The Slatest

German Official Warns Jews Against Wearing Kippah in Public Due to Rising Anti-Semitism

Men wearing kippah skullcaps attend an ordination ceremony at the Bet Zion synagogue in Berlin on October 8, 2018.
Men wearing kippah skullcaps attend an ordination ceremony at the Bet Zion synagogue in Berlin on October 8, 2018. TOBIAS SCHWARZ/Getty Images

Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner suggested that Jews should think twice before wearing the traditional kippah skullcap in public due to a rise in attacks against Jews. “I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere, all the time, in Germany,” Felix Klein said in an interview published Saturday by the Funke regional press group. Klein said that his “opinion has unfortunately changed compared with what it used to be” on the issue. Klein, whose position was created last year, said the increased attacks against the Jewish community was due to a rise in “social disinhibition and coarseness” that Is helped along by “the internet and social media.”

In an earlier interview with CNN, Klein had said that while “anti-Semitism has always existed in Germany,” it is now “showing its ugly face more openly.” As an example, Klein said that the word Jew is once again being used as an insult. “The word Jew as an insult was not common in my time when I went to school,” he said. “Now it is, and it’s even an insult at schools where there’s no Jews, where there are no Jewish students. So that is a growing concern and of course we have to develop strategies to counter that.”

Klein’s warning was rejected by Israeli politicians, Jewish leaders, and even the U.S. ambassador to Germany. “The statement of the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner that it would be preferable for Jews not wear a kippah in Germany out of fear for their safety, shocked me deeply,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said. “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.” Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, also rejected Klein’s advice and called on Germans to take a completely different stance in the face of rising anti-Semitism. “The opposite is true,” Grenell wrote. “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.”

The rabbi of Berlin, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, also rejected Klein’s advice and called on Jews to not hide their identity. “The combating of anti-Semitism is a top priority so it is appreciated that this is being addressed by top representatives of the government,” Rabbi Teichtal wrote on Facebook. “At the same time, the KIPA is a clear symbol of Jewish identity and should be worn with PRIDE.” Even though everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings, “hiding our identity was never the solution.”