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Jewish Genealogy in Sweden

Thomas Fürth, president, JGS of Sweden

There are Jewish Communities in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö as well, and we estimate that there are around 18 000 – 20 000 Jews living in Sweden today.

Jews have lived in Sweden since late 18th century

The first Jew permitted to take up permanent residency in Sweden was Aaron Isaac, a merchant from Germany. Aaron_IsaacHe came to Stockholm with his family in 1774, accompanied by a minyan of people, who also brought their families. As the Jews of Sweden were emancipated in 1870 their number had increased to 3000 through natural increase and new immigration. Communities were founded in Gothenburg, Malmö and in several other towns around the country. While immigration at the beginning of the 20th century consisted mainly of individuals or single families, persecution in Russia forced large numbers of Jews into exile. Several thousand came to Sweden.

During the thirties numerous Jews fled from Nazi Germany. The largest immigration occurred immediately after the Holocaust, when thousands of survivors were brought from the death camps. About 5000 of them remained in Sweden, although the majority left for Israel and the USA. This influx doubled the population. The political events in Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1967, and Poland 1968 led to additional Jewish immigration to Sweden. The most current group of immigrants came from the former Soviet Republic.

Books about Jewish history in Sweden

The History of the Jews of Sweden by Hugo Valentin (1924) is considered the standard work of historic information for understanding the origins and shaky beginnings of the Jewish communities of Sweden. Until now, this document was only available in Swedish. In 2018, a professionally translated version was created on behalf of a private donor in the U.S., now enabling English-speaking Jewish persons of Swedish heritage and other researchers to access the information. The nearly 700 page volume includes a 16-page alphabetical index of names and topics. Additionally, there is a review of all legislation regarding Jewish settlement from the years 1685 through 1840.

In 2021 Carl Henric Carlsson published a new overview work Judarnas historia i Sverige (The History of the Jews in Sweden). The book is based on solid source research and can be seen as a modern version of Hugo Valentin’s classic book from 1924. It was published in Natur & Kultur but is so far only available in Swedish.

The Autobiography of Aaron Isaac tells the first-hand tale of Isaac’s origins and life as the first permitted Jew to live in Sweden, under a unique arrangement made directly with the King.

His 100 page memoirs in Hebrew and Yiddish were completed in 1804. It’s a charming look at his life, with humorous and challenging events told with vigor and color. Translated into English in 2019.

JGS of Sweden

JGS of Sweden had its 10th anniversary in 2007. Today we have more members than ever 170 members. In the last years we have had six to eight meetings every year. The society holds its meetings either in the Jewish Library situated in the cellar of the Stockholm synagogue or at the Jewish Center in Stockholm. We publish a small newsletter Mishpologen four times a year.

Activities in recent years

We visit in one or two meetings per year different archives and libraries in the Stockholm area that are important for Jewish family history. We have had two different themes as a red thread through our meetings. One theme has been lectures about places outside Sweden where our ancestors used to live like Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Suwalki in Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. Another theme has been places within Sweden where Jews used to live like Sundsvall, Oskarshamn and other small cities outside the three main areas in Sweden where Jews today live

Then of course we have had members and others lecturing about their own family history. Sometimes these topics have been of Jewish families whose ancestors came to Sweden already in late 18th century when Jews for the first time were permitted to settle in Sweden. Other lectures have been about Jewish families that came to Sweden from Russia in the late 19th century or came to Sweden as refugees during the 1930s. We have also had a meeting with one of the participants in the Swedish version of the TV series Who do you think you are – a famous Swedish politician Ulf Adelsohn with a Jewish  family background from Russian Poland.

We have also arranged workshops about Jewish genealogy for our members.

Plans and projects

We have also just started a project to document the Jewish cemeteries of Sweden together with the Jewish community of Stockholm. This project is was finished in 2018 and information about all the tombstones int the two Jewish cemeteries in Stockholm could befound at JOWBR at JewishGen.

We are a small society active in a country with a small Jewish population, but the plans for the coming years is to arrange five to six meetings every year. We will also continue to inform about our society in other Jewish societies and meetings in Sweden as well in general genealogical conferences in Sweden.

However, we would like to have more exchange with other JGS outside of Sweden. We could have regular exchanges of newsletters and perhaps arrange regional and European meetings on common topics.

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