Mit elskede København – my beloved Copenhagen – how could this happen to you? The outpourings of grief and sorrow on social media are only matched by the growing mountain of flowers outside the main synagogue in Copenhagen. The sense of loss is immense. Dan Uzan was a gentle giant, known for his commitment to the Jewish community. He was in my brother’s year at the Jewish school, and the legendary goal keeper of the Jewish football team. He was a stalwart of the security team.
People’s reactions vary as can be expected and yet there’s a strong sense of the need to stand together. At the gathering on Monday night to honour both Dan and the filmmaker Finn Nørgaard, the first victim, there was a gentle silence among the thousands of people in the synagogue. Many were crying, there were some questions, and a few readings, but the communities just wanted to be together in their grief. As up to 40,000 people then walked through the dark streets of the capital to the site of the first shooting with torches lighting the way, the outpouring of support from the surrounding society was tangible. As my sister said ‘There’s a real feeling of warmth and recognition which is incredibly comforting’. And as for the voices who suggest leaving the country for Israel, the answer has firmly been that we are Danes and we are not going anywhere.
The haze of shock is slowly lifting and other voices are beginning to be heard; some are angry, others fearful, others push a political agenda, a few are dogmatic and many are calling for calm and staying level-headed. As one friend said: ‘It’s a relief that the rest of society now understands that we have a problem, it’s a general one for Danish society and a specific one for Jews, and people want to do something constructive about it. The problem is very complex, but the only way forward is to completely get rid of the ’us and them’: it’s WE, Danes of all persuasions, we are very diverse, and that is OKAY. Let’s not focus on what might happen, but on what we want to happen’.
And right now that means going ahead with planned events like the upcoming day Limmud, and to live our lives as normally as possible despite the fears.
Rabbi Sandra Kviat was born and raised in the Jewish community in Copenhagen. She received smicha from Leo Baeck College and works for Crouch End Chavurah and Liberal Judaism, and is a visiting rabbi for Shir Hatzafon, the progressive Jewish community in Copenhagen.