Tuesday, July 14, 2020 -
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Fear — not freedom — of expression

Do you wear a kippah, a star of David, or a Chai necklace? If you do, when you leave home in the morning, do wearing those symbols instil any fear in you? If you live in Europe, you may answer “yes”.

According to a news brief in tomorrow’s IJN one out of four Jews in Europe is scared to wear a kippah outdoors. The statistic comes from a survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which monitors racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

This unfortunate news matches both anecdotes and other news stories emanating from over the pond. We’ve heard of religious French Jews who take their kippah off immediately after services, preferring to carry on Shabbat (prohibited according to Jewish law) than risk harassment. Circumcision and ritual slaughter have been on the chopping block (no pun intended!) on and off for the past five years. In two separate occasions over the past two weeks, two Jews were violently attacked, one in Kiev, Ukraine, the other in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Then came this story, reminiscent of John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me. An Irish journalist living in Sweden decided to wear a kippah for a day in Malmö, a city located on Sweden’s southernmost point and infamous in recent years for its anti-Semitic activity (most of it allegedly originating from the city’s large Muslim community).

So often Jews (and other minority groups) are accused of ‘being too sensitive’ or ‘overreacting’. That’s what make a story like this so invaluable. It’s rare for an outsider to have an insider experience. “Frankly it was a relief to take it off,” Patrick Reilly concludes.

Are these all signs of an irreversible growth in anti-Semitism? We didn’t even mention the growth in recent years of populist extreme right political groups, like Hungary’s Jobbik. Oy!

How worried are you about rising anti-Semitism? And do you think it’s confined to Europe, or also growing here in the United States?

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