A wave of anti-Semitic violence in France prompted a surprising bit of advice for Jews: Take off your yarmulkes.
That didn't go over on social media. Two friends in particular decided that what needed was not fewer skullcaps, but more. Many more.
Sophie Taieb and Kerima Mendes launched a campaign known as #tousavecunekippa — or "everyone with a kippa"- using another name for the headcovering worn by some Jewish men.
Their idea was for everyone in France, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to show solidarity against anti-Semitism by wearing a skullcap and posting a photo of themselves in it on social media.
“It’s to show that if someone was a target for wearing a kippa, well, now we are all wearing a kippa” explains Sophie Taleb. “The problem is not wearing the kippa. The problem is the violence”.
The campaign springs from a series of horrific anti-Semitic attacks that have taken place in recent weeks in France. The most recent involved an attack against a teacher in the city of Marseille, who was assaulted by a 15-year-old boy wielding a machete. The assailant claimed to be acting on behalf of ISIS. The victim was wearing a kippa at the time.
In response to these crimes, the leader of Marseille’s Jewish community recommended that Jews avoid wearing the kippa "until better days." Other Jewish leaders criticized this as a concession to violence and bigotry.
It seems many French people agree that the kippa is something to be worn with pride. Taleb and Mendes have both been amazed at the speed with which #tousavecunekippa went viral. People have been coming up with their own variations on the idea.
Photoshopped versions of the Mona Lisa in a kippa have been shared on Twitter. Another photo has a model of a dinosaur wearing a skullcap: kippasaurus. Taleb has even heard of a rabbi who found himself giving out kippas in the street for people to wear. Non-Jews have been contacting the friends to learn more about the garment: Taleb describes herself as a kippa hotline.
In spite of this, the campaign has not lost sight of its serious purpose. “We are often victims of violence,” says Taleb “and the level of anti-Semitism is really high.And its not going down. So the Jewish people need to protect themselves. We need to protect ourselves”
From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International