The top Jewish leader in Marseille on Tuesday urged Jews in the southern French port city to refrain from wearing skullcaps “until better days” after a Jewish teacher was hurt in an attack by a Kurdish teenager.
“Remove the kippa during this troubled time until better days,” said Zvi Ammar, head of Marseille’s Israeli Consistory, a day after the teacher was attacked with a machete in broad daylight.
Other local Jewish leaders said they disagreed with this call, however.
Ammar said it was worth taking the precaution in the “one in 1,000 chance” that it would save a life. But the local representative of France’s CRIF umbrella Jewish group said that to take of skullcaps would be akin “to stopping being Jewish” and noted that “Jews have been in France for generations before Muslims.”
The Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, also opposed the idea, tweeting that “we must not cede to emotion.”
Roger Cukierman, the head of CRIF, agreed, saying the call reflected “a defeatist attitude”.
“He (Ammar) knows as well as I do that wearing a kippa or not will not resolve the issue of terrorism,” added Joel Mergui, president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France. “If we have to give up wearing any distinctive sign of our identity, it clearly would raise the question of our future in France.”
Binyamin Amsalem sustained light injuries to his hand on Monday when he was attacked on his way to the synagogue for morning prayers, local reports said.
The attacker reportedly threw the knife — a machete — before fleeing the scene. Police said he was caught 10 minutes later and taken into custody. He was said to have declared that he was inspired by the Islamic State terror group.
“The individual does not seem to be in full control of his faculties,” a source close to the matter was quoted as saying. Other sources however, quoted police as saying he was “not mentally unstable.”
There have been a series of attacks on Jews in France in recent years, including a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015 that killed four.
In November a teacher at a Jewish school in Marseille was stabbed by three people shouting anti-Semitic obscenities.
In October a rabbi and two Jewish worshipers were stabbed outside a synagogue in Marseille following Shabbat prayers. The knife-wielding assailant could be heard shouting anti-Semitic slurs at the time of the assault.