DENMARK’S JEWISH COMMUNITY

Following the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), which cost Denmark many of its possessions and created a fiscal crisis for the Danish crown, Frederick III proclaimed an absolute monarchy in Denmark. To improve trade, the king opened the door to greater immigration. The first Jewish community was founded in the newly established town of Fredericia in 1682, and in 1684 an Ashkenazi community was founded in Copenhagen. Jewish Community in Denmark

By 1780, there were approximately 1600 Jews in Denmark, though all were admitted by special permission granted only on the basis of personal wealth. They were subject to a number of discriminatory restrictions of both social and economic character, and for a brief period in 1782 they were forced to attend Lutheran services. But they were not required to live in ghettos and had a significant degree of self-governance. Judging from art and writings from the time these early communities set themselves apart.

As the Jewish enlightenment reached Denmark in the late 18th century, the king instituted a number of reforms to facilitate integration of Danish subjects into the larger Danish society. Jews were allowed to join guilds, study at the university, buy real estate, and establish schools.

The early 19th century saw a flourishing of Danish-Jewish cultural life. The Great Synagogue of Copenhagen was built. A number of Jewish cultural personalities, among them the art benefactor and editor Mendel Levin Nathanson, the writer Meir Aron Goldschmidt, and founder of Politiken, Edvard Brandes; his brother literary critic Georg Brandes (who had a strong influence on Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen), Henri Nathansen, and others rose to prominence in the Danish cultural landscape.

In the early 20th Century thousands of Russian Jews emigrated to Denmark, fleeing the pogroms. They formed a Yiddish-speaking community in Copenhagen. There was broad cultural and class disparity, and considerable friction, between the new arrivals and the established and integrated older families. The newcomers were poor, did not integrate, and were active in left-wing parties. Denmark forbade further immigration in the 1920’s. One exception was a group of German-Jewish agricultural students who arrived in 1939 to study farming before emigrating to Palestine.

 

source: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Denmark.html