North Macedonia names 1st Jewish cabinet minister

Rasela Mizrahi is named North Macedonia's first Jewish minister - and gets anti-Semitic criticism.

Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA,

Skopje, North Macedonia
Skopje, North Macedonia

North Macedonia, where the Nazis murdered 98 percent of the country’s Jews, has named its first Jewish member of government.

The nomination last week of Labor and Social Policy Minister Rasela Mizrahi to head the ministry where she has worked since 2015 follows snap elections held Friday. It earned her heartfelt congratulations, but also some rebuke from political activists that local media termed anti-Semitic.

Vidana Boskova Micevska, an activist for the left-leaning Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, or SDUM, wrote on Facebook: “I don’t mind that Rasela joined a fascist party. I’m sure the Nazis also had Jews who fought for better welfare rights for the Jews,” Republika reported.

Mizrahi belongs to VMRO-DPMNE, a center-right party that some Macedonian Muslims believe is exceedingly nationalistic. It’s in a power-sharing agreement with the SDUM. The two parties are divided over how to deal with thousands of Muslim immigrants from the Middle East who have crossed through North Macedonia into Europe since 2014.

Mersiha Smailovic, a Muslim community activist and former employee of Mizrahi’s ministry, suggested Mizrahi place in her office a flag bearing the Star of David.

“If she used the star of David, there would be no problem,” she wrote on Facebook. Smailovic was reacting to false rumors that Mizrahi had placed her party’s flag in her office.

Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Eastern Europe director, congratulated Mizrahi, calling her nomination “an encouraging milestone” for her community. But the “anti-Semitic reactions have been revealing and outrageous,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The country is home to about 200 Jews.