(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A Jewish man in the Uruguayan town of Paysandu was stabbed to death on Tuesday, according to local media.
The victim, identified as 54-year-old merchant David Fremd, suffered serious wounds and later died in the hospital. He is reported to have been stabbed in the back just as he was crossing the street.
Sergio Gorzy, the president of the Jewish Central Committee, told newspaper Subrayado that Fremd, who held a leadership position in the community, had been stabbed 15 times.
Fremd’s son is reported to have witnessed the attack. In coming to his father’s aid, he too was stabbed, though his wounds were not considered serious.
A suspect, who reportedly has a criminal record, is in custody and is currently being questioned by police, who suspect anti-Semitism as a possible motive in the attack.
Social media users speculated that the assailant shouted “Allahu akbar” during the attack, though this has yet to be confirmed by authorities.
The Israeli Central Committee of Uruguay issued a strong condemnation, describing the incident as anti-Semitic.
Approximately 20,000 Jews live in Uruguay, mostly concentrated in Montevideo, the capital, according to the World Jewish Congress.
Thirty-three percent of Uruguayans hold views that can be construed as anti-Semitic, according to a 2014 survey by the Anti-Defamation League, with nearly half of respondents agreeing that Jews are more loyal to Israel than Uruguay and 64 percent asserting that Jews have too much power in the business world.
In 2012, the National Jewish Committee of Uruguay expressed concern over neo-Nazi groups in the country. Seven years previously, local police exposed two neo-Nazi groups composed of active duty military servicemen.
Jewish groups slammed Montevideo in 2010 for its recognition of the “State of Palestine.”
Unlike other South American states such as Venezuela and Argentina, Uruguay’s Jewish community has not garnered extensive media coverage and anti-Semitic violence of this nature is comparatively rare.
Last year, B’nai B’rith International accused the government of Venezuela of doing little to combat anti-Semitism, asserting that it in fact may be actually encouraging it.
The American Jewish Committee extended condolences to the Fremd family.
“While this kind of anti-Semitism is uncharacteristic for Uruguay, the violent attack demonstrates again that vile hatred of Jews transcends borders,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. “AJC stands with our Uruguayan Jewish partners, who, together with government authorities, must now be ever more vigilant in ensuring Jewish security and safety.”
The Anti-Defamation League also expressed “horror” over the murder and called on Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez to condemn the attack and make sure the suspect is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“President Vázquez must ensure the security and well-being of the Jewish community of Uruguay, as many may feel highly vulnerable in the wake of such a horror,” ADL’s CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement. “We express strong solidarity with the Uruguayan Jewish community in the aftermath of this horrific attack.”
According to an ADL poll conducted in 2014 in 100 different countries, 33 percent of those surveyed in Uruguay - some 810,000 people - harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.Danielle Ziri and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.