Jewish chairman considers emigrating from Denmark to Israel


Northern Europe


Henri Goldstein has been living in Denmark all his 75 years. But together with his wife, he is considering leaving for Israel. Photo Mosaisk.dk

Coming Saturday, Henri Goldstein won’t celebrate his 75th birthday in Denmark but in Israel. There, his children and grandchildren live. And he might spend his last days as well.

The chairman of the Jewish community in Denmark has lived in Copenhagen all his life. He made a career as a gynaecologist and a professor in medical studies.

But now, he is considering leaving the country. Yes, he misses his two children and four grandchildren living in Israel. But also because of the less pleasant atmosphere for Jews in the Scandinavian country, he tells in an interview to Kristeligt Dagblad.

After returning to Denmark, the Jewish Society will also have a reception for his 75th anniversary. He has been active in the community since his youth and chairman since 2019. The Jewish religious congregation in Denmark counts 1,800 people, according to the official website. The total number of Jews lies between 6,000 and 7,000.

He has lived in the same area of the Danish capital all his life. His family tree, though, has branches all over Europe.

He was born in 1948, shortly after the Second World War. The Danish society was very supportive of Jews; he tells the newspaper. “We were three Jews in my elementary school class, and we were taken into consideration. We were exempted from Christian education and instead went to the Jewish Religious School during those hours.”

His childhood was good and safe. The misfortune came in 1959, when his father died of kidney cancer. After this, the mother supported the children with an income as a librarian at the University of Copenhagen.


After high school, Henri went to Israel for a year, after which he returned home to study. It resulted in both a master’s degree in history and social studies and a master’s degree in medicine.

Alongside his studies, he was active in the Jewish Society, where he met his wife, Vivi. “She was also studying medicine, and I asked if she would borrow my anatomy notes. We became lovers not long after that.”

Over the years, Henri Goldstein has noticed that life as a Danish Jew has become more difficult. “Especially from the 1970s, Jews have had to hear a lot because of the wars in the Middle East. Here, anti-Semitism has been expressed through criticism of Israel.”

In several chronicles, Henri Goldstein has criticised what he perceives as anti-Israel media coverage. That was one of the reasons to switch to the Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad.


Goldstein was active as a gynaecologist and has worked as a senior physician, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and a practising specialist. From this profession, he was very much involved in ethical dilemmas regarding abortion.

The circumcision issue has dominated the few years of his chairmanship of the Jewish Society. In the Danish Folketing (parliament), there was a long debate about this legality since some groups saw this as genital mutilation. And on a local level, the discussion still goes on.

This debate was aggressive, Goldstein says. “To ban it would be an attack on the core of Judaism. That is why I believe that the circumcision debate is the biggest crisis since the occupation” during the Second World War, he says.

The circumcision debate hit the Jewish community during continued declining membership and incidents of vandalism against Jewish cemeteries and other properties. His two sons, Samuel and Jacob, leave to marry women in Israel.


He misses his children and grandchildren in Israel, leading him and his wife to discuss whether it is time to leave Copenhagen. “We’ve been talking about it for many years. I like Israel a lot, but I also like Denmark a lot. I was born and raised here. I went to a Danish school and a Danish university education. I’ve had a career here. So, it’s especially the family thing that draws.”

After his retirement last December, the only commitments that keep the couple in Denmark are the wife’s medical consultation in Amager and his chairmanship of the Jewish Society. “Both parts we are ready to dispose of. So, if you know any talented people who can take over one or the other, please let me know.”



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