jfriedman July 20th, 2009
Joan: I left the group on Saturday morning and went to the city’s only synagogue, built in 1833. As in most European synagogues these days, there was a security guard at the street entrance who questioned me politely but insistently and also searched my bag, to make sure that I was really there to attend the service and not blow it up. I generally avoid Orthodox synagogues because of the separate seating for women, but this was a rare and very moving opportunity to worship with one of the few Jewish communities on the continent whose liturgical traditions now are the same as they were before the Holocaust. Although there are a lot of newcomers to the community from eastern Europe and Israel, there are still substantial numbers whose families lived in Denmark before the war, since almost all of the 6500 Danish Jews were saved by the Danish underground and the population as a whole. The Danes were tipped off by someone within the Nazi hierarchy that a mass deportation was planned for early October 1943. In the space of a few nights the Jews were secretly transported to coastal villages and smuggled across to Sweden in fishing boats. The Danes also preserved the synagogue from destruction and kept all of its Torah scrolls and ritual objects safe.