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Jewish community loses Sigi Feigel

Sigi Feigel was an open critic of Israel's Middle East peace policy

(Keystone)

One of the most prominent members of Switzerland's Jewish community, Sigi Feigel, died in Zurich on Saturday after a long illness. He was 83.

Feigel, a lawyer, championed the cause of minorities and was respected as a tireless fighter against racism and anti-Semitism.

Feigel rose to prominence in Switzerland at the time of the debate over dormant accounts in Swiss banks from the Holocaust era.

As president of the Jewish community in Zurich for many years before becoming its honorary president in 1987, Feigel pleaded for justice for the victims and fairness for Switzerland.

He was an open critic of Israel's Middle East peace policy and told swissinfo in 2002 that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was the wrong man to negotiate with the Palestinians (see related story, "Jewish leader says Sharon must go").

"[Feigel's death] is a big loss for Jews in Switzerland and in particular for the Jewish community in Zurich," said Beni Witztum, secretary-general of the Jewish community in Zurich.

Law student

Feigel was born in Zurich into a family of Russian immigrants on May 17, 1921. He studied law at the city's university and became president of the Jewish students’ society.

He obtained his doctorate in 1949 and married Evi Heim in the same year.

When his father-in-law died shortly afterwards, Feigel took over the family’s confectionery business, which he managed for 27 years.

He sold the firm in 1977, returned to studying law and obtained a licence to serve as a lawyer at the age of 62.

From 1984 to 1996, Feigel was a committee member of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Sigi Feigel established the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism in 1989 and was its president.
In the same year, he received an honorary doctorate from Zurich University.
He was honorary president of the Jewish community in Zurich.

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