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Czech Chief Rabbi Expresses His Solidarity with Romanies

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The chief rabbi of the Czech Republic expressed his solidarity with the country’s Romany population last week, when he greeted participants at a demonstration protesting violence against Romanies.

Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon was among those addressing some 400 people at the Dec. 10 demonstration, during which participants observed a minute of silence for 28 Romanies – or Gypsies, as they are commonly known – who were killed in recent clashes with skinheads.

“I think that there is racism in this country and that it is necessary to draw attention to this problem,” Sidon said, explaining why he had appeared at the demonstration.

“At the moment, Czech racism is directed at Gypsies. But that doesn’t mean it can’t change in the future and be directed at some other group. That is why it is dangerous for the whole society.”

“I don’t like demonstrations at all, but I felt very strongly about this one,” he added. “It was my duty to attend.”

The Romanies Civic Initiative, a sponsor of the demonstration, had asked Sidon to appear before the gathering because “there are some parallels between the lot of Romanies and Jews in the Czech Republic,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Alena Gronzikova.

She added that her organization may “cooperate with the [Czech] Jewish community in the future.”

Gronzikova said attacks on Romanies are on the rise, primarily due to heightened activity by Czech shinheads.

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