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Anti-Semitism row 'could mar' Reepalu's legacy

Anti-Semitism row 'could mar' Reepalu's legacy

Published: 05 Feb 2013 15:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 05 Feb 2013 15:51 GMT+01:00

There has been a mixed reaction from Malmö’s Jewish community following Mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s decision to step down.

Reepalu, 69, will bring his 19-year tenure to an end on July 1st. He addressed the anti-Semitism accusations, which have marred his latter years in charge, in a farewell editorial in newspaper Sydsvenskan, saying that his words had been misinterpreted.

Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, who has been on the receiving end of several anti-Semitic attacks, told The Local that he wouldn't miss Reepalu.

"This issue was not about somebody stepping down but about taking responsibility. I truly hope that whoever takes his place is more responsible," Kesselman said.

Kesselman, who dresses in traditional Jewish attire, has been physically attacked on the street and had the word Palestina carved into his car since moving to Malmö in 2004.

"Reeplau crossed the line on occasion with his comments and I just hope that his successor sees the reality of the situation," the US native added.

"Many Jewish people living in Malmö have lost their sense of security because of his comments. The problem goes much deeper."

At the beginning of 2011, Reepalu defended himself against anti-Semitism accusations.

"When people say that we have a right to take your land because we have some form of thousand-year promise from God that this is our land, then it creates conflicts," Reepalu said to the regional Sydsvenskan newspaper.

"Then they say that I am anti-Semitic when I put this across. I am flabbergasted that they are then able to tie all this together."

Frederik Sieradski, a spokesman for the Malmö Jewish community, told The Local that he didn’t wish to make a political statement regarding Reepalu’s imminent departure.

SEE ALSO: Malmö residents weigh in on Ilmar Reepalu's legacy

Sieradski did add, however, that he wasn’t surprised the mayor was quitting as he approaches his 70th birthday.

"I just hope that the person who replaces him will cooperate with the Jewish community," Sieradski said.

"It is important that there be respect and understanding for all faiths."

Reepalu’s work on revitalizing Malmö as a post-industrial city was praised by Jehoshua Kaufman. The organizer of the city’s kippah walks said he didn’t see a connection between the mayor’s decision to quit and the anti-Semitism scandal.

"If you look at what he has done for the city, then he has been really good," said Kaufman.

"Reepalu transformed the city from a port town to a post-industrial place with a lot of enterprise. He changed the outlook of the city."

Kaufman suggested that Reepalu's issues with the Jewish community would inevitably play a part in defining his legacy.

"From the outside, he will probably be known as the mayor who was accused of anti-Semitism. It is a little unfair if that is all he is remembered for, but at the same time he only has himself to blame. I wish him well in his retirement."

Reepalu's role in tackling Malmö’s record deficit was hailed by his Social Democrat colleague Joakim Sandell. Upon taking the reins in 1994, Sweden’s third largest city was 1.3 billion kronor ($206 million) in the red and had an unemployment rate of 22 percent.

"Malmö is an exceptionally different city now than before he took over. Now people want to move here, we have a university and landmarks like the Turning Torso," said the chairman of the Malmö Social Democrats.

Sandell also addressed the anti-Semitism furore, saying that Reepalu had been "deeply affected" by the accusations.

"Hopefully people will see the bigger picture and the role he has played in reorganizing the city."

Patrick Reilly

Follow Patrick on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:43 February 5, 2013 by Rishonim
There is no such thing as traditional Jewish attire. Black suit, white shirt,Tallit katan and a Borsalino hat is the classical garbs of the Hasidic Jews. Jews from Morocco, Iraq or Iran dont dress like that....
20:08 February 5, 2013 by bcterry
So what?

It's religious attire, and it clearly identifies they are Jews.
20:29 February 5, 2013 by johan rebel
"Could mar"?

Already irreversibly marred.
20:57 February 5, 2013 by Rishonim
@bcterry. No it doesn't Amish wear the same clothes, so with your logic they should be identified as Jews as well?
01:11 February 6, 2013 by Children Of Adam
I wonder when the Jews would stop playing with anti antisemitic card?

Any one who try to speak about Israel they are labelled right away as Antisemitic person. This card never gets old huh?
05:31 February 6, 2013 by dekamikaze
Just like you muslims isn't it, if people try to speak about you muslims they are labelled right away as racists right?
05:57 February 6, 2013 by engagebrain
Children of Adam

Racists love to play the

'I wonder when the Jews would stop playing with anti antisemitic card' card.

It's not a card, racism and antisemitism exist and should be denounced.

It is quite possible to criticise Israel without being antisemitic but the tiny jewish population of Malmo are not Israel and are not responsible for Israel's actions.

Children of Adam - odd name, something to do with denying evolution ?
11:03 February 6, 2013 by MangeF
The accusations are a joke. The fact that Obama sent a special convoy to Malmö gotta make the oblivious bystander scratch their head in confusion. Reepalu is not an anti-Semite in any way, shape or form. I am in fact an anti-Semite, so I would know.
11:40 February 6, 2013 by engagebrain
MangeF

'Reepalu is not an anti-Semite in any way, shape or form. I am in fact an anti-Semite, so I would know'

what is the identifying feature, smell, mad eyes, secret badge, handshake ?

marks for honesty and for not playing the ' i'm a racist because my parents were racists, card'
15:03 February 6, 2013 by bcterry
Rishonim,

You really want to go there?

When was the last time an Amish was attacked on the street in Malmo, or anywhere in Sweden, and where are Amish colonies located in Sweden?

Documented verifiable references.
17:00 February 6, 2013 by Rishonim
My point is that there is no such thing as traditional Jewish attire; whereas the author is alluding that Jews go about wearing their trademark clothing. The author should get his facts straight. Maybe he should stress the traditional Haredim clothing

Documented verifiable reference.
16:25 February 7, 2013 by bcterry
So you concede they are easy to spot because of their religious attire.

Look up traditional jewish religious attire, there are lots of examples.
20:34 February 7, 2013 by godnatt
Well if this is a democracy than being an anti-Semitic scumbag who thinks Jews should be run out of Sweden, then Europe then off the face of the earth is his job...

He's simply representing the interests of his "new Swede" constituents down there in Beautiful Baghdad... I mean Malmö.
00:48 February 9, 2013 by bcterry
Muslims make up 20% of Malmo's population, that's a hell of a large jew hating voting block.
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