American Jews joined local Muslims and Jews for a “kippah walk” through the heart of Berlin in a show of solidarity with Jews in the German capital.
Sunday’s march came against a backdrop of recent sensational anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, most of whose perpetrators were of Muslim background. Muslim students were among those who joined the stroll through the city center, an official of the Jewish Federations of North America told JTA.
The walk was held during a five-day mission of JFNA, which brought some 150 participants from 34 Jewish federations in the United States to Berlin and Budapest.
Along with the Muslim students, the American visitors were joined by Jewish German students, according to Brian Abrahams, a senior vice president at JFNA.
“Many mission participants never had the experience of wearing a kippah in public in America, and now here they were walking down the street in Berlin,” Abrahams said after the walk.
He said passersby noticed the sea of kippahs approaching and there were no negative reactions.
In Berlin, mission participants met with local Jewish leaders, who spoke about the diversity of the city’s Jewish community, which officially numbers about 10,000. Many are of Russian-speaking background.
Concern about anti-Semitism is high in Germany, with some Jewish community leaders and politicians warning that anti-Jewish and extreme anti-Zionist attitudes among more than a million new refugees from the Middle East and North Africa are a ticking time bomb.
Germany was shocked by an anti-Semitic attack in April involving a Syrian migrant who lashed out with his belt at an Arab Israeli man wearing a kippa in a social experiment. A video of the street assault, filmed by the victim on his smartphone, sparked widespread public revulsion as it spread on social media, and triggered street rallies in solidarity with Jews.
Footage of the attack led the head of the umbrella organization of German Jews, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to warn that Jewish men should avoid wearing kippot in public.
Last week, an Israeli professor was attacked by a German of Palestinian descent, who shouted “No Jew in Germany” as he struck him and knocked the kippa off of his head.
Earlier in July, dozens of Jewish organizations in Germany called on the government to crack down on anti-Semitism, including among Muslim immigrants, following a string of anti-Jewish attacks.
In an open letter signed by 38 groups, the country’s Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism outlined a policy statement, urging Berlin to condition funds for civil and religious organizations on them issuing public declarations distancing themselves from anti-Semitism in all its forms.
In the wake of the recent attacks, thousands of Germans rallied at a “Berlin Wears Kippa” solidarity demonstration, matched by smaller events in several other German cities to denounce anti-Semitism.