A sad, important question is being circulated in France these days: Should Jews be able to freely wear kippot around Marseille?
On Tuesday—a day after a teacher was attacked and slightly wounded by a machete-wielding 15-year-old outside of a Jewish school in Marseille—Zvi Ammar, the head of the Israelite Consistory of Marseille and a leader in the Jewish community, said that he believes the city’s Jewish males should abstain from wearing yarmulkes.
“Unfortunately for us, we are targeted,” he said. “As soon as we are identified as Jewish we can be assaulted and even risk death.” Ammar’s comments come on the heels of a report that Tuesday’s assailant was reportedly “ashamed” that he did not kill his Jewish target.
The Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, disagreed with Ammar, tweeting “We must not give in…”
Nous ne devons céder à rien, nous continuerons à porter la kippa!
— Haïm Korsia (@HaimKorsia) January 12, 2016
Emotions are clearly mixed, as the AFP reported that many side with Korsia’s point of view:
But several ministers and other politicians spoke out on the issue, with Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem voicing surprise over Ammar’s urging, saying: “It’s certainly not the advice I would give, personally.”
Ammar “clearly was well-intentioned, but it’s not the sort of message to send, certainly not now,” Vallaud-Belkacem told French radio.
Brice Hortefeux of the centre-right Republicans party agreed with France’s chief rabbi Haim Korsiathat that “giving up (the kippa) is giving in”. But he said it was impossible “not to modify your behaviour in the face of these unspeakable acts.”
On Tuesday, top national Jewish leaders rejected the call to shun the kippa, decrying a “defeatist attitude” and an offence to the community’s identity.
Korsithat reacted quickly late Tuesday, acknowledging that Ammar’s call came from an “understandable emotion,” but insist[ed]: “We should not give an inch.”
Joel Mergui, president of France’s Israelite Central Consistory, said: “If we have to give up wearing any distinctive sign of our identity, it clearly would raise the question of our future in France.”
One can only imagine how France’s Jews, who live in a country where toxic hate rears its head far too often, particularly against Jews (over and over again), could shun a garment of their faith and pride. And yet, one can also understand Ammar’s call to safety in a city where Jews are attacked in broad daylight on the way to work.
Previous: Jewish Teacher in Marseille Protects Himself from Machete Attack Using a Torah
Marine Le Pen Calls for Kippah Ban
After Paris Attacks, Le Pen Takes Case to NYT
Jewish Bling, in Conversation
Related: My Fashion Choices—and My Husband’s—Reveal the Risks of Looking Hasidic
Sweden’s ‘Damn Jew’ Problem
Uncovering Anti-Semitism in Malmö, Sweden
Hiding Judaism in Copenhagen
France’s Toxic Hate (series)
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.