A man wears a kippa. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On Saturday night, at a South African nightclub called The Zone in Johannesburg’s Rosebank neighborhood, three Jewish teenagers wearing kippot were physically assaulted and verbally abused by three thugs. While one of the students was being hit, another assailant cursed at him, saying among other things, “Your [expletive] people are killing our innocent children.”
Charges against the perpetrators have been laid at the Rosebank police station. The Zone supplied video of the event and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it would be working with the authorities to make sure that the men are brought to justice.
“The South African Jewish community hopes that this incident was an isolated one,” Charisse Zeifert, the board’s head of communications, said in a statement. “Unlike many other parts of the world, Jews in South Africa have always been able to freely identify as such in public spaces without fear of being victimized. We are determined to do everything that we can to ensure that this continues.”See the latest opinion pieces on our Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
In an unusual move, the board called on all South Africans, Jewish or not, to attend a film-screening at a cinema of their choice this Saturday night, March 28, wearing a kippa or hat. The campaign is being dubbed #KippasAgainstHate.
“In this way we will demonstrate our commitment to fight against any form of prejudice and intimidation,” the statement concluded. “As proud South African citizens, our freedom of movement, religion, and association are guaranteed by our Constitution.”
This is, of course, not the first time Jews wearing kippot have been targeted in anti-Semitic attacks, and it won’t be the last. In February, journalist Zvika Klein revealed shocking levels of anti-Semitism on the streets of Paris when he walked around for 10 hours in the French capital. “Is this what life is like for Parisian Jews?’ he asked. ‘Is this what a Jew goes through, day in and day out, while walking to work or using public transportation?” In a sign of solidarity, Jews and non-Jews walked together in Malmo, Sweden, in 2012 while wearing Jewish skullcaps, after it was revealed that religious Jews had suffered abuse.
“The statement is that Jews should be free to walk in Malmo without fear, and that is sadly not the case right now,” said Lena Posner-Korosi, president of the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.
The evidence of hate directed at Jewish garb should remind us that Jews everywhere should not be intimidated into not wearing Jewish symbols, such as skullcaps or Stars of David.
In testimony before a key congressional committee on Tuesday, World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder warned that radical Islam is fueling the flames of a new anti-Semitism engulfing Europe, and blasted the United States for failing to lead a fight to extinguish the threat.
Appearing before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, Lauder said: “In order to defeat this new flame of radical Islamic terror and survive, the United States must lead. The United States can and must speak loudly and clearly to condemn this evil for what it is – the radical Islamic hatred of Jews.”
Lauder said the recent deadly wave of terrorist attacks against Jewish targets in Copenhagen and Paris were only the latest signs of a rising wave of anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe and the world. This new form of anti-Semitism is being driven by radical Islam, but pushed along by extreme nationalists on the right and anti-Israel intellectual elites in universities, he said. “European leaders have stepped up and strongly condemned these attacks on Jews and the rise of anti-Semitism,” he said. “The United States must do the same. The United States must lead.”
The fact that Jewish symbols are becoming targets shows how deeply anti-Semitic views are ingrained in some places.
It should be as normal to wear a kippa on the street in South Africa, Paris, or Malmo as it is for a Sikh to wear a turban or a Muslim woman to wear hijab. Countries must do more to educate young people about their Jewish minorities and send a clear message against hate. Jewish communities can get creative, as in South Africa, to combat this phenomenon.
At the same time, perhaps we need to take a feather out of the cap of the South African Jewish community, and stand with Jews everywhere to give them the strength and impunity to wear Jewish symbols with pride and, more crucially, without fear.