Germany’s Jewish community leader has advised Jews not to wear skullcaps in areas with a large Muslim population, a warning that underscores fears about growing anti-Semitism in Europe.
Josef Schuster of the Central Council of Jews told German radio that community members should not hide out of fear and that most Jewish institutions in Germany were protected, but that in some areas it was better not to be recognised.
“The question is whether, in areas with a large proportion of Muslims, it is sensible to be recognised as a Jew by wearing a kippa or if it isn’t better to wear some other form of head covering,” Schuster told rbb Inforadio.
“It is a development that I did not expect five years ago and that’s a bit shocking.” Schuster expressed concern about a new anti-Semitism combining views from the political far right with anti-Israeli sentiment and hostility from young Muslims.
Seventy years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism remains a particularly sensitive issue in Germany, and other European countries, including France and Britain, are also worried by a growth in hostility towards Jews.
Last week, Berlin’s Jewish community decided to send its monthly newspaper out in a neutral envelope to protect recipients.
The number of reported anti-Semitic crimes rose by more than one third last year to 1,076, says the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, according to what it says are unpublished government figures. Crimes included vandalising Jewish cemeteries, painting swastikas on synagogues and inciting hatred against Jews.
Some German politicians and German Jews blame the rise in anti-Semitism on feelings about Middle East violence.
A survey by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation last November highlighted a blurring of the lines in Germany between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, with 27 percent of those asked equating the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of Jews in World War Two.
Other, earlier polls have found that 15-20 percent of Germans have latent anti-Semitic views.
Since 1991 the number of Jews belonging to a religious community in Germany has more than tripled to some 105,000, boosted by an influx from the former Soviet Union. About the same number are non-practising Jews or people with Jewish roots.
This compares to about 600,000 before the Nazi Holocaust.