Sweden: Jewish teacher fired because the students hate Jews
A. is a Jewish-Israeli woman who emigrated to Sweden 39 years ago. This February she started working as a teacher in a school in Malmo, but a week later she was fired, because she’s Jewish.
The principal told her that there could be problems because of her origins. “It won’t be easy for you here. Most of the Swedish students are racists. They hate everybody, but especially the Jews, so it’s very possible you’ll ‘get it’ from both the Swedish and the Arab students.” He suggested she find a different job, far from any school.
She says that when the principal fired her, she felt like crying, but she also understood what problems he was talking about. She understood that it’s not enough to cover up her magen-david necklace with scarves, and that she’ll have to continue and stay silent when people ask her about her origins.
Over the years she taught immigrants Swedish, and she introduced herself without hesitation as Jewish and Israeli. She was sometimes met with suspicion or hostility.
When she started working in this school, the history teacher came to her and told her “I’m on your [ie, the Jews] side, but it’s important you know this school has a serious problem with racism.” She decided she won’t say where she’s from, though it’s obvious she’s not Swedish.
“The teacher told me specifically ‘make sure they won’t know you’re Jewish, they hate Muslims, but they hate Jews the most’. I asked him if they ever met Jews. He said ‘I don’t think so’. They think Jews are responsible for every bad thing that happens in the world. I was very careful, I understood I shouldn’t tell I’m Jewish”.
The principal did not say outright that he’s firing her because she’s Jewish, and used various other justifications. Her union won’t back her up because she can’t prove she was fired due to racism. She also discovered that her co-workers have blocked her on Facebook.
This wasn’t the only problem she’s faced in Malmo. During the Gaza War a Palestinian student complained that A. was racist and hates Palestinians, and that she said that it’s good they don’t have a state. The school did not employ her further. But she says she never discusses politics. In fact, she volunteers helping Muslim refugees.
Another former Israeli, Noami Lind, a friend of A., says she faced similar problems. Lind emigrated to Sweden 34 years ago and lives in a Stockholm suburb, where she taught computer science.
“A girl was upset at her marks and told me she hopes Hitler will come back and finish the job. I always felt that the school administration wasn’t comfortable with the fact that I’m Israeli. They talked in class about the Holocaust, but despite that, they didn’t know how to deal with modern antisemitism. The school didn’t deal with the girl who said those racist things, even though it’s a criminal offense here. I’m a daughter of Holocaust survivors, and I took it really hard. My coworkers were amazing, they demanded the school lodge a complaint and expel the girl, but the administration didn’t do it.”
“Over the years, I also got uncalled for remarks from Arab students.” For example, an Arab student asked if she was Jewish, and when she answered in the affirmative, he started arguing and saying bad things. She also had a student from a Muslim country who became very devout “because the Jews control Coca-Cola and the all world.”
She finally decided she couldn’t stand it. “I felt that I don’t want to expose myself. I left the school. I quit / was fired.”
Asked about the situation of the Jews in Sweden, Lind says: “They, the Swedes, are pushing us away. They’re scared, they don’t want conflicts. They suddenly didn’t feel comfortable because now there’s a lot of Muslim students, so they just push us, the Jewish teachers, away. It’s not easy and it’s not okay.”
She sued the school, and they gave her the highest compensation they could. But she had not found a good job since. She’s now working in a kindergarten, where she’s over-qualified.
Another Jewish teacher, Katrine Hamori, lives in Southern Sweden. She’s already retired, but she says she faced antisemitic harassment. A few years ago, late at night, she got an antisemitic picture by mail. The picture showed two men with a kippah and long, crooked noses, murdering a Christian child. She turned to her union, who said they’ll meet in a few days. It turned out the picture was sent by her principal. When she asked him about it, he said he sent it by mistake, that he meant to send it to himself. She didn’t buy it, since she was the only Jew in the school. He said he was sorry.
When she talked to her union again, the union rep said “the principal apologized, it was by mistake, you Jews get insulted so easily. Why don’t you drop it?” Hamori says she couldn’t forgive that union rep.
She turned to the office against discrimination in her town, but got nowhere, and so she finally decided to accept the apology.
“It’s the reality here. For example, when I was asked to take part in a class where they taught students about religion, they thought it was funny to take two rolls of toilet paper, put them together and say ‘look, two Torah scrolls’. They didn’t understand why that hurt me and how ignorant it was of them.”
“When I teach about Judaism, I always ask ‘how can you recognize Jews?’ the answers are always unsurprising. ‘crooked nose, love money, big lips’.”
Asked how the recent immigration wave affected the Jewish community, she says: “I know many Jewish teachers, and also Swedish teachers, who don’t talk about Judaism or Israel. They know it will cause a ruckus in class.”