The headline over a story on page 2 of the current issue of “Jewish Voice from Germany,” and an accompanying photograph in the monthly publication caught my attention.
The headline: “The Day Berlin Wore the Kippah.” The photograph: a front-page of Berlin’s Berliner Zeitung (B.Z.) newspaper that shows five men, mostly of them probably not Jewish, with prominent kipot atop their heads.
The story in Jewish Voice, an English-language paper that covers Germany’s growing Jewish community, described anti-Semitism in Germany, which is also growing according to many accounts – the latest evidence of the trend was an attack in late August on a German rabbi, Daniel Alter, and his daughter, on the streets of Berlin. His cheekbone was broken; she was verbally threatened; the assailants were allegedly Arab.
Berlin’s Jewish leaders reacted with caution. Don’t wear kipot in public, they advised. Too provocative, they said.
Some non-Jewish Berliners reacted with bravado. They put on a kipa.
Organized by a Facebook group, some 1,500 people, all wearing a kipa, showed up at the Alexanderplatz location where Rabbi Adler had come under attack.
That was the B.Z. front page that made it into the Jewish Voice.
“In Berlin, a capital that boasts about its tolerance, people are afraid to wear a symbol of their religiousness?” the Jewish Voice story by B.Z. Editor-in-Chief Peter Huth asked. “We wanted to show that the kippah belongs to Berlin.”
The attack on the rabbi comes amidst reports that anti-Semitism is “significantly” entrenched in German society, with some 20 percent of Germans holding a “latent” hatred for Jews – those are the findings of a recent study by Germany’s parliament.
In response to the attack, the head of the Germany’s Central Council of Muslims called such acts of bias “disgusting” to his religion. Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit said the attack on the rabbi was an attack on all Berliners.
The show of solidarity brought to mind Billings, Montana. In 1993 a cinder block was thrown through the window of a Jewish family there where a Chanukah menorah was displayed. Through the efforts of Christian clergy in Billings and the Billings Gazette, an estimated 6,000-10,000 homes in the city soon were decorated with full-page images of a menorah. That became the basis for a children’s book, “The Christmas Menorahs: How a town fought hate.”
There are, apparently, people of good will everywhere.
There’s now a debate in Germany over circumcisions. Jews and Muslims have joined forces to fight one court’s decision to criminalize the religious procedure; the German government has announced that it will submit a bill that will protect Jews’ and Muslims’ right to perform circumcisions.