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French Jews Debate Wearing Skullcaps


A mourner holds pictures of the victims of an attack on a Paris grocery on Friday, during their joint funeral in Jerusalem, Jan. 13, 2015.

A mourner holds pictures of the victims of an attack on a Paris grocery on Friday, during their joint funeral in Jerusalem, Jan. 13, 2015.


A knife attack in France that injured a Jew has started a debate about wearing head coverings that show a person is Jewish.

“Even if we don’t wear one, we’ll always be attacked,” Israel Nessim told VOA near a synagogue -- a Jewish religious center -- in Paris.

“We’ll always be recognized as Jews,” he said.

Jewish men who are religious wear a head covering called a kippah, yarmulke or skullcap.

On Monday, a school teacher in Marseille who was wearing a kippah was attacked. The attacker was a Kurdish teenager who claimed to support the Islamic State terrorist group.

Zvi Ammar, a leader in the Jewish community in Marseille, said Jewish men and boys should not wear the kippah “until better days.”

Other French-Jewish leaders urge boys and men to continue wearing a kippah. They include the country’s top Jewish religious leader and the head of a national Jewish group.

Philippe Zribi is a Jewish butcher in Paris. He does not wear a kippah. But he says “I believe people should be able to wear what they want. We need to terrorize the terrorists, not be terrorized by the terrorists.”

Jews in other countries are debating whether to stop wearing skullcaps. Last year, the leader of a Jewish organization in Germany said Jewish men should stop wearing the kippah in areas where many Muslims live.

About 500,000 Jews live in France. A study by the group Human Rights First reported a sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks in 2014. And it said more than 7,200 French Jews had moved to Israel that year.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Lisa Bryant reported on this story from Paris. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

What do you think about increased violence against religious people? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, or visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

kippah; yarmulke – n. a small, round head covering that is worn by some religious Jewish men

skullcap – n. a small, round cap that sits on top of the head and that is worn by religious Jewish men and Catholic clergymen

butcher – n. someone who cuts and sells meat in a shop, or kills animals and prepares their meat to be eaten

anti-Semitic – adj. feeling or showing hatred of Jewish people

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