Friday, January 22, 2016

Who Can Marseille?

The purpose of this blog is to spark some lively tête-a-tête at the Shabbat table.
Wishing Mom a continued recovery. Please keep Chaya bas Yehudis in your tefilot.

Kippa parisDid you hear what happened last week in Marseille?

On Monday morning, 35-year-old Benjamin Amsellem was walking to work.

He teaches a
at a Jewish school. He was wearing a kippa (yarmulke/skullcap) and carrying a copy of the Torah.

Suddenly he found himself attacked from behind by a machete-wielding 15-year-old.

Amsellem fell to the ground and protected himself with his feet and the Torah in his hands. Although wounded, he survived.

The teen, soon captured, later said he was proud of the attack, had acted “in the name of Allah and Islamic State," and that his only shame was that he had not managed to kill the teacher.

"Do you represent Isis," the investigators asked?

“I don’t represent Isis, they represent me.”

You may not have heard this story initially (since when is it newsworthy that someone attacks a Jew?)

But more media (including NPR) picked it up after what happened next.

What happened next was the response of Zvi Ammar, the head of Marseille's Jewish community.

"Not wearing the kippa can save lives and nothing is more important. It really hurts to reach that point but I don't want anyone to die in Marseille because they have a kippa on their head."

However, French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia demurred:

"To suggest this is like saying Jews bear some responsibility for being attacked. This is the same kind of thinking as those who would say a woman is guilty of an assault because her skirt wasn't long enough.
It's an interesting question for your table.

It's also an old question that has some interesting precedents.

For instance, there is an ancient midrash (traditional story) that when Moses arrived to Median (Exod. 2:15), his failure to identify himself as an Israelite (he evidently presented himself as an Egyptian) landed him 10 years in prison, as a Divine punishment.

In the rabbinic literature, the question has been debated for a thousand years.

Where does your table stand?

First, what issues are at play here? Safety? Perception of safety? Ethic pride? Freedom of expression? Freedom of religion? Anything else?

Second, imagine you lived in or visited a major French city. Perhaps you would want to visit the shul there on Friday night. Would you sport a kippa in the street? If you were a French parent, would you let your child walk to school wearing one?

Or would you prefer the middle-ground of the invisible kippa?

Shabbat Shalom.

PS - Sunday night (and Monday) is Tu-bishvat, our "New Year of the Trees", a great excuse to find as many fruits of trees as you can, put them all on the dining room table, and invite family and friends to enjoy. My goal every year is to gather the kabbalistic 30 different fruits, but sometimes have to cheat by counting different varieties of apple. Can you match that?

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