Copenhagen 1943 and Copenhagen UN 2009

December 9, 2009
By Rabbi Warren Stone
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Sixty-six years ago, on October 2, 1943, when Jews were celebrating the High Holidays, Hitler ordered the arrest and deportation of Denmark's 8,000 Jews. Danish Christian citizens were outraged and courageously rescued almost the entire Jewish population. In an act of collective resistance, the Danes ferried their fellow Jewish citizens on small boats across the sea to safety in Sweden. Over 99% of Danish Jews survived the Holocaust.

Thirty years ago, I went to the bank of the waters where Jews were rescued by Danes who transported them by sea from the Danish Island of Zealand over the Oresund Staits into Sweden. The moment brought tears to my eyes, particularly after traveling throughout Europe, visiting the camps and feeling acutely the demise of European Jewry.  

Today just one day before the world Jewish celebration of Chanukah I returned to the port and remembered the story of the rescue of Danish Jewry. I gave an interview to Denmark's most popular Sunday radio station equivalent to our NPR thanking the Danish people for this act in 1943 and for their sponsoring the COP15 talks. Denmark has been a visionary leader in environmental activism.Today I will take a boat with UN delegates to visit one of their major wind farms. I will also take a moment in reflection and prayer to remember this gravely challenging time in our Jewish history and the courage of the Danish Christians in rescuing the Danish Jews.

During the UN COP, 15 climate talks will be held in the country which displayed such courage on our behalf.  So, too, today, may the UN representatives and the many thousands attending the alternative Klimaformum in Copenhagen take the lead  to collectively shout out the need for the world's rescue against the potential calamity of climate change. As Jews light the Chanukah candles may they symbolize our our world effort and hopeful vision to create a low carbon future for humanity.

Rabbi Warren Stone is co-chair of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care and founding chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis' Committee on the Environment.
Rabbi Warren Stone serves as rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland. He is representing the Reform Jewish Movement at the Copenhagen Climate Talks. This post originally appeared at and is reprinted with permission. Read more of our blog posts from and about COP 15 here.