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Swedish PM Löfven responds to WJC CEO Singer’s concern over rising anti-Semitism, says government has taken ‘raft of measures to safeguard’ Jewish community

NEW YORK – The Swedish government has taken “a raft of measures to safeguard the Swedish Jewish communities” and will “continue to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, hatred and discrimination with full force,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer in a letter dated 12 July 2018.

Löfven was responding to Singer’s own letter of 18 June 2018, in which he expressed great concern over the “escalating pattern of violence and increased signs of anti-Semitism” in Sweden and urged the government to take firm action to protect the Jewish community.

Singer’s letter cited with specific concern the closure of the Jewish community center in Umeå amid repeated neo-Nazi threats and vandalism spanning recent years, and outlined a number of necessary measures including the allocation of funds and police resources, effective legislation to bar far-right activities, and an increase in police presence around Jewish buildings to protect the communities and their institutions.

In response, the Swedish prime minister listed steps being taken by the government to that effect including increased resources to the Swedish Security Service to prevent “domestic and international terrorism” and the recent establishment of the Swedish Center for Preventing Violent Extremism with an “extensive mandate to lead the work throughout the country."

The Swedish police has also established democracy and hate crime groups in Stockholm, Gothenberg, Malmo, and other regions, and has received increased funds to fight online hate crimes, Löfven wrote.

The government is also doubling state support to strengthen security around buildings and premises used by religious organizations, and broadening support to non-confessional Jewish associations, making more tools available and facilitating surveillance cameras use, the Swedish PM wrote.

WJC CEO Singer said following receipt of Löfven's letter that “the World Jewish Congress is pleased to learn that the Swedish government is treating the security of its Jewish communities with the necessary concern. We truly hope that under the leadership of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, it will do everything in its power to enforce the measures being taken and follow through with its declared intentions to ‘protect the rights of all individuals and its open and democratic society.’ The only way to quell anti-Semitism and terror is standing up with a policy of zero tolerance and firm action. The World Jewish Congress continues to stand ready to assist as necessary on behalf of the Jewish community.”
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Ancient Chinese Jewish Community of Kaifeng to Hold Traditional Passover Seder for First Time

Kaifeng, China, Nearly 100 members of the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, are expected to attend a first-of-its-kind traditional Passover Seder that will take place next Monday, April 14, at the start of the holiday in Kaifeng. The Seder, which is being sponsored by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, will be conducted for the first time by 28-year-old Tzuri (Heng) Shi, who made Aliyah (moved to Israel) from Kaifeng a few years ago with the help of Shavei Israel and completed his formal return to Judaism last year.

As part of the preparation for the upcoming Seder, Tzuri was sent to Kaifeng by the Shavei Israel organization with all of the traditional Passover items including: Kosher Matzah packages from Israel, Kosher for Passover wine, Passover Haggadahs (traditional book used on Passover that explains the order of the Seder), which were prepared especially in Hebrew and Chinese, Kosher for Passover cakes, traditional red horseradish, and traditional Charoset (a sweet, dark-colored paste made of fruits and nuts eaten at the Passover Seder).

"We are proud and excited to organize this historic event," said Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder Michael Freund. "Kaifeng's Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people, and it is very moving to see the remnants of this community returning to their Jewish roots as they prepare for Passover," he added.

Scholars believe the first Jews settled in Kaifeng, which was one of China's imperial capitals, during the 8th or 9th Century. They are said to have been Sephardic Jewish merchants from Persia or Iraq who made their way eastward along the Silk Route and established themselves in the city with the blessing of the Chinese emperor.

In 1163, Kaifeng's Jews built a large and beautiful synagogue, which was subsequently renovated and rebuilt on numerous occasions throughout the centuries. At its peak, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Kaifeng Jewish community may have numbered as many as 5,000 people. But widespread intermarriage and assimilation, as well as the death of the community's last rabbi, brought about its demise by the middle of the 19th century.

Nevertheless, many of the families sought to preserve their Jewish identity and pass it down to their descendants, who continued to observe various Jewish customs. Currently, there are estimated to be approximately 1,000 Jewish descendants in Kaifeng.

“In recent years, many members of the community have begun to explore their heritage – thanks in part to the Internet, which opened up new worlds for them and provided access to information about Judaism and Israel that was previously inaccessible to them,” Freund noted.

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