Now the Malmö mayor opposes Jewish studies

By Nathalie Rothschild, May 5, 2011
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Ilmar Reepalu: no to 'minorities studying their own cultures'

Ilmar Reepalu: no to 'minorities studying their own cultures'

Swedish school pupils will have the opportunity to take Jewish studies as an optional subject starting from this autumn.

After a lengthy consultation period, the Swedish government has commissioned the National Agency for Education to formulate a study plan for the new course, which will be available to pupils in years seven to nine (ages 13 to 15).

It will encompass Jewish culture, history, traditions and religion. Pupils will also have the option of studying either Hebrew or Yiddish, an officially recognised minority language in Sweden.

As part of the evaluation process, the government asked municipalities whether they would like to see Jewish studies taught at schools.

Stockholm, the capital city, approved of the plan. However, Ilmar Reepalu, mayor of Malmö, the third largest city, opposed it.

According to local media, in a written response to the Malmö Municipal Executive Board, Reepalu said that "the proposal opens up the possibility of other national minorities demanding to study their cultures."

He suggested that creating special courses such as Jewish studies will further fragment schools.

Mr Reepalu, who has been accused of apathy in relation to a rise in antisemitic hate crimes in Malmö, also said that introducing Jewish Studies will blur the lines between social science subjects such as history, religion and geography.

One Stockholm state school which has some majority-Jewish classes has been allowed to offer a graded Jewish studies course since 2001. In a recent evaluation, the National Agency for Education gave the programme high marks. The report said: "Overall, the pupils are highly motivated and have high grades in Jewish studies as well as in other subjects."

Swedish schools are allowed to allocate a limited amount of lessons to special subjects. Now, despite Reepalu's protestations, state schools and free schools across the country will be able to apply for permission to teach Jewish studies.

Last updated: 11:09am, May 5 2011