Last week’s attack on Rabbi Daniel Alter, which happened on a Berlin street in front of his six-year-old daughter, was one in a recent trend of troubling bits of news coming out of Germany. Alter was approached on the street by four men, whom upon seeing his kippah reportedly asked if he was a Jew and then threatened him and his daughter before assaulting Alter–breaking his cheekbone and sending him to the hospital.
In the wake of the attack on Alter, one of the first rabbis to be ordained in Germany since 1942, public officials went through the customary ritual of hand-wringing. The rector of the Abraham Geiger College, a Jewish seminary in nearby Potsdam, went so far as to dissuade rabbinical students from wearing kippot in public to avoid being targeted.
The best response, however, came from the people of Berlin, who organized a flash mob on Saturday when participants gathered in a public meeting place all donning kippot. Over 1,000 residents, politicians, celebrities, and community leaders came together in the semi-spontaneous flash mob and marched through the streets in a show of solidarity. Coverage of the event got considerable real estate in some of Berlin’s biggest papers:
Under the headline ‘Berlin is wearing a kippah’ the Berliner Zeitung, one of the capital’s most popular newspapers published a front page story featuring some of Berlin’s most prominent resident’s wearing yarmulkes on their heads.
Another newspaper, ‘Welt Online’ reported on the flashmob event that took place in the city in which participants marched with yarmulkes on their heads.
Some pushed back against the idea that Germany has become a difficult or dangerous place for Jews to live. At a sermon on Friday, Rabbi Yitzhak Ehrenberg addressed the issue:
“There were those who said that it is dangerous for Jews to live outside of Israel, but I’m telling you that here in Germany it is not dangerous, thank God.”
The rabbi addressed a call by the Potsdam Reform Judaism center which advised its students to avoid wearing yarmulkes in public. “We are not afraid, we will not abstain from covering our heads,” he decreed.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.