.Over this past weekend, Felix Klein, the German government's anti-Semitism commissioner made some startling comments to the Funke media group regarding the condition of anti-Semitism in his country. He said that anti-Semitism was at an all-time high and that that a rise in, "social disinhibition and coarseness," was to blame for the worsening situation. He added that, “The internet and social media have also strongly contributed to this -- but also the continuous attacks on our culture of remembrance," But by far the most astonishing statement he made was, "My opinion has unfortunately changed compared with what it used to be…I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany."
Many in the Jewish community in Germany and around the world have been trying to raise an alarm about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. For too long it has fallen on deaf ears. It was refreshing to finally hear a government official acknowledge the rampant anti-Semitism permeating Germany. But for the German government’s anti-Semitism czar to make the stunning statement that Jews should beware of wearing kippot in public was a shock to the Jewish community.
But often out of adversity comes perseverance. Within twenty-four hours of the anti-Semitism czar making his comments about the kippot, the whole conversation was turned on its head. The editor of the German Newspaper, BILD, Julian Reicht, published an incredible full page spread about the issue that included a picture of a kippah that could be cut out and worn. His response to Klein’s advice to cautious about wearing a kippah, was to ask everyone in Germany to wear a kippah in solidarity with the Jewish community. He wrote, “Wear it, so that your friends and neighbors can see it. Explain to your children what the kippah is.," Reicht continued, to the call to think twice about wearing a kippah, “there is only one answer: No, that must not be the case!….If it is so, and if it stays that way, then we have failed in the face of our history… If even one person in our country cannot wear the kippah without putting themselves in danger, then the only answer must be that we all wear the kippah…the kippah belongs to Germany!"
The BILD’s response gives us hope in times that are fraught with fear over the rising tide of anti-Semitism. It shows that we are making progress in our work to combat it. It confirms our hopes that we have allies around the world.
May we continue to work together to abolish hatred and bigotry.
Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel has been Midbar Kodesh Temple's spiritual leader since August 2008. Rabbi Tecktiel was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in May of 1996. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one from List College and one from Columbia University. He also holds a Masters of Arts from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
You can follow him on Twitter @RabbiMKT.