Israel’s president said Sunday he is shocked by a German official’s comment that he wouldn’t advise Jews to wear Kipppas in parts of the country, which is drawing mixed reactions at home.
Felix Klein, the government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, was quoted Saturday as saying: “I cannot recommend to Jews that they wear the skullcap at all times everywhere in Germany.” He didn’t elaborate on what places and times might be risky.
“The statement of the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner that it would be preferable for Jews not wear a kippa in Germany out of fear for their safety, shocked me deeply,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement.
He added that “we will never submit, will never lower our gaze and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism — and expect and demand our allies act in the same way.”
The US Ambassador to Germany meanwhile took to social media to urge Jews to do just the opposite. “Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors,” Richard Grenell wrote on Twitter.
“Wear a kippa…..and proudly,” Grenell wrote on Instagram.
The opposite is true. Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society. https://t.co/vd9nV9AvPG
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) May 26, 2019
Government statistics released earlier this month showed that the number of anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner incidents rose in Germany last year, despite an overall drop in politically motivated crimes.
Germany’s main Jewish leader, Josef Schuster, told news agency dpa “it has long been a fact that Jews are potentially exposed to danger in some big cities if they can be recognized as Jews.” He added that he pointed that out two years ago, “so it is to be welcomed if this situation gets more attention at the highest political level.”
Others were sharply critical of Klein’s comment. Michel Friedman, a former deputy leader of Germany’s main Jewish group, said it was an admission of failure and that “the state must ensure that Jews can show themselves everywhere without fear.”
Bavaria’s state interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said that wearing a skullcap is part of religious freedom. “Everyone can and should wear his skullcap wherever and whenever he wants,” he said.
Klein himself told dpa that his statement had been “provocative” and he “wanted to initiate a debate about the safety of the Jewish community in our country.”
“Of course I believe that there must not be no-go areas anywhere in Germany for Jews or members of other minorities,” he said.
In April 2018, Germany was shocked by a case of anti-Semitism involving a Syrian migrant who assaulted a man wearing a Yamulka with his belt. A video of the street street assault went viral and sparked widespread public revulsion, and triggered large street rallies in solidarity with Jews.
In November 2018, a group of men harassed an Israeli journalist speaking Hebrew on the street in Berlin, and threw a lit firecracker at her.
In July 2018, a Jewish man wearing a necklace with the star of David was assaulted in Berlin.
In January 2019, a Jewish man wearing a Kippa was attacked by Arabs in Berlin.
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LOOK: #German newspaper @Bild published a cut-out-and-use #Kippa on its front page on Monday after #Jews were warned by the government's anti-Semitism commissioner not to wear them. . Felix Klein said he 'cannot advise Jews to wear the kippa everywhere all the time in Germany', in an interview over the weekend. #Israeli President Reuven Rivlin voiced shock at Klein's warning and said it was a 'capitulation to anti-Semitism' and evidence that Jews are unsafe in #Germany. . Bild, Germany's top-selling daily, waded into the debate, calling on readers to 'stand in solidarity with (their) Jewish neighbours' by making 'their own kippa', bearing the star of David, to 'raise the flag against anti-Semitism'. . Rejecting the warning to leave off the kippa 'seven decades after the Holocaust', Bild's chief editor Julian Reichelt wrote: 'There is only one answer to that: No, it cannot be the case!'If that is so, then we have failed in the face of our history,' he said. . Urging readers to cut out the skullcap and wear it, Reichelt stressed that 'the kippa belongs to Germany.'