The JC: Racism-hit Malmö introduces course to instruct teachers about antisemitism

The City of Malmö and its Jewish community have joined forces to fight antisemitism and increase knowledge about Jews among the city’s youths.

The project, which is funded by the Swedish government’s agency for youth and civil society, is designed to give up to 300 teachers the tools to discuss antisemitism and other forms of racism with their pupils.

It is part of a wider programme called Memories’ Legacy, which has also resulted in an exhibition, a book and a DVD based on interviews with Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

Teachers who choose to take part in the new programme are encouraged to use short videos and exercises to help broach the subject of antisemitism with their pupils.

“We have to talk openly about antisemitism and not keep a low profile,” said Fredrik Sieradzki, who runs the Jewish Information Centre in Malmö. “If we don’t do it, then who will?”

He added: “We have to do something about the hatred that Jews face. That’s why we’ve launched this initiative. We’re also in dialogue with politicians and we’ve taken a number of other initiatives such as kippah walks through the city and offering tours of the synagogue.”

The former mayor of Malmö, Ilmar Reepalu, and his administration have been criticised for failing to address the problem of anitsemitism, particularly among the city’s Muslim population.

There have also been reports in Swedish media of teachers hiding their Jewish identity from their pupils.

Today, there is deeper understanding of the situation among city officials, according to Mr Sieradzki, who hopes all teachers in Malmö will choose to go through the training programme.

“In particular, we hope to reach those who teach in areas where a large portion of the population has roots in the Middle East, but we can’t control which schools take on the programme. It’s up to the school leadership and to individual teachers,” he said.

Anders Rubin, Malmö’s local government commissioner responsible for schools, acknowledged there was a chance that schools that already work actively with anti-racism and equality issues will also be more open to trying out the new programme. But, he said, issues like tolerance and respect were already part of the curriculum and inspectors continually monitor how schools fulfil that requirement.

“It’s not up to us to decide who takes part in this programme and we can’t force anyone. At the same time working with these kinds of issues is mandatory,” said Mr Rubin.

Malmö is Sweden’s third largest city and has received worldwide attention for its problems with antisemitism. Two of President Barack Obama’s special envoys to monitor and combat antisemitism have travelled to Malmö to meet city officials and members of the Jewish community: Hannah Rosenthal in 2012 and Ira Forman in 2015.