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US Jewish centre meets Malmö mayor

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US Jewish centre meets Malmö mayor
12:15 CET+01:00
A US-based Jewish group was in Malmö in southern Sweden on Monday to meet with the mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who has previously been the target of criticism for allegedly failing to protect Jews in the city.

Representatives for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles met with Reepalu to discuss initiatives for improving the safety and security of the city's Jewish population.

"It was a very serious meeting where the key issue was security for minorities. But we have a lot of work in front of us," Abraham Cooper, one of the Wiesenthal centre representatives, said on leaving the meeting shortly after 11am.

In December the centre issued a travel warning urging Jews to exercise "extreme caution" when travelling in southern Sweden.

The statement followed reports of a series of incidents of apparent attacks against the Jewish community and cited "the outrageous remarks of Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who blames the Jewish community for failing to denounce Israel."

While there have been no convictions for hate crimes against Jews in Malmö, local leaders have been scathing in their criticism of the mayor for his apparent nonchalance to their plight amid claims of widespread harassment.

Speaking to the The Sunday Telegraph in February, Reepalu seemed to deny that Jews in Malmö were suffering from harassment despite police reports showing a doubling in the number of crimes against the town's Jewish residents between 2008 and 2009.

"There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel, that is not a matter for Malmö," he told the newspaper.

Reepalu has also been criticised by Malmö-based Jews for allowing anti-Semitism to fester.

"He's demonstrated extreme ignorance when it comes to our problems," Fredrik Sieradzki of the Jewish Community of Malmö (Judiska Församlingen i Malmö) told The Local in January.

Jewish leaders have blamed activists on the far-left for being behind the harassment, complaining that they have no right to "use the Jews (in Malmö) as a punching bag for their disdain toward the policies of Israel."

The team from the Simon Wiesenthal centre were previously in Sweden in December to convey their concerns to justice minister Beatrice Ask during a series of meetings in Stockholm.

One of the proposals presented by the centre is the formation of a form of hate crime police similar to that which exists in the US. Reepalu has reportedly expressed support for the initiative but has forwarded the suggestion to the minister for consideration.

"We wrote to Beatrice Ask already a couple of years ago but have not received a reply. Perhaps the Wiesenthal centre with its power and influence can draw a better response," Reepalu said.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations at the centre, arrived in Malmö on Friday to visit Sweden's third city and to get an understanding of the situation for themselves.

"A very interesting city. In some ways it is better that I thought, in some ways worse," Cooper told news agency TT on his way to Malmö city hall for meetings with the mayor.

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