all about antisemitic people wanting to hurt or kill you, and that’s something I think is very scary to think about, says Sofie Lave Nielsen.

Yoel Tschernia with his family at a family dinner. Photo: Private photo

Copenhagen focus on the cigarette butts in the streets

The Copenhagen Municipality is seeing results with their campaign against cigarette butts being thrown in the streets.

By Johanne Jedig Wejse

In Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, cigarette butts were in 2018 86% of all the collected trash, and this is why the Copenhagen Municipality is focusing on new ashtrays and handing out the so called ‘pocket ashtrays’. And it seems to work: According to the communications consultant in the Environmental department of the Copenhagen Municipality, Camilla Junggreen, 7,4% of the citizens of Copenhagen owned a pocket ashtray. In late 2018, the number was up to 36%. And Camilla Junggreen is very pleased with the results: 

– I’m very happy with the preliminary results of the campaign, and hope to share our knowledge to continue to eliminate cigarette butts on the streets all around the world, says Camilla Junggreen.

The Copenhagen Municipality has added new ashtrays to the streets of Copenhagen. Photo by Johanne Jedig Wejse

Danish café bounced back after bad rating on food storage

LYNfabrikken, a Danish café, received the worst rating in the Danish smiley-system in June, but bounced back in the most recent audit.

LYNfabrikken is based at Vestergade 49B in Aarhus CImage: Mayar Hossam Elsharkawy

By Johanne Jedig Wejse

The Danish café LYNfabrikken received the worst rating from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) the 26th of June 2019, as their refrigerator was at 15 °C instead of the statutory 5 °C.

Lucky for the café, they are now back on their feet after another unannounced check-up in the start of August, where the DVFA gave LYNfabrikken a happy smiley. The owners and managers of the restaurant were on vacation, so they were unable to comment on their recent smiley-upgrade, but according to the final audit, the café acquired new fridges and all food were at the statutory cooking temperature.

The newly acquired fridges are located underneath the coffee machine, at LYNfabrikken. Image: Johanne Jedig Wejse.

Infant deaths have decreased with 81 per cent in 50 years in Denmark

Danish infant-deaths for babies under 1 years old has decreased drastically from 1968 to 2018. This brings Denmark well under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 regarding the neonatal mortality rate.

by Johanne Jedig Wejse

In 1968, 1219 newly born babies died before they turned 1 year in Denmark. Since then, the number of infant deaths in Denmark has been decreasing steadily, with the most drastic fall from 1971, where 1019 babies died, till 1981 where 419 babies died. In 2018, 226 out of the total 61.476 new-born babies died before they turned 1 year. 

The Danish State Institute of Diseases, called Statens Serum’s Institut or SSI, cannot point to a unanimous reason for the decrease in infant-deaths. However, multiple studies indicate that it might be because of a rise in awareness of the negative impacts of nicotine, alcohol and caffeine while pregnant, as fewer Danish women smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and alcohol while they are pregnant. 

Sustainable Development Goal 3

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 is aiming to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages’, and one of the targets under this goal is to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births. In 1973, when the earliest birth numbers are from, the Danish mortality rate was 11,5 per 1000 live births. This has been significantly decreased up until 2018, when the mortality rate was 3,5 per 1000 live births. Besides being a significant change for the individual parents, who won’t have to fear losing their new-born infant quite as much, this is also a significant indicator for the Danish welfare-state. Over time, neonatal mortality rates have been accepted as an indicator for rising living standards, improving welfare schemes (for the infant as well as the mother), and medical progress. 

Does being European Capital of Culture boost anything besides local culture?

Rijeka is one of the two European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) in 2020, and they want to boost the population of 27 neighbourhoods. But if we look at Aarhus, the ECoC in 2017, that may prove to be a difficult task.

By Johanne Jedig Wejse

27 cities, islands and municipalities surrounding Rijeka are the focus of the upcoming European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in Rijeka in 2020. The decreasing populations in many of the 27 ‘neighbourhoods’, as they’re called, is an issue that Rijeka is hoping to solve by being the ECoC in 2020. 

In 2017, it was Aarhus that had a similar idea. The 2017 ECoC chose the brand ‘Welcome Future’ for their year of culture, and the plan was to boost the 19 municipalities of the Central Danish Region – 10 of which are considered small municipalities, with less than 50.000 inhabitants – by utilizing culture to boost the brand of the municipalities and hereby increasing the population.

But this wasn’t as easy as it may sound. Although most municipalities had several cultural arrangements, there is nothing that suggests that this helped in any other way than the cultural activities. 

Roger Buch, a municipal researcher based at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, says: 
“I don’t think the municipalities in the Central Danish Region has received any benefits besides the specific cultural activities. There is no research that suggests otherwise.” 

He explains that culture isn’t high on the list when someone is choosing what municipality to settle down in: 
“An increase in population is based around infrastructure, educational possibilities and the large companies’ headquarters. Cultural activities, however interesting and entertaining, can’t change this or boost population.” 

While nothing suggests that Aarhus being the ECoC has helped boost the population in the municipalities besides Aarhus, Lene Øster, Chief Consultant of Culture in Aarhus Municipality, doesn’t agree that the only benefits were the specific cultural activities: 
“We believe that all municipalities received great benefits, like great skill development, close partnership and tourism,” says Lene Øster, Chief Consultant of Culture in Aarhus. 

Return of investment

All municipalities in the Central Danish Region contributed to a financial fund called Fonden Aarhus 2017, which also received funding from private funds, the European Union, private companies etc. In turn, Fonden Aarhus 2017 funded cultural activities all across the Central Danish Region. This flow of money has since been measured by COWI in a report on the return of investment for the municipalities; meaning, how much did the municipalities get in return for their contributions to the fund. 

Struer Municipality, one of the 10 smallest municipalities in Central Denmark Region, was the one with the largest return of investment, receiving 333% back of their investment in the financial fund Fonden Aarhus 2017. 

This pleases Lars Møller Pedersen, who is the President of the Committee on Culture in Struer: 

“Our investment has proved itself extremely valuable, which I am very happy about, because we worked very hard. We used Struer being part of the ECoC as a lever for our brand as the city of sound, which proved to be successful,” says Lars Møller Pedersen. 

However, Lars believes that the large return of investment was more a result of the hard work by everyone involved in the municipality, than the intermunicipal partnership. 

“The vision for Aarhus2017 was a strong intermunicipal partnership, but at least in Struer, most of the activity was inside the municipal border, and we definitely needed a stronger partnership and cooperation,” says Lars Møller Pedersen, President of the Committee on Culture in Struer.

This is not something that Lene Øster, Chief Consultant of Culture in Aarhus, can recognize: 
“We have chosen to continue working together on culture across the region, and I think that is a strong indicator that the partnership has been a success,” says Lene Øster. 

In Favrskov Municipality, another of the 10 smallest municipalities in Central Danish Region, located north-east of Aarhus, the President of the Committee on Culture is also satisfied with the partnership: 
“We had a great partnership, our representative in the secretariat of Fonden Aarhus 2017 was listened to and included, so I am pleased,” says Steen Thomasen, President of the Committee on Culture in Favrskov Municipality.

“It was definitely worth our money and time,” says Steen Thomasen about Favrskov Municipality being part of the ECoC. Photo: Johanne Jedig Wejse

Know your size and place

A strong criticism of the partnership when Aarhus was the ECoC in 2017 has been that it was promised that all 19 municipalities would receive great benefits and improve the familiarity, both nationally and internationally – when in reality, Aarhus probably got most of the mention and benefits. 
Roger Buch, municipal researcher at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, says:

“Even though this was meant as a partnership, Aarhus ended up with most of the benefits from being the European Capital of Culture in 2017.” 

But according to Riber Hog Antonsen, the President of the Committee on Culture in Syddjurs Municipality, this is a truth with modifications: 

“It can be difficult to be the small one in a partnership such as this, but we had to accept that Aarhus is the big one, and that Aarhus would have the most to say. But if you know your size and place in a partnership such as this, you can know how to set strategic, realistic goals,” says Riber Hog Antonsen, and adds: “We did, and we completed our goals, which is probably why we had such a great return of investment.” 
The return of investment for Syddjurs Municipality was 212%.

“I don’t see any disadvantages from Syddjurs being part of the ECoC in 2017,” says Riber Hog Anthonsen. Photo: Johanne Jedig Wejse

The Danish island Samsø received no real benefits from Aarhus being the Capital of Culture 2017

Samsø Municipality has paid around 140.000 DKK to the financial fund Fonden Aarhus 2017, but the President of the Committee on Culture doesn’t believe the culture on Samsø has been boosted.  

By Johanne Jedig Wejse

Samsø Municipality is the smallest municipality in Central Denmark Region, and the third smallest in Denmark. Photo: Johanne Jedig Wejse

In a small house with thatched roofs by the beach of the city Ballen on Samsø, Ulla Holm is looking through her papers. She became the President of the Committee on Culture and Social Affairs after the local election in 2018. She is looking through her papers to see if she can find the numbers from the European Capital of Culture 2017, where Samsø was included as part of the Central Danish Region. But she is coming up short. 

“The Return of Investment says that we received 280% of our investment, but I’ve been trying to find out who received all those funds, and it’s weird – but I can’t find it anywhere,” says Ulla Holm. “It seems to have drowned in bureaucracy.”

It seems that the main beneficiary of the funds is the Academy of Energy, which is also located in the city Ballen on Samsø. 

Some of the funds have gone towards Peter Christensen, who is a project manager at the Academy of Energy in the Aarhus department, and whose salary was partly covered by the financial fund Fonden Aarhus 2017. 

The Academy of Energy is located in Ballen on Samsø. Photo: Johanne Jedig Wejse

“We work a lot with sustainability at the Academy of Energy, and we were paid by Fonden Aarhus 2017 to make a guide for including sustainability during the Capital of Culture. When we finished the guide in 2016, the fund had changed its secretariat, and the new secretariat weren’t as interested in sustainability. So the guide was never really used,” explains Peter Christensen. 

He doesn’t think the work by the Academy of Energy really had anything to do with Samsø Municipality, other than the fact that it is located on Samsø. 

“Even though the project was funded by the financial fund, it didn’t have anything to do with Samsø or boosting the culture on Samsø, other than coincidentally being located on Samsø,” says Peter Christensen. “So most of the funding for Samsø was for something that didn’t boost the culture on Samsø, and for a project that wasn’t really used anyways.”

Ulla Holm agrees with the analysis from Peter Christensen: 
“I have to be critical of the fact that the financial fund, where we have sent most of our funding for culture over the years, didn’t have any strong impact on our municipality.”

The clock tower in Nordby on Samsø, built in 1857, is one of the small island’s many attractions. Photo: Johanne Jedig Wejse

However, if Ulla could go back in time and decline sending their funding for culture to Aarhus being the European Capital of Culture, she wouldn’t: 
“I think being the European Capital of Culture has really benefited Aarhus, and we don’t mind helping Aarhus and building our cooperation with Aarhus stronger. I think it’s fine that being the European Capital of Culture has boosted Aarhus so strongly, but I don’t think they should brag about boosting the smaller municipalities when it isn’t true.”

The secretariat from the financial fund Fonden Aarhus 2017 has declined to comment on the case, but Chief Consultant of Culture in Aarhus Municipality Lene Øster says: 

“A large, intermunicipal collaboration such as this can be difficult, but we believe that everyone benefited from being part of it.”

Samsø is known as one of the most beautiful and idyllic places in Denmark. Photo: Johanne Jedig Wejse