German president says country must ensure Jews should be able to openly wear kippot

Germans must have the courage to aggressively combat growing antisemitism and ensure Jews can wear kippot in public spaces without fear of attack, according to the country’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

“We cannot tolerate it when Jews do not dare wear kippot on our streets,” Steinmeier said in a speech in Heidelberg. “The fight against antisemitism demands civil courage – turning a blind eye and a deaf ear, saying or doing nothing when Jewish citizens are insulted, mocked or violently attacked – that cannot and should not be an option for any of us.”

The number of hate crimes against Jews, including vandalism of tombstones or synagogues, has been rising in Germany in recent years. Many are perpetrated by neo-Nazis but increasingly by people of Arabic or Turkish background.

Last month, Germany’s commissioner for antisemitism, Felix Klein, acknowledged that he could not recommend that Jews wear a kippa head covering everywhere and at any time. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of the ruling Christian Democrats, visited the Central Jewish Council on Monday and said it is unacceptable that Jews have to think twice before wearing a kippa in public.

In its speech, during an anniversary ceremony for the University for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, Steinmeier said he was worried that antisemitic behaviour is spreading.

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