A man putting on a kippa as part of a solidarity campaign with European Jews.
(photo credit: screenshot)
The US government’s most high-profile ambassador in Europe, Richard Grenell, said Jews in Germany should not conceal their religious identity, and urged them to wear kippot in defiance of a statement from Germany’s commissioner to combat antisemitism that Jews should avoid wearing kippot in public.
“The opposite is true,” tweeted Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany. “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.”
On Saturday, Felix Klein, the federal government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism, told the Funk media group, “My opinion on the matter has changed following the ongoing brutalization in German society. I can no longer recommend Jews wear a kippah at every time and place in Germany.”
President Reuven Rivlin reacted on Sunday, saying “The statement of the German government’s antisemitism commissioner – that it would be preferable for Jews not to wear a kippah in Germany out of fear for their safety – shocked me deeply. Responsibility for the welfare, the freedom and the right to religious belief of every member of the German Jewish community, is in the hands of the German government and its law enforcement agencies. We acknowledge and appreciate the moral position of the German government, and its commitment to the Jewish community that lives there, but fears about the security of German Jews are a capitulation to antisemitism and an admittance that, again, Jews are not safe on German soil.
“We will never submit, will never lower our gaze, and will never react to antisemitism with defeatism – and we expect and demand our allies act in the same way.”
There are just under 100,000 members of the German Jewish community.
The remarks by Grenell – who has gone to great lengths to combat antisemitism in Germany and at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva – follow Chief Rabbi David Lau’s plea in April 2018 that Jews should “keep wearing it [kippah] proudly.”
Lau said in response to the head of Germany’s central council of Jews, Dr. Josef Schuster – who urged Jews to take off their kippot when visiting large cities – that “Jews should not be demanded to remove their skullcaps from their heads. But Germany’s law enforcement authorities should be appealed to in order to ensure the safety of Jews in Germany.”
Julie Lenarz, a London-based expert on antisemitism, wrote in response to Klein’s announcement: “This policy punishes victims and rewards perpetrators. Instead, Germany should issue an unequivocal warning to those who threaten Jewish life – far Right, far Left, or Islamist.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post by email: “Unacceptable, Germany! Jews should never be relegated to second-class citizens. Stand with your Jewish neighbors, punish antisemitism from the extreme far Right, far Left and Islamist.”
Solomon Bali, a prominent Bulgarian Jew, tweeted in response to Klein’s announcement: “total capitulation of democracy.”
In April, the Post reported on a Die Welt (The World) article titled: “Why young Jews are leaving Germany.”
According to the Die Welt article, 50 young German Jews left Germany in 2018 to enroll in the Israeli government-sponsored Naale program. Young Diaspora Jews can apply to be accepted into a high school program organized by the Naale scholarship program, with a view toward aliyah.
The 15-year-old Golda Maertens, who has been accepted to Naale, told Welt reporter Philip Kuhn: “I also think that there is no future for Jews” in Germany.
In September, Golda will start school at the Mosenson boarding school outside of Tel Aviv.
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