Head of German Jewry tells community not to wear kippot for fear of attack

Head of German Jewry tells community not to wear kippot for fear of attack

Jewish leader Josef Schuster said he would 'advise against' wearing traditional head covering, while others organised a 'kippah flash-mob' in response

Josef Schuster
Josef Schuster

The head of German Jewry has told Jews in Germany not to wear a kippah for fear of attracting anti-Semitic violence, after an Israeli man was beaten up last week.

Josef Schuster, the well-respected president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he would “advise against” Jews wearing kippot, a day after

“Defiantly showing your colours would in principle be the right way to go,” he told German public radio. “Nevertheless, I would actually advise people against openly wearing a kippah in metropolitan Germany.” He suggested that those living in big cities could wear “a baseball cap or something else”.

The 21-year old Israeli man who was attacked said he was a non-Jew who comes from Haifa and that was wearing a kippah “as an experiment” to prove to a friend that Berlin is not anti-Semitic.

He was reportedly beaten with a belt in the attack by a Syrian man who was filmed shouting ‘Yahudi’ (Jew) during the assault in the Prenzlauer Berg district of the German capital. The assailant was one of three men of Arab appearance.

In response to the attack, a “kippah flash-mob” comprising about 40 people gathered in central Berlin on Sunday, first congregating at Alexanderplatz then heading towards Brandenburg Gate. “Today we were 40, next time we’ll be 100,” an organiser said on Facebook.

Jewish, interfaith and political groups – including the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism – also initiated plans for a visible showing of support, with a demonstration on Wednesday called ‘Berlin Wears a Kippah.’

Both Schuster and Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller are due to speak at the event, with Schuster stressing beforehand that if Germans refuse to stand up to anti-Semitism, “our democracy would be at risk”.

He added: “This is not only about anti-Semitism – it goes along with racism, it goes along with xenophobia. You need a clear stop sign here.”

However other Jewish representatives said Schuster’s position was ill-informed, with European Jewish Association president Rabbi Menachem Margolin saying: “He is mistaken in the cure for this serious problem. To not wear the kippah in fear of anti-Semitism actually fulfils the vision of anti-Semites.”

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