A Conversation with Rabbi Bent Melchior the Legendary Chief Rabbi of Denmark
by Akbar Ahmed
The Journey into Europe team recently arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark where the visit was launched with a lecture on the Journey into Europe project by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed at the University of Copenhagen. The lecture was sponsored by Professor Ehab Galal of the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies and Leading Danish-Pakistani Businesswoman on Danish Identity.
While in Copenhagen, Ambassador Ahmed, Dr. Amineh Hoti, and Harrison Akins visited Rabbi Bent Melchior, the former Chief Rabbi of Denmark, at his home in order to discuss the Jewish and Muslim communities of Denmark.
Rabbi Melchior is descended from a long line of rabbis and became Chief Rabbi of Denmark in 1969, succeeding his father who served as Chief Rabbi from 1947 to 1969. Rabbi Melchior has been very involved in bringing the different faith communities together both in Denmark and internationally. Since 1999, he has been Honorary Life President of B’nai B’rith Europe as well as being involved in numerous other international organizations.
During the interview, Rabbi Melchior discussed the history of the Jewish community in Denmark, his experiences in World War 2 during which the Danish people saved the vast majority of the Danish Jewish population from the Nazi concentration camps, the lessons the Jewish community learned in integrating in Denmark, and what he sees as the essence of Judaism.