Over 2,000 Germans attend 'kippa-marches' against antisemitism in Berlin

Small, separate "kippa-rally" abandoned after being attacked by pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators

People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018 (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018
Jews and non-Jews staged kippa-wearing solidarity marches in German cities on Wednesday evening in response to an assault last week by a Syrian refugee of Palestinian descent against a man wearing a kippa.
The man assaulted was actually an Arab Israeli who was testing whether wearing a kippa in Berlin would lead to an antisemitic attack.
In Berlin, more than 2,000 people participated in the kippa march, a police spokesman said, while rallies were also held in Cologne, Erfurt, Magdeburg and Potsdam.
Kippot were handed out at the Berlin rally, and numerous German politicians attended to show their support for the Jewish community, including Mayor Michael Müller and senior Christian Democratic Union politician Volker Kauder, who both wore kippot for the event.
The kippa symbolizes “freedom and tolerance,” Müller said during his speech, adding that “antisemitism has no place in our city.”
Kauder, who is often called Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “right hand,” said: “We do not accept antisemitism in our country. Those who come to this country and want to live here must know that, too!”
The marches did not pass off without disturbances.
A small, separate protest against antisemitism at the Hermannplatz plaza in the Neukölln district of Berlin, away from the main rally, had to be abandoned after just 20 minutes due to pro-Palestinian counterdemonstrators.
The five pro-Jewish demonstrators, some of whom were not Jewish, had received authorization for their protest from the police.
Some of the counterdemonstrators spat at the pro-Jewish protesters, called them terrorists and snatched their Israeli flag, an employee of the Germany-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism told The Jerusalem Post.
The pro-Jewish demonstrators intended to march through the predominantly Muslim neighborhood. But because of the rising tensions, the police said that was too dangerous to allow.
Earlier on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing a kippa in solidarity with the Jewish community.
“If young men are threatened just because they wear a kippa, we must show they are not alone,” he wrote. “We must never allow antisemitism to become commonplace again in Germany.”
Der Tagesspiegel daily printed a cutout picture of a kippa in its Wednesday edition for its readers to wear in solidarity with the Jewish community and in protest against recent antisemitic incidents in the country.
On Tuesday, Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Radioeins radio station he advised Jews not to wear a kippa in large German cities.
Schuster’s comments generated a strong reaction from several high-ranking Jewish leaders, who criticized him for failing to insist on the right of Jews to live openly without fear.
Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau said German Jews should not remove their kippot and instead continue to wear them proudly.
He said he would like Jews all over the world to immigrate to Israel, but while they continue to live abroad, they should continue to wear the kippa as a symbol of their Judaism.
Jews should not be asked to remove their kippot, but rather the law-enforcement agencies should guarantee the safety of Jews in their country, Lau said, adding that he intended to speak directly to the German government about the issue.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the chairman of the European Jewish Association, called on Schuster to retract his comments.
“I have no doubt that the declaration stems from Mr. Schuster’s sincere concern for the safety of the Jews – a concern that I naturally share in light of the growing antisemitism in Europe,” he said. “But unfortunately he is mistaken in the cure for the serious problem.”
“Not wearing a skullcap due to fear of antisemitism is, in fact, the fulfillment of the vision of antisemites in Europe,” Margolin said. “The leaders of the Jewish communities and organizations must insist that every government care for the security of all its inhabitants and do more to educate and prevent this dangerous phenomenon.
“But we must not agree, let alone encourage, the Jews – or any other religious or ethnic group – to give up its religious attributes.”
Rabbi Eliezer Wolff, the president of the Amsterdam Rabbinical Court, told The Jerusalem Post that Jews must feel safe wearing a kippa in public spaces in the Netherlands and in Europe more broadly. If that was no longer possible, then the future of the community on the continent would be in jeopardy, he said.
However, if a Jew has to go through a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, then he should wear a cap instead of a kippa, Wolff said.
“If in the general public space Jews cannot wear a kippa, then it’s the end of the Jewish settlement in Europe,” he said. “But if we’re talking about what would be a dangerous situation to wear a kippa, like going through a majority Muslim area and people feel threatened, then they should go with a cap.”
Separately, the BVMI association, which represents the music industry in Germany, decided to scrap its 26-year-old Echo music awards after one of the prizes was awarded to rapper duo Kollegah and Farid Bang, who had a recent song with the lyrics “I’m doing another Holocaust, coming with a Molotov” and who sang about how their bodies are “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners.”