Staffer: I hid Jewish identity just like Holocuast diarist

Anne Frank House employee says he was barred from wearing kippa

Barry Vingerling says management told him religious symbols were not in line with museum’s ‘neutrality’ efforts, relented after six months

Anne Frank House employee Barry Vingerling. (Facebook)
Anne Frank House employee Barry Vingerling. (Facebook)

For his first six months on the job, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam reportedly forbade a Jewish employee from wearing a kippa.

Twenty-five-year-old Barry Vingerling was told to remove his kippa upon showing up at his first day of work at the museum, according to a report Thursday in the NIW Dutch Jewish weekly.

Museum officials explained that the Anne Frank House had a policy against donning religious symbols that would break with their “neutrality” efforts, Vingerling relayed to the NIW.

“I work in the house of Anne Frank, who had to hide because of her identity. In that same house I should have to hide my own identity?” he asked.

The young Orthodox Jew had not worn a yarmulke at his interview, but explained that it was important for him to do so upon beginning the job.

When he arrived for his first day of work in October, Vingerling said he was told that he had to submit a special request to wear the kippa and that he had to remove it in the meantime.

Exterior of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, November 2014 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

As a temporary solution while the board deliberated, the museum allowed him to wear a baseball cap with the Anne Frank House logo. That way, his head would remain covered, as is the custom of Orthodox men.

But five weeks went by without any decision being made. During that time, Vingerling reached out repeatedly to the museum’s head, Dieuwke Maas, who promised a swift answer on the matter but never delivered.

The young staffer also consulted with Rabbi Menno ten Brink, who is a member of the museum’s advisory board. According to NIW, ten Brink told Vingerling that at least the board’s acceptance of him wearing a baseball cap allowed him to adhere to religious law.

Ten Brink appeared to defend the museum in an interview, explaining that the Anne Frank House’s sensitivity was not particular to Judaism, but all religious symbols.

Fed up and “stressed” from waiting, Vingerling decided in late November that he would wear his kippa without a baseball cap over it to work and gauge the museum’s reaction accordingly.

However, he found management to be “unamused” with his decision. Director Ronald Leopold told him that the board would soon reach a decision on the matter, but Vingerling was asked to continue wearing a baseball cap in the meantime, and he complied. 

The Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam. (Screen capture/YouTube)

But he told NIW that the temporary solution was not always ideal as a number of visitors found it “disrespectful” that a staffer was talking to them while wearing a baseball cap.

Over four months went by before, last week, the museum board reached a decision to allow the staffer to wear a yarmulke.

Vingerling told NIW that he was happy about the decision, but didn’t understand why it took management so long.

“Until recently, we had no policy on this point, simply because we had never received a request to bear such statements,” the museum said in a statement.

“Judgment on such an important subject is done carefully at the Anne Frank House and in consultation with the various departments of the organization, including the Supervisory Board. That takes some time.”

After “further research… we have decided that religious expressions may be worn in the museum and on the shop floor,” the statement concluded.

Anne Frank House managing director Garance Reus-Deelder told the UK’s Daily Mail that the length of the board’s deliberation was to determine whether “a religious expression would interfere with our independent position.

“The Anne Frank Foundation is an independent organization without religious ties. Those are directed at combating anti-Semitism. We did not want that, for example, a yarmulke would influence that message,” she added.

The museum’s hesitancy on the issue was akin to earlier frustration raised by a number of Jewish visitors who lamented the fact that an Israeli flag was not shown to represent the Hebrew audio tour of the Secret Annex as is done for other languages.

While the French audio tour was represented by the French flag, the Hebrew audio tour was only marked by Hebrew letters.

According to NIW, the museum updated that display in April 2017.

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