In an interview on Saturday, Felix Klein, Germany’s “commissioner for Jewish life and the fight against anti-Semitism,” stated that he “cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere or at all times in Germany” in light of the frequency of anti-Semitic attacks. German public figures, led by the popular newsmagazine Bild, have loudly criticized Klein and encouraged German Gentiles to wear kippot in solidarity. Defending Klein, Andrew Mark Bennett contends that he was not encouraging cowardice but simply stating the facts. Bennett has less patience for the wave of sympathizers:
“The kippah belongs to Germany,” declared Bild’s editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt. It’s a nice sentiment, but do the facts support such a claim? And what about the human being wearing the kippah? Does he belong to Germany, too? Even if he does not belong, what about the duty of the state to ensure his religious freedom and personal security? . . . Bild offered a cut-out kippah for Germans to wear in solidarity with Jews. The handful who don the cartoonish paper kippah can congratulate themselves for supporting Jewish life in Germany—without ever bothering to engage with an actual kippah-wearing Jew. This kippah-without-a-Jew is stripped of its traditional (and gendered) significance into a prop for asserting tolerant liberalism.
I do not need or want anyone to rebuke Klein. I want Germany to recognize, exactly as Klein has done, that the average kippah-wearing Jew has hidden his kippah under a hat in Germany for years. . . .
Today, various “neutrality” laws in Germany prohibit state employees in schools and in courts from wearing a kippah in the performance of their public-facing duties. The push for such provisions, buoyed by judicial approval, is only growing. The imagined need for “strengthening religious and ideological neutrality” is apparently of vastly greater importance than a Jew’s religious freedom. Furthermore, these laws tell us plainly that our kippah is not neutral, [but rather] alien to German law and education. . . .
This state intolerance of the kippah is not unconnected from the anti-kippah threats in the streets.