Categorized | Ask the Rabbi

Sad time when we must discuss disguising identity

Posted on 26 November 2015 by admin

Rabbi Fried,
Is it safe to say that, at least in France (Marseille), you’d agree there is something to the idea of trying make yourself unrecognizable Jewishly, at least for the moment? Your reference to the French Chief Rabbi’s earlier ruling now appears to be (sadly) very timely.
— Richard R.
Dear Richard,
What I think you mean is to become unrecognizable Jewishly in the public domain in order to not attract attention to those seeking to harm Jews, which I think is precisely what the Chief Rabbi of France was seeking to accomplish with his ruling not to wear a kippah in the street. It would not accomplish a whole lot to not wear a kippah if otherwise one is clearly recognizably Jewish in other ways, although it’s hard to set the parameters of recognition as a Jew.
During the Holocaust many Jews survived precisely because they made themselves unrecognizable Jewishly and hid behind the mode of dress and speech of their Gentile neighbors. There’s no question that they did the right thing under the circumstances. I hate to mention the ominous “H word” in reference to, or in connection with, current events, but there certainly, sadly, are parallels to be drawn from modes of survival from then to now in some parts of the world.
The Jewish teacher stabbed in Marseille was indeed wearing his kippah in the street at the time, although his exiting the Yavneh school building is likely to have labeled him as Jewish in the eyes of his attackers whether or not he had donned a kippah.
The only antidote to that form of recognition would be to shut down Jewish life completely. That would imply shutting down Jewish schools and all Jewish institutions in order that, coupled with a change of dress, nobody would be recognizable as a Jew.
I don’t think that’s what you were implying in your question, but if it was, in my humble opinion that would not, presently, be justified. This is because, despite the danger lurking in the streets, French Jewry is, indeed, a target for Muslim terrorists, they are not, God forbid, in the midst of a holocaust where all Jews are in constant danger and fear for their lives.
If, Heaven forfend, that would be the case, the matter would be judged differently, and whatever necessary would have to be done. In the present situation, however, such a drastic move is not necessary, and probably forbidden.
I must express my profound horror that the situation has become such that we are even having this discussion. I am having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that we still have Holocaust survivors among us who are a testimony to the darkest period in world history, and those very people are again witness to a worldwide apathy to, or condoning of, widespread spilling of Jewish blood.
It is so bizarre to be, of necessity, something outside the realm of normalcy by any standards that we must take notice that we all are witness to some Divine plan rapidly unfolding before us.
The silver lining in this very dark, sinister cloud is that deep within it is the undisputable evidence that the Jewish people are not living by natural sociological norms, but are an Eternal People existing within a higher plan.
Let us all contemplate that with all its ramifications and responsibilities inferred thereby, and be fit to connect to that eternity through our thoughts, speech and deeds.

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