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Belarus Jewish editor’s home set ablaze in anti-Semitic act

NEW YORK, Jan. 9 (JTA) — Vandals set fire to the home of

the editor of the Jewish newspaper in Minsk, Belarus, according to the

National Conference on SovietThe Association of Jewish Communities of Belarus met Thursday and issued a statement calling on the government to condemn the arson and to prohibit pro-fascist groups from operating in Belarus. The Jan. 2 attack, in which vandals also daubed swastikas on Mikhail Nordshtein’s vacation cottage, comes as concerns have increased about a rise in anti-Semitism in the former Soviet republic. Nordshtein is the editor of the Jewish newspaper Aviv. Earlier this year, Jewish fears were heightened because of a controversial referendum giving Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko virtually unlimited powers. He has cracked down on the opposition and curbed civil liberties, prompting outrage from human rights watchers. And in an interview with a German newspaper, Lukashenko expressed praise for Hitler’s economic policies. He later downplayed his remarks. Jewish leaders in Belarus also have expressed concerns that Russian anti-Semitic groups have become active in their nation. Police, meanwhile, have been investigating the attack on the editor’s house. Rabbi Mark Staitman, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, in a statement commended the police for their swift response. He also called on the government of Belarus “to condemn such acts of ethnic violence and to apprehend the individual or individuals behind this action.” The NCSJ has contacted the government of Belarus, and officials from the group will visit the nation later this month. The Jewish community of Belarus is estimated to number about 100,000, or 1 percent of the general population. Some 20,000 to 30,000 Jews live in the capital of Minsk.