Swiss Jews dismiss concerns over construction near Jewish cemetery
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Swiss Jews dismiss concerns over construction near Jewish cemetery

(JTA) — Swiss Jews dismissed concerns raised by Satmar rabbis in New York about construction work performed on a Zurich building that borders a Jewish cemetery.

The approval of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities of construction at the Museum for Modern Art followed protests by the Satmar-affiliated United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn that said the project involved “plans to exhume a Medieval Jewish cemetery,” leading to its “destruction.”

David Niederman, the president of the union and a prominent leader of the Satmar branch – a large, isolationist stream of haredi Judaism with a strong presence in New York and London – said hundreds would rally Monday at United Nations headquarters in New York to protest the construction.

“Jewish communities appealed to halt the ongoing desecration of the cemetery,” he wrote in a statement Sunday.

But Jonathan Kreutner, general secretary of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, told JTA on Monday that the communities his organization represents “do not share these concerns at all” regarding the medieval cemetery, which is no longer in use.

Kreutner added that the federation saw “no reason to protest” because the three Orthodox communities of Switzerland agreed with the city to take steps “according to the halachah,” Orthodox Jewish religious law, “if remains of Jewish people will be found at the construction site; which is not even clear at the moment.”

He added: “For us, everything is in good local Jewish hands and we do not need advice from Jewish groups abroad.”

Halachah prohibits disturbing or otherwise manipulating the remains of Jews, except in special circumstances.