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Swedish Jew Applies for Asylum - in Sweden

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein applies for asylum in her own country in protest of rampant anti-Semitism, laws banning kashrut, circumcision.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 11/21/2013, 1:15 AM

A protest against anti-Semitism in Vienna
A protest against anti-Semitism in Vienna
Reuters

Swedish Jew and outspoken opponent to anti-Semitic violence Annika Hernroth-Rothstein has filed for asylum in her own country, Elder of Ziyon reports. The move is a public statement of dissent against the Scandinavian country's anti-Semitic policies, which include a ban on ritual slaughter (shehita) and circumcision (brit milah), two major laws central to Jewish law and life. 

Hernroth-Rothstein first gained attention after writing a letter to Mosaic magazine documenting her experiences this past spring. In the letter, she described the struggles she and her young son faced for being Jewish, after being attacked simply for boarding a train - on the way to spend Shabbat in another town, since her own local synagogue was destroyed without fanfare. 

During the ride, a local Arab man repeatedly harassed her and her son, in some cases bordering on physical assault. No one on the train did anything to stop the attacks. 

Hernroth-Rothstein also points out that while Jewish ritual slaughter, or shehita, is banned, Muslim ritual slaughter (hallal) is not. And while she states that Holocaust museums and other historical Jewish events are well-attended and well-received, active Jewish life is discouraged. As she puts it, "The dead, suffering Jew is glorified; the healthy, active Jew is vilified."

Now, she is making a public statement against systemic Swedish anti-Semitism by publishing her application for asylum, on grounds that living in her own country has become categorically unsafe. 

Her letter to Elder of Ziyon partially reads,

What I am asking for is no more than what is given to any refugee seeking asylum in my country, or in the whole of the EU. They want the freedom to practice their religion. Not to be persecuted due to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or political beliefs. These are basic human rights, expressed in the United Nations universal declaration of human rights as well as a crucial part of the Swedish constitution. People from all over the world seek refuge in my country in order to be who they are. To have the ability to live freely. I want this for them, and I want this for us. 

According to The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, anti-Semitic crimes have tripled since 2010. Worst is the situation in Malmö where we see an increase in 320% just from the year 2011. These are the statistics of reported crimes; we can only imagine how many crimes go unreported each year. 

When I raise these issues I often get the answer that I and the rest of Swedish Jewry should make Aliyah, that Europe is doomed and that the time to make a difference has come and gone. But I cannot accept that to be true, no matter how much I promote the idea and practice of Aliyah. Because what is happening is simply not right. And as a people, as humans, we must protest inequality and discrimination in our midst as adamantly as we do when it is perpetrated abroad. Many Swedish politicians and activists are quick and vocal in their fight against oppression all over the world, but silent when it comes to what is going on within our borders. 

And that is why I think it is time to make a statement heard around the world. 

Reports that anti-Semitism in Sweden and other European countries is on the rise have braced headlines continuously since last year. Malmo, in particular, has seen a huge wave of anti-Semitic violence.

Irish journalist Patrick Reilly made headlines earlier this year when he donned a yarmulke for a day in Malmo to test what it felt like to be a Jew in the city, and reported that the experience was terrifying. As quoted in an article by Swedish news source The Local, Reilly stated that his fear escalated with each passing minute.

"Whether the threat was real or imagined the fear was genuine and that stemmed from what I was wearing on my head," he noted. "As an Irish person abroad I've never felt remotely threatened but wearing the kippah for a few hours was enough to instill feelings of fear. Even when I didn't feel afraid I was made to feel different and unwelcome."