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Report: Chavez willing to meet U.S. rabbis

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Venezuelan government is interested in setting up a meeting between President Hugo Chavez and U.S. rabbis, according to a Washington, D.C. rabbi.

In a meeting with the Venezuelan Embassy’s minister counselor charge d’affaires, Angelo Rivero-Santos, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld said he and Potomac, Md. Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt requested that a delegation of rabbis be permitted to meet with the Venezuelan president. Rivero-Santos told the rabbis that it was an "excellent idea" and he would work on arranging it.

Herzfeld, who was also representing the Coalition of Jewish Concerns-AMCHA, said the two rabbis asked for a meeting with Rivero-Santos after the weekend’s desecration of a synagogue in Caracas. Rivero-Santos is the highest ranking official in the embassy because the ambassador has been expelled.

The rabbi said he and Weinblatt also told the embassy official in the one-hour meeting that they "hold President Chavez directly responsible" for Saturday’s attack and any future attacks because of his anti-Jewish rhetoric. They were told that the attack was carried out by Chavez’s "political opposition."

Herzfeld said he had hoped to bring a larger group of rabbis with him on Tuesday, but their Monday request for a meeting at the embassy was met with such a quick response that he did not have time to organize a bigger delegation.

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