Marseille supporters urged to wear kippahs to upcoming match
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Marseille supporters urged to wear kippahs to upcoming match

Jewish and non-Jewish fans alike encouraged to show solidarity after spate of anti-Semitic attacks

Toulouse's French Tunisian forward Wissam Ben Yedder kicks the ball during the French League Cup football match between Toulouse and Marseille (OM) on January 13, 2016 at the municipal stadium in Toulouse, southwestern France. (Pascal Pavani/AFP)
Toulouse's French Tunisian forward Wissam Ben Yedder kicks the ball during the French League Cup football match between Toulouse and Marseille (OM) on January 13, 2016 at the municipal stadium in Toulouse, southwestern France. (Pascal Pavani/AFP)

All supporters of Marseille soccer team are being urged to wear kippahs to a forthcoming match in a sign of solidarity with the city’s Jewish community, following a spate of anti-Semitic attacks in Marseille and elsewhere in France.

According to Hebrew language sports website One, the call for a mass wearing of Jewish skullcaps to the Wednesday, January 20 cup tie against Montpellier was issued Thursday by the official supporters organization.

The idea arose in the wake of Monday’s stabbing of Orthodox Jew Benjamin Amsellem in Marseille by a teenager who said he was inspired by the Islamic State terror group.

After that attack, Zvi Ammar, president of the Marseille office of the Consistoire — a community organization responsible for providing religious services — called on the city’s Jews to stop wearing their kippas “in these troubling times.”

Benjamin Amsellem (R), a Jewish teacher stabbed the day before by a 15-year-old with a machete, speaks to the press as he leaves the main police headquarters in Marseille, southeastern France, on January 12, 2016. (AFP / BORIS HORVAT)
Benjamin Amsellem (R), a Jewish teacher stabbed the day before by a 15-year-old with a machete, speaks to the press as he leaves the main police headquarters in Marseille, southeastern France, on January 12, 2016. (AFP / BORIS HORVAT)

Other Jewish leaders rejected Ammar’s call, however, and French President Francois Hollande said it would be “intolerable” for France’s Jews to have to hide their religion.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who also rejected Ammar’s call, has also asked soccer fans in Marseille to wear a kippah to the upcoming home game in a sign of solidarity.

French MPs Meyer Habib and Claude Goasguen wear kippahs in parliament in protest of calls for French Jews not to wear skullcaps (YouTube screenshot)
French MPs Meyer Habib and Claude Goasguen wear kippahs in parliament in protest of calls for French Jews not to wear skullcaps (YouTube screenshot)

In a statement, the supporters group declared that “for hundreds of years Jews wore a kippah at all times” and should not be afraid to continue doing so. Its call to non-Jews to join them was intended to constitute “a message of peace and reconciliation by all supporters of the team,” it said

Local Jewish leaders hailed the idea as a “victory over defeatist racism,” the One website said.

On Wednesday, French-Jewish lawmaker Meyer Habib and his non-Jewish colleague Claude Goasguen were filmed wearing kippahs in the national parliament to signal their solidarity and rejection of anti-Semitism.

“There are many small initiatives taking place across France that involve wearing kippahs,” Robert Ejnes, a vice president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said Friday.

“The expressions of solidarity we’ve seen in France are a positive outcome to a negative reality that we would have preferred did not happen, in which the religious freedom of Jews is debated,” he added. “At the end of the day, though, we draw encouragement from the public reaction to what was said.”

Since October, there have been three non-fatal stabbing attacks on Jews in Marseille, which has a Jewish population of 80,000.

— JTA contributed to this report.

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