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Rome's Chief Rabbi Denounces Rise of Anti-Semitism in Europe - 2003-12-05

The chief rabbi of Rome has joined the New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation to denounce a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

In France, where the upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks has been the most severe, Jews have been advised by their own leaders not to wear traditional head covering to prevent being identified.

Rome's Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni says the situation is not as grave for Italy's 35,000 Jews. But he says Italian police have been forced to intensify protection of Jewish sites and synagogues because anti-Semitism is on the rise.

Rabbi Di Segni says historic anti-Jewish sentiment, Islamic extremism, the conflict in the Middle East, and European policy toward Israel, have contributed to the problem. He is urging the European Union to take on the issue.

"The European Union must become aware that the problem exists, and must face it," he said. "So what we have to ask is to have an honest discussion about these issues and to recognize that anti-Semitism and every kind of hatred is a problem for all Europe, which has not been recognized officially."

Rabbi Di Segni and Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, joined forces in New York to try to bring attention to the problem.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation is an inter-faith coalition that works for religious freedom and human rights.

Founder Rabbi Schneier is an Austrian-born Holocaust survivor who witnessed the burning of his synagogue by the Nazis in 1938. He is calling on the world not to be silent in the wake of such attacks as the Istanbul synagogue bombings.

"What has been so painful is that so many years after the Holocaust, to see again attacks on synagogues and renewed anti-Semitism, I would never have thought, never, that after the Holocaust, when we had a quiet period, that this scourge would reappear," he said.

After returning from Istanbul, Rabbi Schneier says Jews may be the first target, but everyone is at risk.

"We are all in the same boat, we are in the same boat. The world better realize that this is a war. It is not only against Jews, it is a war against Muslims, a war against Christians, anyone who does not subscribe to this totalitarian nihilistic philosophy is a target," he said.

Rabbi Schneier created an initiative that helped lead to the adoption of a United Nations General Assembly resolution on the protection of religious sites in 2001. Now, he is calling on the United Nations to consider attacks against religious sites as crimes against humanity.