Stockholm / Sweden
Jewish identity, Jewish culture & religion, Jewish life in Sweden, Human Rights, Politics, Music
Izzy is 25 year old and lives in Stockholm, Sweden. She's a law student, human rights worker (founder of the Human Rights Network 'Info Belarus'), freelance journalist, rock singer & songwriter, and of course... Jewish!
I can’t believe I’m actually writing this blog post. It’s been far too long ago, and I’m sorry. I guess, life has been filled with too many projects the last year and now I’m finally ready to talk about them.
Four major things happened in 2012:
1) I dug out that courage within me and finally booked a ticket to Ukraine, to do that trip I always dreamt of. For two weeks I travelled around in Western Ukraine, in my grandfathers footsteps, alone. Discovered the place where he was born, the city where he grew up and sadly also the city where his family died during the Second World War. I will write a blogpost about this trip and about my family research (a pretty amazing story) very soon!
2) Got elected as one of the youngest members of the Jewish Community Council in Stockholm. Really looking forward to get going with this mission, being a more active part of the Jewish Community.
3) Went to Belarus with a Swedish Television crew from “Uppdrag Granskning” (Mission: Investigation), filming the TV documentary ‘The Black Boxes’ about the telecom company TeliaSonera and their cooperation with secret services in dictatorships, which started a huge debate in Sweden and internationally about corporate responsibilities.
4) Went to Poland with my cousin, producing our first Radio Documentary together, about the political happenings and antisemitic campaign in Poland 1968, also a little trip back to our mothers roots…
It’s a new year now, and I hope that this year will be filled with at least as many interesting happenings as last year… I already have one thing to look forward to. Guess what! In a week from now I’m going to Berlin, for the first time in my life. I’m so happy to be one of 50 participants from all over the world, at the ‘Shifting Thought Shifting Action‘, starting next sunday in Berlin, where change-makers of Jewish life in Europe are gathering to re:envision the future of Jewish communities in Europe. I’ll be listening to and meeting loads of interesting people, but also have a session/workshop myself, where I’ll be talking about campaigning; how to reach out and succeed with your goals (actually, how to CHANGE; change the society, change the world, you name it). I’m so much looking forward to this. I’m sure that these few days will be really inspiring when it comes to my work within the Jewish Community of Stockholm, but also life in general.
I always wanted to go to Berlin! Now I’m finally doing it. See you soon!
I visited Poland recently, the country my parents had to leave in 1968, because they were Jewish. Working on a radio documentary on our parents Polish-Jewish history, in search of our roots, me and my cousin went to Warsaw and Wroclaw, interviewing both scientists/historians and others about the antisemitic campaign during 1968, launched by the Communist Party. I discovered these dolls, depicting Jews, holding gold coins in their hands. It seems like the echo of antisemitism is still alive Poland… With a sad, creepy feeling in my body, I thought, what would these men selling “greedy Jews” on the streets of Poland think if they went to Israel and found that one of the most common souvenirs was “Polish greedy men” with golden coins in their hands? Aren’t people thinking at all? It’s 2012. Over 60 years since the Holocaust and over 30 years since around 20-30 000 Jews were forced to leave their homeland in Europe. In my heart, I feel Jewish… And also want to feel Polish. But some part of me is still waiting for that country to erase that last echo of antisemitism, for me to feel that Polish as I wish. When will Poland make me proud and throw away these horrible dolls? Hope we don’t have to wait 30 more years.
Solidarity action for freedom in Belarus and against death penalty, in Stockholm 18th of March
It’s been quiet from me here for a while. Let’s say it’s been pretty hectic, to say the least. I thought it’s time to update you on what has been going on in my life.
When I’m not blogging, I’m also a human rights activist. My focus is Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe. It always strikes me, when I come back home from my trips to that country, that the capital Minsk is only 1,5 hour away from Stockholm with direct flight. Still, it’s another world. A world upside down. It’s always hard to leave that country and get back to safe Sweden. You get upset, sad and angry. How come I was lucky enough to be born in Sweden, where I get what ever I want to get, where I can say what ever is on my mind – and where I can choose to criticize the government or other regimes on a blog like this, when others get punished for doing the same?
I just came back from my sixth trip to Belarus, a few days ago. It was probably one of the most important trips I’ve done to that country.
One of the meetings I had during this trip was with a 16-year old political activist. He reminds me of myself, when I started getting active in youth politics, also in his age. Except, he grew up in “another world”. I was going to talk to him about life as a young activist in the dictatorship. How he has been harassed by secret service, how he’s been kicked out from home because of views and his desire for freedom and democracy. But we didn’t even get to start, until we found ourselves surrounded by police officers and were forced into a van.
We spent three hours in arrest that day. It was a day I will never forget. The feeling that you don’t know what’s going to happen to you, that somebody else is under control of your freedom. My guess is that they wanted to scare us, but you can never know how they’re thinking in a dictatorship like Belarus, or why they are doing what they are doing. Things are simply always a bit upside down and it’s a fact that people get in trouble when they’re trying to live with some kind of basic human rights. During these three hours, I couldn’t stop worrying about that young Belarusian activist, who they took to another room in the police station. Somehow I felt safe, since I knew that it would be a scandal for them to keep Swedish citizens in the arrest for more than three hours without any particular reason (after three hours they have to either let you go or charge you with a crime, according to Belarusian law). And even if it wasn’t a pleasant experience, I must say that they treated us rather OK compared to the young activist, and how they usually treat Belarusian citizens.
Today, I’m back in Sweden again. Free to write about what ever I want to write about. Free to organize protests, solidarity meetings, and free to criticize my government and our politicians without fear… without punishment. I still can’t let go of the thought, that my friends, journalist and activist contacts over there are under constant oppression and control. Some of them can’t even leave their own country, since president Lukashenka has started to punish people by giving them a travel ban stamped into their passports – taking them as hostage. I guess he needs his hostages because he’s afraid. Afraid of loosing that precious power of his, and he knows that it’s coming. Just as it did in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya etc. What strikes me is also that if I lived in that country as a Belarusian citizen, I would probably have been jailed long time ago. ‘Cause I’m not the one who can be quiet when people are oppressed, jailed, tortured and even killed (yes, Belarus is the last country in Europe still using death penalty, shooting people in the head) without any justice. Why else are we born with the ability to speak, criticize and think?
So why am I even telling you this story? Well I guess I just want to make you aware. Want you to think, for at least one minute, on that 16 year old boy for whom an arrest has become a horrifying tradition he can’t opt out. I also want you to think at least one minute on Ales Bialiatski, who’s been fighting for other peoples human rights for 15 years and who’s now imprisoned for 4,5 years and probably also tortured, just as the oppositional presidential candidates still imprisoned since the presidential election in 2010.
Give one minute of your freedom to these guys and to the people of Belarus. And speak out about it. It’s our responsibility to speak out for the silenced. If not we, then who?
Everyone of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask – why do we stay up there if its so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you… In one word… Tradition! READ MORE
Maybe the most important Jewish tradition, according to me, is to make a mitzvah (or mitzvot). So what does it mean? Well, making a mitzvah can refer to following the commandments of God, but not only. Making a mitzvah has also come to express an act of human kindness. It’s about being thankful for what you have in your life, realizing you’re not alone in this world and that there are other people in the world who could be in need of your support.
So what’s the biggest Mitzvah I’ve ever done? ’Cause sometimes you just need to scrutinize your self, and it’s a good time now that new years eve is approaching… Let’s see if I can inspire you… A Mitzvah can be anything from helping an old lady over the street (every little act of human kindness is important, people!) or supporting a friend in need. I guess we’ve all done something like that before.
Have you ever heard the song Hava Nagilah? Probably. It’s one of the worlds most covered songs in history. But do you know what Hava Nagilah means? Or where it comes from? Check out this lovely video and you might find out…
Me cooking the Shabbes dinner
Tonight and tomorrow is the Jewish holiday Shabbat… You know, the day God rested when he created the world. I will start Shabbes with visiting the Great Synagogue in Stockholm. Once every month we have what we call “Cosy, Meditative Kabbalat Shabbat”, an initiative started by our rabbi David Lazar. Among me and my friends he’s also known as “Rabbi Cool”. ;) He’s the rabbi that has made a journey from once being orthodox to being a rabbi for the conservative Jewish Masorti Movement, famous for being the innovative rabbi, who calls him self a feminist and fights for LGBT rights (which perfectly suits my values). So simply, I want to say that this is a special day in many ways, and I’m also very happy to have the opportunity to join a Shabbat service with such an inspiring rabbi (I tell you, if you ever visit Stockholm, you better not miss the “Cosy, Meditative Kabbalat Shabbat” held the first friday every month). We’ll have live music and Lazar plays the congas. Aahhh…
After the service I’ve invited some friends over for a Shabbat dinner at my place. So I’m preparing the food right now. We will have an Israeli / Middle Eastern touch on the food. So I’m making Shakshuka, some home made humus, tahina, roasted shredded chicken… Ok so I guess I’ll have to publish the recipes here someday, for you to try it yourself. I promise I will.
Now, Shabbes is getting closer and I need to get ready.
Shabbat Shalom, y’all!
So the time has come, for another adventure… I’m stepping into the world of Jewdyssee!
I feel honored to be blogging here and hope you readers will get an interesting and fun (mostly) picture of life as a Jew in Stockholm. I am involved in almost everything, so I promise to offer posts on everything from everyday life in Stockholm, to political issues (I’m usually a “thorn in the flesh” of dictators and oppressors), posts about the struggle to succeed in the music business, and of course the Jewish life in Sweden + other “jewsy”, Jewish things.
Just wanted to start with presenting myself. So who am I when I’m not blogging? I’m a rock singer/songwriter, human rights activist, law student, pretty active in the Jewish life of Stockholm. And there is more to find out, but we’ll save it for another blog post.
Will write more very soon, so stay tuned! So long,Izzy