Kippah and the city: German Jews urged to avoid wearing skull caps after Berlin attack

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A Jewish community leader in Germany has advised Jews to not publicly wear kippahs in parts of big cities in the wake of a recent anti-Semitic assault on a man wearing one in Berlin.

Germany is becoming increasingly unsafe for Jews to publicly identify themselves amid a wave of anti-Semitic incidents, Josef Schuster, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said in an interview with local radio RBB24. The comment follows the April 16 attack on Jewish man Adam Armush and his friend in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. Armush, who was wearing a kippah – a traditional Jewish head garment – filmed and shared the assault online, provoking a massive reaction. In response, the local Jewish community has planned a protest dubbed “Berlin wears a kippah,” which has since been supported in other cities.

However, while Schuster believes that defiantly wearing a kippah would be the right response “in principle,” he advised Jews to stay on the safe side in big cities, and maybe settle for a baseball cap instead. In “problem neighborhoods with large Muslim populations… it might be better to choose a different head covering,” he said.

When directly asked if he links the rise in anti-Semitic incidents to the recent influx of migrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, Schuster insisted that it contributed to it, but was not the only factor. He believes that racist and xenophobic sentiments still linger within a sizeable portion of the German population, Muslims included. At the same time, he called to avoid “casting suspicion on all Muslims.”

The assault on Armush, who was confronted by a young man swinging his belt and shouting “Yahudi,” which is Arabic for “Jew,” became all the more controversial after it was uncovered that the attacker was a 19-year-old Syrian refugee.

The problem of Muslim immigrants bringing anti-Semitism into Germany has since been publicly acknowledged, even by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose unchanging course for an open-door policy has cost her a chunk of her former ratings and boosted her right-wing opponents.

“We have a new phenomenon, as we have many refugees among who there are, for example, people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country,” Merkel said an interview with Israeli Channel 10. While she was reacting to the assault on Armush, it was only the latest case of anti-Semitism in German media’s spotlight.

In March, a report emerged, claiming a Jewish Girl was verbally assaulted by her Muslim classmate, who threatened to beat and even kill her because of her religion. Another case took place in Berlin where a Jewish student was forced to change schools, following violent bullying by classmates.

Merkel’s party CDU and the sister Bavarian party CSU have been trying to score some points with frustrated voters ever since CDU showed the worst election result since 1949 at the 2017 polls. Earlier, CDU/CSU announced that they were preparing legislation that could see migrants expressing anti-Semitic views deported from the country. The conservative CSU has recently symbolically introduced Christian crosses in public institutions to strengthen the display of Bavarian “cultural identity and Christian-western influence.” 

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