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Remark About Gypsies Irks Jews

July 11, 1997
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An outspoken right-wing candidate for deputy mayor of Rome has angered local Jews by apparently comparing them to Gypsies, whose formal name is Roma.

Teodoro Buontempo, who is running as part of the center-right Freedom Alliance, was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying, “If Rome can coexist with the Jewish community, it will learn how to do so also with the Gypsies.”

Some Roman Jews were offended by the remark, as Gypsies in Rome generally live in campsites that often trigger angry protest by local residents. Gypsies often suffer discrimination and are viewed in a bad light by many residents of Rome.

Jews have lived in Rome for more than 2,000 years, but when Rome was ruled by the popes, they were forced to live in a ghetto, which was abolished in 1870.

Some interpreted the remark to mean that Buontempo advocated placing ghetto- type restrictions on Gypsies.

Victor Magiar, a Rome city official who is also on the board of Rome’s Jewish community, told the newspaper Il Messaggero that such an idea would be “tragically grotesque.”

Buontempo said his remark was misunderstood and he wanted to see Gypsies become as fully integrated into mainstream society as Italian Jews are.

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