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Danish Jews Lose a Gentle Giant

Binyamin Rose

When Rabbi Yitzchok Loewenthal arrived at Copenhagen’s Great Synagogue on Motzaei Shabbos to give a mazel tov at the Bentow family bas mitzvah, he felt safe seeing Daniel Uzan in his customary position, manning the security gate. Despite his personal sense of wellbeing, Rabbi Loewenthal tells Mishpacha he had a premonition about Uzan. “I said to Dan, ‘Why are you standing outside? The police are there.’ He told me he wanted to see the passersby and check out the passing cars.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shortly after Rabbi Loewenthal left, the simchah turned to tzaar when 22-year-old Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein committed his second terrorist atrocity that day, shooting and killing Uzan, before Danish police eliminated El-Hussein a few hours later. “We called Dan the gentle giant,” Rabbi Loewenthal says about Uzan, who is survived by his sister and parents. “He was very reliable and solid and always had a friendly word, even after standing out in the cold for many hours.” Uzan was standing guard on a day when security at the Great Synagogue was ramped up, following a murderous attack in the late afternoon at a cultural center hosting a conference sponsored by a Swedish caricaturist who was facing death threats for his depictions of Islam’s prophet. Fearing a repeat performance of last month in Paris, where terrorists first targeted the anti-Islamist Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine before training their sights on a kosher market, Copenhagen police prepared for the targeting of the Jewish community, stationing two machine-gun toting policemen outside the shul. “I’ve never seen a scene like that in Copenhagen before,” Rabbi Loewenthal says. Despite the beefed-up police presence, the 37-year-old Uzan, who performed his security duties on a volunteer basis, refused to slack off. “Dan wanted to be proactive,” Rabbi Loewenthal says. “I understand — because it’s true — if our security guys go away, it’s highly likely the police will, too. So Dan made the right decision to save other people’s lives, but he paid for it with his own.”  

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