'Risk Has Gotten Greater' German Jews Advised Against Wearing Kippah

How anti-Semitic is Germany? The Central Council of Jews is warning members of the community against wearing traditional head coverings. It is a precaution that 26-year-old Mark Krasnov has been taking for some time.

Many Jews in Germany are nervous about wearing the kippah in public or showing any visible signs of their Jewishness.

Many Jews in Germany are nervous about wearing the kippah in public or showing any visible signs of their Jewishness.

By in Berlin

Before Mark Krasnov leaves his Berlin home, he always asks himself: Should I play it safe or should I wear the kippah? "I don't want to provoke anyone or for people to get any silly ideas," says the 26-year-old Jewish man. The result is that he hardly every wears the headgear when he goes out. He feels it's too risky.

The question of Jewish safety in Germany became the subject of public debate on Thursday after Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, wondered in a radio interview whether it "really made sense" in "problem neighborhoods with large Muslim populations to make oneself recognizable as a Jew by wearing a kippah?" He suggested that in "might be better to choose a different head covering" in such instances.

"The risk is always there," agrees Krasnov, who is head of the Wiesbaden Jewish community's youth center. "When you leave the synagogue, the security people often say: It's better to take off the kippah. It's safer." Krasnov says he almost never shows his kippah when he's out in public. "It's a preventative security measure for me -- and, ultimately, self-defense."

Krasnov says the problem isn't new, but there has been a new element to it recently. "I'm now a bit more careful -- of course, it's also a reaction to the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen," he says. "The risk has just gotten bigger." Four Jewish people were killed in the attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris, which occurred in conjunction with the deadly assault on the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. Two weeks ago, two people died in attacks on a Jewish cultural center and synagogue in Copenhagen.

But there is more to it than that. Many Jews have perceived a change in the climate in Germany as well. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a group that combats racism, counted 864 anti-Semitic crimes last year, an increase of almost 10 percent over 2013. The organization says its figures are derived from information provided by the German federal government that has not been released publicly.

Germany is home to around a quarter-million Jews with about 118,000 being members of the country's 108 official Jewish communities. The country is the only one in the EU that has registered growth in its Jewish population in recent years, with many others, including France, recording an exodus. Indeed, nervousness among French Jews is extremely high following an increase in high-profile anti-Semitic attacks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even called on French Jews to emigrate to Israel.

Even so, the community in Germany feels threatened from three sides: by right-wing extremists, who are responsible for most violent attacks on Jews, by the anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist left-wing and from Islamists.

Krasnov says that even the large, anti-Islam protests in Dresden and Leipzig in recent months have given him a "queasy" feeling. The marches were organized by Patriots against the Islamization of the West (Pegida), a group that specifically targets Muslim integration. But its right-wing sensibilities have Jews concerned as well.

As such, Krasnov prefers keeping a low profile. He says that even though he's not the kind of guy who would go out shouting "pro-Israeli slogans," he feels like the mere act of wearing the kippah in public is perceived by some as a provocation. "People stare because it's not something they're used to seeing."

When he goes to the synagogue, his youth center or to Jewish cemeteries, Krasnov says he always wears a kippah. And sometimes he'll wear one in public. "If I'm with a group when I go home from the synagogue, then I sometimes dare to wear it," he says. "Because I know there are others with me who can help in an emergency."


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jrossouw 02/27/2015
1. Kippah
The Kaiser gave Jews more freedom than they experienced anywhere.
Inglenda2 02/27/2015
2. Germany is not anti-Semitic!
The attempts, whether political or religious, to continue to give Germans a bad name, although they have more than paid the price, for suffering which took place under the 12 years of a nationalist government, are foul. Of course Jews are in danger here, as well as they might be anywhere else. The number of fanatic Moslems who are ready to use violence in the name of Islam is growing daily, but this is a world-wide problem and also endangers Christians or even more moderate Moslems. It must also taken into consideration, that the unrealistic current condemnations of the German people, often have little more than a financial background. All too often have German presidents and members of parliament, been ready to provide compensation, or economic help, without the necessary examination of the evidence provided, or the need of those concerned. A little more honesty, in news reports and documentary films, would also be very welcome1!
arikimau 02/27/2015
3. Come On
Just a few days ago a Jew made a movie in Berlin wearing Kippah. He was walking for 3 hours through Berlin, a specialy in the Arabic/Turkish parts and absolutly nothing happend! Not even a bad Word! Take is easy on your panicing!
gentjg 02/27/2015
I have been told that in WWII the Danes wore armbands with the Star of David. Would not it be a great thing if today all German men and boys donned the Kippah regardless of their religious affiliation?
peskyvera 02/27/2015
I don't think it is a matter of anti Semitism but rather a matter of anti israel, for what israel is doing to Palestinians. I am ashamed of my Jewish background and do not hesitate to boycott israel any which way I can.
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