Community in Denmark - World Jewish Congress
WJC Affiliate
The Jewish Community in Denmark (Det Jødiske Samfund i Danmark)

Tina Schwarz

+45 33 12 88 68

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President: Henri Goldstein

When Jews first arrived in Denmark in 1622, they were only allowed to live in certain towns until King Christian IV sent a message to the leaders of the Sephardic communities in Amsterdam and Hamburg, inviting them to settle in the recently established town of Gluckstadt. The action made Denmark the first Scandinavian country to allow Jews to settle on its territory. Many accepted this invitation and began engaging in the Danish trading and manufacturing industries. Some Jews even worked closely with the royal family, often as personal financiers and jewelers for the Danish royals. One in particular was Benjamin Mussafia, who was appointed to be the royal family's physician in 1646; his son-in-law, Gabriel Milan, later served as governor of the Danish West Indies from 1684 to 1686.

The Danish Jewish community continued to grow into the 18th century, with the majority of Jewish immigrants living in Copenhagen. Jewish life in Denmark during this period was surprisingly vibrant, with the general tolerance of Danish authorities allowing for rabbis, teachers, and other Jewish community leaders to practice. The influence of the Jewish Enlightenment reached Denmark in the late 18th century, and the King issued several reforms aimed at integrating all Danish subjects into society. As a result of such reforms, Danish Jews were able to study at universities, buy real estate, and even join guilds.

Despite a manifestation of somewhat pertinent antisemitism in Denmark from 1813 to 1819, the 19th century saw the pattern of cultural, social, and economic progress for Danish Jewry continue. In 1814, they were granted full Danish citizenship, and in 1849, when Denmark abolished its absolute monarchy and adopted its free constitution, Jews were given full political equality.

Intermarriage and a low birth rate contributed to a drop in the Danish Jewish population at the beginning of the 20th century, but the arrival of many Jewish refugees from eastern Europe after the Kishinev pogrom in 1903 saw it increase by the thousands. Danish Jews were prominent in all aspects of Danish life, with many Jews serving in high offices of the state. Edvard Brandes served as Minister of Finance from 1909 to 1910 and again from 1913 to 1920; in addition, perhaps the most famous Danish Jew, the physicist Niels Bohr, was heavily engaged in his groundbreaking work on theoretical physics during this time. The rise of Nazism in Europe saw a small number of Jews from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia arrive in Denmark shortly after.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Danish Jewish community was restored. Since almost all of the pre-war Jewish population in Denmark survived the war due to the heroic collective efforts of the Danish people, the Jewish community did not experience a large number of aliyahs, or Jewish immigrants. In 1968, Jewish refugees from Poland, victims of a Communist Party discriminatory witch hunt, arrived in Copenhagen.

Today, the Danish government officially recognizes the Jewish community in Denmark, which is well integrated into mainstream Danish society. On February 15, 2015, an Islamist extremist killed a young Jewish man on security duty outside the synagogue on Kristalgade. The attack had vast implications for both the Jewish community of Denmark and the Danish authorities; since that time, there has been a police officer stationed at every Jewish community institution. 

After the terrorist attack, several security measures were put in place at nine Jewish institutions in Denmark. The police guard Jewish buildings and institutions in Copenhagen, with a police station located inside the Jewish Community in Denmark (JCD) premises. The action plan against antisemitism ensures that “the necessary level of security around Danish Jews and Jewish institutions will be sustained in the future” and that “the implementation of the security measures has been carried out in close cooperation between the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) and the JCD.”

The JCD also receives an unrestricted state-financed subsidy for security measures. The subsidy is used to finance the maintenance and operation of the security measures, including expenses incurred by the JCD itself, in particular for guarding. Under the governance of the police, the Armed Forces have, since the autumn of 2017, offered support in guarding several Jewish institutions.

The Years of the Holocaust

In the years preceding the Holocaust, Denmark welcomed around 4,500 Jewish refugees, mainly from Germany and eastern European countries directly threatened by Nazi aggression. This ended when Nazi Germany invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940, the Royal Danish Army put up little resistance. The Royal Navy surrendered without firing a single shot.

The Nazi occupation of Denmark was somewhat unique in its approach, as the Germans wished to incur favor among the Danish, who they regarded as fellow “Aryans.” Nazi-occupant authorities allowed the Danish royalty and government to remain in the country and even retain a considerable degree of autonomy. Throughout the occupation, the Danish government insisted there was no “Jewish problem” in Denmark; the Jews were like all other Danish citizens and would be treated no differently. As a result of King Christian X's support of the Danish Jewish community, Jews in Denmark were not required to wear the yellow Star of David. Additionally, they were not segregated or isolated, not banned from public places, schools, or workplaces, and Jewish property was not confiscated.

As a result of increased resistance and sabotage, the German authorities took direct control over Danish institutions. In 1943, the Danish resistance was informed that the Nazis were planning to deport Denmark's Jewish population.  When word of this reached non-Jewish Danes, the Jewish community was immediately alerted, and one of the most remarkable rescue missions during the Holocaust commenced.

In a somewhat organized but also spontaneous effort, the Danish Underground, along with Danish authorities and countless private citizens, moved Jews to temporary safe houses, and then to the coast, to get them across the Baltic Sea to neutral Sweden. At that time, approximately 8,000 Jews lived in Denmark, most of whom were in Copenhagen. The authorities refused to cooperate with the Nazis, turning a blind eye to Jews found in hiding, and popular protests, amongst which was the royal family, were prominent throughout the country. 

In about a month, many fishermen ferried Danish Jews across the sea, and the rescue operation expanded to include the Danish government and police. Many ordinary Danes contributed their help, including the Danish National Church and its priests. The effort ultimately helped transport some 7,200 Danish Jews and 680 non-Jewish family members to Sweden. 

Unfortunately, almost 500 Danish Jews were captured by the Nazis and deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. The Danish population and authorities insistently and fervently demanded information about their whereabouts and living conditions, largely deterring the Nazis from transporting them to killing centers. Ultimately, all except for 51 Jews survived.

Denmark has one of the highest Jewish survival rates for any Nazi-occupied country, with 97% of all Danish Jews being rescued during the Holocaust. It is the only German-occupied country that strongly resisted the attempt by the Nazi regime to deport its Jewish citizens.

According to the JCD, the rescue of Danish Jews during the Holocaust is commemorated every year by state officials, as well as on international Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January). The commemoration of the Holocaust takes place in the Great Synagogue, and politicians and other state officials take part.

Community Facts

1. The Danish beer brand Tuborg was founded by Jewish-Danish Philip Wulff Heyman in the second part of the 19th century.

2. Denmark was the first of the Nordic countries to have its own Jewish community, which was established in the town of Fredericia in 1682. 

3. The Danish, unlike many other countries occupied by the Germans during the Holocaust, managed to save around 90% of their Jewish population by sneaking them from town to town and eventually smuggling them across the Øresund to southern Sweden. 

4. The first Jews to settle in Denmark was of Sephardi origin.- Danish physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Niels Bohr was of Jewish decent. 

5. In the Danish West Indies, a colony of Denmark until 1917, when it transitioned to American territory, Jews began settling as early as 1655. By the mid-19th century, half of the colony's population boasted Jewish heritage.


In 2023, Denmark's Jewish population was estimated at 6,400 Jews. The Danish Jewish community has had an almost continuous presence in Denmark since the initial Jewish settlement and consists of a wide array of Jews, including religious and secular Jews. The majority of Danish Jews live in Copenhagen, but there are smaller communities in cities such as Odense and Aarhus as well.

The Danish Jewish minority has decreased since the 1990s. Its members have expressed that the decrease is partly due to the increase in antisemitic incidents and to the fact that Denmark has become increasingly secular in recent years, with more traditional Jews finding it difficult to be Jewish in a very secular society. Another sensitive topic for Danish Jews is that their support for Israel can create tension if they are vocal about it.

Community Life

The central body of Danish Jewry is the Jewish Community in Denmark (Det Jødisk Samfund i Danmark), which is run by a council of 20 delegates elected by its members and a board of seven representatives who are elected by the council. Most of the Jewish organizations and institutions are headquartered in the Jewish House, the Jewish community center in Copenhagen. The Jewish House has venues for parties and activities, a café, a library, and an industrial kitchen. It hosts many Jewish immersive discussions and meetings, including women’s events with debate.

There is also a broad variety of organizations in the Jewish community; many of them are branches of international Jewish organizations such as WIZO, The Zionist Federation, Keren Kayemet, Maccabi (Hakoah), and B’nei Akiva. They all contribute to a rich cultural life in the community. Within the local Jewish community, Caroline’s Friends is a school-support organization that consists of both current and former students, parents, and grandparents who work to help ease educational financial needs. Social institutions also include two homes for the elderly and a senior condominium with 38 self-contained apartments.

The Jewish Cultural Festival is an annual event organized by the Jewish community aimed at both Jews and non-Jews. Once a year, the synagogue is open for visitors, and a range of events take place; the city of Copenhagen contributes funding each year. 

Every year, the organization Jewish Culture Copenhagen offers three to four concerts at the DR concert hall. The organization does not require funding, as ticket prices cover the costs and more.

The community’s webpage provides updates on the happenings in the community.

Religious and Cultural life

There are three active synagogues in Denmark today, all in Copenhagen. The Great Synagogue in Krystalgade is a Modern Orthodox/Conservative community and is open to a broad range of members, including Denmark's Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior, though it follows a traditional liturgy. The Machsike Hadas Synagogue is an Orthodox synagogue, and Shir Hatzafon is a Reform synagogue and community whose progressive Jewish congregation is based in the Öresund region, extending to Copenhagen, Malmö, and southern Sweden. There is a mikveh (Jewish ritual bathhouse) in Copenhagen as well, along with a Chabad center in Frederiksberg.

The majority of Danish Jews are secular but maintain a cultural connection to Jewish life, and almost all are very integrated into mainstream Danish society. The Jewish Community in Denmark (Det Jødiske Samfund i Danmark, JCD) has approximately 1750 members and is a recognized religious community with a democratic structure. The JCD is a unitary community (enhetsförsamling) and offers services to all Jews, regardless of their religious stream or political affiliation.

The focal point of religious Jewish life is the Great Synagogue, which seats around 900 people. The JCD community and cultural center is located next to the synagogue.

A brit milah, the circumcision of eight-day-old baby boys, is legal in Denmark. However, the religious custom has been publicly questioned in recent years. Danish citizens can put an item of interest on the parliamentary agenda if 50,000 people support it, a so-called “citizens’ initiative.” In May 2021, with about a two-thirds majority, the Danish parliament rejected a citizens’ initiative proposing to ban the circumcision of boys under the age of 18. The final vote against the proposal was the outcome of a long process that started in 2018. The debate was initiated by a group called Denmark Intact that had gathered the necessary 50,000 signatures for the issue to be tabled before parliament. The initiative was not specifically directed at the Danish Jewish community, since Muslims would also be affected, but Jews interviewed by the media said that it was motivated by xenophobia and made them feel unwelcome.

Kosher Food

In Denmark, shechita (the Jewish kosher slaughter of animals for food) was banned in 2014. Since then, kosher meat has been imported to Denmark. Kosher food is readily available in Copenhagen, with a kosher butchery shop, Gils Deli, and additional options available through the Jewish Community in Denmark council.

A list of kosher products (2023) in Denmark can be found here.

Jewish Education

Carolineskolen is a Jewish independent school with 24 teachers and over 200 children from kindergarten to the ninth grade. The school celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2005. In addition to general subjects, students are taught Jewish religion, culture, and history, as well as Hebrew. In many cases, only one of the parents of the students is Jewish. There are many more Jewish educational opportunities and events offered through the Jewish Community in Denmark. In terms of secondary education or general Danish academia, the Royal Library in Copenhagen has a Judaica department, and the University of Copenhagen has a Center for the Study of Jewish Thought in Modern Culture.

The Jewish Information Center is an information project that aims to provide insight into Jewish life, culture, and history in Denmark and thus also prevent antisemitism, made possible through financial support from the City of Copenhagen. Guided tours are conducted by knowledgeable guides, all of whom have a Jewish background. The Center offers visits to schools and institutions, educational materials, podcasts and videos, events, talks, and special face-to-face meetings for Copenhagen citizens—all to inform the public and provide nuanced information about the Danish-Jewish minority.

The website is aimed at students, mainly from secondary school and up, as well as educators and others interested in information about Jewish life today, Jewish history, and an understanding of a minority from the inside. The center also offers academic webinars aimed at students working in the field of minorities and representation, as well as workshops, teaching programs, videos, and podcasts. Students also have the opportunity to search for information in the large collection of articles on Judaism and Jewish life.


A number of Jewish youth groups in Denmark are offered through the auspices of the Jewish Community of Denmark, as well as through international organizations such as B’nai B’rith and B’nai Akiva. Additionally, Maccabi (HaKoach) is active in the community.

The Danish Youth Union (JU) stands as one of Europe's fastest-growing youth unions, witnessing a steady rise in participation across its diverse range of events. Combining traditional gatherings like parties and Shabbat dinners with innovative initiatives such as cemetery clean-ups and workshops, the union received the accolade of Developing Union of the Year at the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) Congress in 2023. Its current president, Daniel Bobrow, was honored as Emerging Leader of the Year at that same congress. The union currently boasts 170 members.

Jewish Media

The Danish Jewish community publishes a magazine, Joedisk Orientering, six times a year. There are also two Jewish periodicals, Rambam and Alef, the latter being a journal of Jewish culture.

Denmark's Jewish community boasts a rich history of Jewish publications. Between 1992 and 2020, the annual magazine "Rambam" served as a scholarly journal focused on Danish Jewish history within the realms of art, culture, literature, and politics. Featuring original research, debate forums, personal narratives, genealogical findings, and reviews rooted in a Danish Jewish context.

Prior to Rambam, the Society for Jewish Danish History published The Journal of Danish Jewish History, known as 'The Little Blue', between 1980 and 1991.

The Jewish Museum in Copenhagen, in collaboration with the Jewish Information Center, produced a podcast titled "Jewish Mysteries from Danish History." Over two years, from 2020 to 2022, they created 20 episodes. A new podcast is currently in development, produced by the Jewish Information Center.

Information for visitors

There are many notable Jewish sites in Denmark, mainly centered around Copenhagen and its surrounding areas. This includes the Great Synagogue, which was designed by one of Denmark’s most famous architects in the 19th century, Gustav Friedrich Hechst, and two Jewish cemeteries, with one containing a memorial to the 53 Danish Jews who perished at Theresienstadt.

The Danish Jewish Museum displays the history of Jewish life in Denmark, and both the Liberty Museum and Museum of Danish Resistance have exhibits on the Danish Underground’s efforts to save the lives of Danish Jews. Behind the Museum of Danish Resistance is a sculpture, the “Wounded Woman,” that is dedicated to the Danish people by Israel in honor of their heroic efforts to save Danish Jews from the Nazis.

The Jewish Museum in Copenhagen is small but is the national museum for Danish Jewish culture, art, and history. The museum’s mission is to collect, register, research, preserve, and present the Danish Jewish cultural heritage. It receives funding from the city of Copenhagen. The action plan states that funds have been allocated to the Danish Museum to organize and implement events, exhibitions, and debates on Danish Jewish cultural history. Collaboration with the country's museums and libraries is encouraged. Funds have also been allocated to raise awareness among young Danes on Danish Jewish cultural history and life.

Relations with Israel

Israel and Denmark maintain full diplomatic relations.

In Jerusalem, a boat-like monument was erected on the 25th anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry, and a school was named in Denmark's honor. Many cities and towns in Israel have a street or square commemorating the heroism of the Danes. Moreover, one of the prominent items on display in Yad Vashem is a small boat that was used to ferry Jews to safety in Sweden. On Israel Plads in Copenhagen, there is a monument from Eilat stone with an inscription in both Danish and Hebrew, a gift of the Israeli people.

Denmark's Queen Margrethe II was the patron of the 1993 event marking the 50th anniversary of the rescue operation of Danish Jews.

Israeli Embassy
Lundevangsvej 4
DK-2900 Hellerup, Copenhagen

Tel: +45 88 18 55 00
Fax: +45 88 18 55 55

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