After the leader of a German-Jewish rabbinical seminary said he advised his students to avoid wearing skullcaps in public in the aftermath of a brutal beating of a Berlin rabbi last week, more than 100 resident of that city on Saturday marched in solidarity with the local Jewish community, many of them donning Jewish skullcaps.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 Berliners gathered in the city’s Schöneberg district to demonstrated against anti-Semitism. Rabbi Alter, who was present at the demonstration, said the attackers could break his cheekbone but not his “will to stand up for understanding and interfaith dialogue.”
On Tuesday night, Rabbi Daniel Alter was hospitalized after being beaten on the head by four men. Alter, 53, was wearing a skullcap while was walking in the capital’s Tempelhof-Schöneberg district with his 6-year-old daughter when a youth approached him with the question, “Are you a Jew?” Three other young men joined the attacker, hitting the Jewish man several times and eventually breaking his cheekbone. The attackers then insulted Alter and his religion and issued death threats to his daughter.
The incident was widely condemned by German authorities. As a result of the attack, the rector of the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, which trains liberal rabbis, said he ordered increased security around his institutions.
“We have also given guidelines to our students on how to behave so that they won’t fall prey to such attacks,” Rabbi Walter Homolka told reporters. “We advise them not to wear their skullcaps on the street. Instead, they should choose an inconspicuous head cover. Apparently a Jew is only safe if he is not visible as such.”
While in other parts of Europe, like France, rabbis and communal leaders have long counseled young Jews not to wear skullcaps in public, Homolka’s comments were ill received in Germany. Many observers said that 70 years after the Holocaust it was unthinkable that Jews should have to hide their identity in Germany. Against this background, an activist organized a “kippa flashmob” in central Berlin. About 150 residents on Saturday silently marched through the capital, many of them wearing skullcaps, according to German media reports.
“Berlin wears Kippa,” headlined B.Z., the capital’s largest daily, on Saturday, together with the photos of prominent Berliners — including Mayor Klaus Wowereit — sporting a skullcap.