Thursday, November 22, 2018 -
Print Edition

Jewish Sweden without a map

A man sweeps the courtyard of the Great Synagogue in Stockholm.Last fall I traveled to Stockholm alone to visit my brother and sister-in-law, whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years. An eternity had passed in the blink of the eye. Time had changed us, but not beyond recognition or love.

Grabbing my bags and rushing through customs at Arlanda Airport, I pushed open the doors and saw my Swedish sister-in-law Lisbeth (Lolo for short). We laughed, cried, stared at each other. Distance evaporated.

We took a long bus ride to their apartment on Celsiusgatan where I stayed so long ago. Gordon, my brother, was slightly stunned. “You’re the same,” he uttered. “You too,” I said, marveling at the Jacobs’ curse.

We talked late into the night, our reunited memories flickering under the lamplight. When my eyes started taking a few catnaps, they realized it was time to put me to bed.

Due to their apartment’s limited size, Gord and Lolo arranged for me to stay at an inexpensive hotel about 15 minutes away by foot. They rolled my weary luggage through the deserted winding streets. But the cold air revived me and we talked non-stop.

Finally I was back in Stockholm with my family. Was I dreaming? Their hugs convinced me otherwise; my adventure was just beginning.

Each morning, after devouring a huge breakfast and strong coffee, I ventured outside toward their apartment sure of mind — and invariably took the same wrong turn.

Getting lost provides incredible insights into a foreign city, especially one with 2.2 million residents and rising.

The Swedes went out of their way to help this petite, confused American.

Statuesque, fair-haired, sophisticated and in a perennial hurry, they directed me in perfect English to my destination.

No one turned away or brushed me aside. While I don’t approve of their pro-Palestinian politics, I had to love these good-hearted strangers.

About 5,000 Swedish Jews live in Stockholm — a fraction compared to the capital’s generous population.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s March 4 L’Chaim© magazine print and digital edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at or subscribe to our online e-Edition.

Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer |

Leave a Reply