Jerusalem – he Simon Wiesenthal Center today expressed its concern in the wake of an anti-Semitic comment made by Lithuanian former NBA star Sarunas Marciulionis in the course of an argument with a local Jew during the recent events marking the 85th anniversary of Lithuanian basketball. Marciulionis, who claims that he was insulted by Shabtai Kalmanovich, a member of the Kaunas Jewish community, reacted by saying that “There is no place for a Jew here [at the events marking the anniversary].” Although Marciulionis later claimed that he did not understand what was objectionable about his comment, he did subsequently apologize to the Jewish community.
In a statement issued today in Jerusalem, the Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, warned that public figures, and especially sports heroes, had to be particularly careful when expressing their displeasure. “Regardless of the nature of the dispute between them, there was absolutely no reason for Marciulionis to refer to the fact that Kalmanovich is Jewish and it is clear that he used the term in a pejorative manner. In Lithuania, where basketball is the most popular sport, and outstanding hoopsters are local heroes, such comments provide legitimacy for local anti-Semitism, which in the past played a role in the mass murder of Lithuanian Jewry and continues today, on a much smaller scale, to pose a problem in contemporary Lithuania. We therefore are pleased that Marciulionis apologized and urge him to show greater sensitivity to the problem of local anti-Semitism in the future,” said Zuroff.
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