Dr Felix Klein, the “Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism”, made headlines last week – not only in Germany. He warned against wearing the kippa in public. Well, most German Jews weren’t really surprised. Jews in this country are aware, that a base cap is the better choice.
But this was a new low: A representative of the Federal Government is not talking about the fight of the government against anti-semitism and about security guarantees for the Jewish citizens, but saying allusively “better people don’t recognize you are Jewish”. Or with other words: We are not able to protect you.
On the other hand. It was quite obvious what he “wanted” to say: The government is concerned about your security.
Only a few days later, Bild, Germany’s top-selling tabloid called on readers to “stand in solidarity with the Jewish neighbours” by making “your own kippa” with a star of David, to ‘raise the flag against anti-Semitism’. Solidarity.
The readers had to cut out a kippah from the newspaper and were called to wear it. Heiko Maas, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs posted a photo of himself with a kippah on twitter – it was the “Bild kippah”. Solidarity.
Then things changed. Dr Felix Klein called “all” people (especially non-Jews) to actually wear kippah this upcoming Saturday/Shabbat in Berlin – to show solidarity with the Jewish community. Not incidentally. On Saturday the “Al-Quds” march will take place in Berlin. During this annual event, protesters showed not only solidarity with the case of the Palestinians but shouted anti-semitic and anti-zionist slogans (“Child murderer Israel”). Beneath the anti-Israel demonstrators (showing support for Hamas and Hezbollah) there were some supporters of conspiracy theories and other strange figures.
The reactions within the Jewish community concerning the “wear a kippah Saturday” are, well, mixed. Some people don’t like the idea, some support it.
But solidarity is not enough. It is cheap. Words of solidarity are not enough to protect kids in schools, they don’t protect synagogues or just people at home. But, of course, it will ease the conscience of most people.
It would have been a good move to at least try to ban this march in the first step.
A constitutional state, especially Germany, has all the tools to protect its citizens from abuse and to guarantee their religious freedom. There is no need to tighten laws because the existing laws need to be applied consistently.
The problems affect society as a whole. If “Jew” is a common swearword in schoolyards, then teachers are required to intervene decisively, and not only when Jewish disciples are actually bullied. And even in concrete cases of bullying, resolute action often looks different than the request to hide the case from the public. Yes, this actually happened.
But instead, all of this, the society and the government are “outsourcing” this hard work to acts of solidarity. People are called to end anti-semitism with solidarity. I am not convinced this will help in the end. People “acting” against anti-semitism will help. The teacher, who takes care if a pupil calls another “you filthy Jew”, the people in the metro who react against a rude commentary, the people of Berlin who complain about the Al-Quds march and so on and so on and so on.