Skip to main content

French Jews Advised To Hide Their Identities After Anti-Semitic Attacks

The highest Jewish authority in the French city of Marseille told Jews living in the city not to advertise their religion "until better days" after a series of violent anti-Semitic attacks.

Zvi Ammar, the head of Marseille's Israelite Consistory -- the main Jewish authority in the city -- told Agence France-Presse on Jan. 12 he was "sick to his stomach" for having to make the request of fellow Jews, but added his primary concern was to save lives.

"Life is more sacred than anything else," Ammar said. "We are now forced to hide a little bit.”

The directive came after a Jan. 11 attack on a Jewish schoolteacher. Benjamin Amsellem was wearing a yarmulke, a Jewish skullcap, at the time and was targeted because of his faith, according to authorities. He had cuts to his shoulder and one hand after a teenager -- who said he had pledged fealty to ISIS -- came at him with a machete.

 "I had the feeling [the attacker] wanted to decapitate me," said Amsellem, 35, according to the BBC.

The attack on Amsellem was the third time Jews had been targets of violence in Marseille in recent months.

In November, a Jewish teacher was stabbed repeatedly on a Marseille street by three attackers who shouted anti-Semitic slurs at him, police said. One of the attackers was wearing a T-shirt professing support for ISIS.

In October, three Jewish people were assaulted in separate attacks, including one attack by a drunken assailant who had a knife.

In January 2015, following the deadly attack on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, four Jewish residents of Paris were taken hostage and killed in a supermarket by a man who said he'd pledged loyalty to ISIS, the BBC said.

Those incidents, combined with the Nov. 13, 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris, and at least a dozen other attacks on Jews in France's capital, have put French Jews on edge, community leaders said.

Not everyone agreed with Ammar's suggestion to prevent violence.

"We should not give in to anything, we will continue to wear the kippah," said Haim Korsia, France's chief rabbi.

Ammar said he doesn't like advising the faithful to hide their religion, yet still believes it's necessary during tense times in France.

"But faced with an exceptional situation, we have to take exceptional measures," Ammar said. "It causes me such pain to come to this conclusion but I do not want anyone to die in Marseille because they had a kippah on their head."

Sources: BBC, Digital Journal, AFP via / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Popular Video