Switzerland’s Jewish community reacted with shock and fear after a 71-year-old rabbi visiting from Israel was gunned down on the streets here.
Swiss investigators said they believe anti-Semitism or a political motive was behind the June 7 shooting death of Rabbi Abraham Greenbaum. They said robbery was an unlikely motive because the killer did not take the large sum of cash that Greenbaum was carrying.
A father of 12 and the dean of a yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Greenbaum was in Zurich on a fund-raising mission.
Staying at the home of a haredi, or fervently Orthodox, family, Greenbaum was shot several times after he had attended prayer services.
Police confirmed Saturday that they had arrested a suspect, but they refused to provide any details.
The murder was the latest of at least five attacks on Orthodox Jews in Zurich during the past four years. Two of the attacks claimed the victims’ lives. In both of those cases, the assailants were mentally disturbed.
Because Greenbaum’s garb made him instantly recognizable as a Jew, Swiss Jewish leaders claimed that anti- Semitism lay behind the attack.
“You don’t have to look far for the reason,” the honorary president of the Zurich Jewish community, Sigi Feigel, wrote in an op-ed in the Swiss daily newspaper Blick. “The motive for the murder was hatred, hatred of Jews.”
Feigel also accused the Swiss media of “pouring oil on the fire” of anti-Semitism with what he charged was their pro-Palestinian coverage of the ongoing violence in the Middle East.
In recent years, there have been reports of growing Swiss anti-Semitism in reaction to pressure from Jewish groups on the nation’s banks to settle Holocaust-era claims.
But Feigel said that even then he did not receive as much hate mail as he is now getting in reaction to the past eight months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The Zurich Jewish community reacted to Greenbaum’s murder by calling on the Swiss government to increase its efforts in the battle against anti-Semitism and racism.
Meanwhile, Orthodox residents of Zurich say they are frightened because their clothing makes them obvious targets for anti-Semitic attacks.
“We only walk in groups on the streets,” a woman who identified herself only as Rivka told JTA.
“We know that we live in an anti-Semitic society.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.