Jewish groups have joined a newly formed Brazilian coalition to combat anti- Semitism and racism.
More than 300 persons this week attended the founding meeting of the Democratic Movement against Nazism and All Forms of Discrimination.
They represented 100 human rights and other groups, including representatives of the black and Jewish communities and Brazilian migrants from the northeast.
In a statement, the coalition said racial questions involved not only the groups involved but Brazil as a whole. “The hour has arrived for fighting the myth that there is racial democracy in Brazil,” it said. “The triumph of Nazism is the overthrow of the democratic political system.”
The initiative in establishing the forum came from the Jewish Federation of Sao Paulo and the Order of Attorneys of Brazil, following a series of anti-Semitic and racist incidents.
In Santo Andre, a city in greater Sao Paulo, members of a group called Skinheads-White Power last month beat up two young Jews wearing scullcaps.
The attack occurred near a school connected with the Chabad movement of Lubavitcher Hasidim.
Other Jewish groups in Brazil received threatening letters from the Skinheads, and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated in Rio de Janeiro and in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Neo-Nazis connected with the Skinheads-White Power group also attacked a radio station in Sao Paulo with a listenership among Brazilian migrants from the northeast of the country.
More than 100 organizations were represented at the headquarters of the Order of Attorneys for the formal creation of the new umbrella body, a coalition unprecedented in Brazil.
Jewish leaders said joint action was needed to combat neo-Nazism.
Jews are fighting “all discrimination, not only racism,” said Laszlo Krausz, chairman of the Political Council of the Jewish Federation.
Federation President Jayme Bobrow said, “We cannot wait until we get hurt” to join together with others.
Similarly, Rabbi Henry Sobel, president of the rabbinate at Congregacao Israelita Paulista, said a parochial battle against anti-Semitism or racism is a lost battle.
“We in the Jewish community must ally ourselves with other groups to combat every manifestation of ethnic and racial prejudice,” said Sobel.
Catholic cooperation was pledged by Dr. Marco Antonio Rodrigues Barbosa, on behalf of the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sao Paulo.
Barbosa wrote a letter to Sobel, who is the Jewish coordinator of the National Commission on Catholic-Jewish Religious Dialogue of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.
In it, he expressed the desire to “transmit to the Jewish community our solidarity, and our placing this commission at the disposition of your struggle.”
Police in Sao Paulo are gathering evidence against the leaders of the local Skinheads-White Power with a view toward indictments on grounds of racial discrimination.
Police arrested Nelson Ronaldo Ferreira after he appeared in a Sept. 17 television documentary to call for the “elimination of Northeasterners and Jews,” but he was later released.
Two other Skinheads, Ivan Guidi Ferreira and Andre Luiz Ribeiro Sterkele, were arrested. They denied they had participated in racist or neo-Nazi activities.
There appear to be at least three rival groups of Skinheads and White Power adherents operating here, sources said.