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Swiss Jews get death threats amid continuing anti-Semitism

ZURICH, Aug. 6 (JTA) — Already plagued by a rash of anti-Semitic incidents, Switzerland now has several more to contend with. Several Jewish leaders were placed under police protection over the weekend after receiving death threats in the mail. Among those receiving the threats was Sigi Feigel, honorary president of the Jewish community of Zurich, who was seen escorted by two policemen as he walked along the city’s streets. Other Jewish communal leaders have received death threats, but they have sought to downplay the situation in an effort not to draw attention to themselves. In a separate development, a band of neo-Nazis disrupted a celebration marking the 149th anniversary of the creation of the Swiss Confederation that was held last Friday at Ruetli, located near Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland. They gave Nazi salutes and shouted Nazi slogans, but police at the scene did not attempt to intervene. “We did not want to overreact,” Reto Habermacher, a local police commander, said Sunday. Habermacher said the group was very small and admitted that police had not sought to get their names. Jewish leaders questioned why the police did not act as they are required to do under Switzerland’s anti-racism law. “This incident shows that a lot of people in this country do not have the political will to act in accordance with the law,” said Thomas Lyssy, vice president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland. Another anti-Semitic incident occurred last weekend in Arosa, a resort located 100 miles north of Zurich. Rabbi Abraham Pinter, principal of a 1,000-student yeshiva in
England, had booked a vacation apartment in Arosa for himself and his family. The reservation was confirmed by fax, but the landlord later contacted them to find out if they were Jewish. When Pinter’s wife, Rachel, told them that they were, the landlord said, “We are not renting to Jews.” Abraham Pinter subsequently complained to the Swiss Tourist Office in London. The office’s director, Urs Eberhardt, apologized for the incident and offered the family another apartment in Arosa free of charge. But the family turned down the offer, not wanting to be exposed to any additional anti-Semitism there, Eberhardt said in a telephone interview. Instead, Eberhardt said, the family accepted an invitation to Montana-Crans, a resort in the French part of Switzerland, for a two- week vacation. Lyssy expressed satisfaction with the way the problem was resolved. “This is not the first time that such an incident happened in Switzerland, but it is the first time that Swiss officials reacted so quickly and generously,” he said.