Danish Jew killed at synagogue: He took one for the team

Dan Uzan, aged 37, got shot to death while guarding the synagogue in the Danish capital on Saturday night. This big and mild-mannered man was like a son to the congregation for whose safety he lived and died

”Unluckily, he was at the right place at the right time while watching over others like he always did,” as one of 
Dan Uzan's former classmates has put it on Facebook.
”Unluckily, he was at the right place at the right time while watching over others like he always did,” as one of Dan Uzan's former classmates has put it on Facebook. . Foto: Privatfoto.

Dan Uzan would always get in the way.

When the ball whistled through the air on the field, this big man would stand his ground bravely and do all he could to stop it. As a football goalie for the Jewish club Hakoah for decades, Dan Uzan would stand between the striker and the goal, and take one for the team.

This Saturday night, Dan Uzan took yet another one for the team, this time as guard for the Jewish congregation.

Around 80 Jews, amongst them many teenagers, were celebrating a young girl’s bat mitzwah in central Copenhagen. That night, the Jews in Krystalgade, Copenhagen, could all have fallen victims of a terrorist attack. The terrorist seems to have tried to gain access to the Jewish culture center behind the synagogue with a loaded gun around half an hour after midnight.

But Dan Uzan got in the way. He was manning the entrance control unarmed and got shot in the head at close range. He passed away shortly afterwards. Two police officers were wounded by shots when the terrorist fled the scene.

For many years, Dan Uzan was a fixture in the congregation’s volunteer guard team, looking out for everyone at the synagogue on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. He’d protect the pupils at Carolineskolen, the Jewish school in Copenhagen where he himself used to study. Dan Uzan would help out at all congregational events, and last time around was at Hakoah’s 90 year anniversary in late January.

”He was always smiling and cheerful, always saying hello to everybody,” says his coach and teacher for many years, Morten Margolinsky.

Dan was ”like a son to the congregation”, states the Jewish community in Denmark in a press release.

Most people in the Jewish congregation knew who Dan Uzan was. Come rain, come snow, he’d always be there to ensure that others had the chance to gather in peace and quiet. His was often the first face that one would encounter at the services held in the synagogue. A big fella, scary to look at but mild-mannered, nice and upbeat, say his friends and acquaintances.

Dan Uzan was also in place when he was needed this Saturday night when terrorism hit the Jewish community:

”Unluckily, he was at the right place at the right time while watching over others like he always did,” as one of his former classmates has put it on Facebook.

All through Sunday, the bereaved friends and family received greetings from all and sundry on this social platform, many of them concluding with the Hebrew expression baruch dayan haemet: Promised be the true judge.
Dan Uzan passed away in his second home: in God’s house. He himself was not religious, but he did his job because the congregation was his adoptive family. ”Everybody felt that Dan looked out for them. And so he did until tonight. Dan was a warm, loving and exuberant friend who was always there for others and would lend a helping hand without hesitating. He had a huge heart with room for everyone. He was a son, a brother, a friend and a team mate who was taken from us far too soon,” writes his team mate Daniel S. Gonn in a message to The Christian Daily.
Dan Uzan is the second child of a mixed marriage and grew up in the suburb Hvidovre. His mother is Danish and his father Israeli, and they decided to let Jewish religion and culture be a central part of their offspring’s lives. Dan was sent to Carolineskolen as so many other Jewish children were in the eighties and nineties. At Carolineskolen, it was only natural for the boys to make an effort on the turf for the Jewish football club, and he was known as an incredibly loyal team mate. He participated in a full five Maccabias, the international Jewish sports games, representing Denmark and the club as a keeper.
Tage Skolnik was Dan’s coach from 1995 till 2007 and remembers him as a fabulous team mate who would always turn up for training:

”He’d never sulk. He’d always be eager to do well for the common good. Whenever he’d win a little money by gambling, he’d donate it to the club. The congregation was his haven, and he gave what he had to give. He was a mensch, as we would say in Yiddisch.”

Former Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner knew Dan Uzan from Dan was only eight days old. That was when Lexner carried out the Jewish circumcision brit milah on him. Lexner taught Dan at Carolineskolen, and it was Lexner who drove out to Dan’s parents with the police officers in order to let the parents know of their son’s fate.

”He looked after us,” says the Rabbi.

Dan Uzan had a Master’s degree in Political Science and was also active as a basketball player in a Hørsholm club north of Copenhagen. He worked for the airline SAS and the shop chain Tiger. Dan Uzan lived alone and leaves his parents and a sister behind.

Translated from the Danish by Sara Høyrup