"Unfortunately for us, we are targeted," Marseille's top Jewish leader Zvi Ammar told the French news agency AFP, adding: "As soon as we are identified as Jewish we can be assaulted and even risk death." He added: "We have to hide ourselves a little bit," he said, adding that making such an appeal made him "sick to the stomach".
However, Roger Cukierman, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and head of the Jewish umbrella body CRIF, rejected the call, calling Ammar's attitude "defeatist." France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia was also opposed, telling AFP: "We should not give an inch, we should continue wearing the kippa."
On Monday, a 35-year-old Jewish teacher, who was wearing the Jewish skullcap and carried a Torah, was attacked by a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd, who is an ISIS sympathizer, with a machete. Investigators believe the assailant was self-radicalized via the internet.
Ahead of his appearance in court on Wednesday, the 15-year-old said he was “proud” of his attack. The teenager told police he did not regret the assault on the Jewish teacher, and a source close to the investigation told local media the boy said he was “ashamed” that he did not manage to kill Benjamin Amsellem. “I don’t represent ISIS, they represent me,” the teenager reportedly told investigators.
Amsellem's wife said he her husband decided not to wear a skullcap "and encourages the community to do the same, not because he is afraid or ashamed to be Jewish, quite the contrary, but for security."
The attack followed assaults on three Jews in October, one with a knife near a synagogue by a drunken assailant. In November, another Jewish teacher was stabbed by people shouting anti-Semitic obscenities and support for the Islamic State group.
Marseille counts some 70,000 Jews in a population of 855,000, making it the second largest Jewish community in France after Paris.
France's Jewish community has grown used to living under the surveillance of armed soldiers around synagogues and schools since being targeted in a jihadist attack in Paris last January.
Last weekend, France marked a year since the attacks that left 17 people dead, including four gunned down in a Jewish supermarket.
According to French government statistics, anti-Semitic acts have soared in recent years, with the number reported between January 2015 and May 2015 increasing 84 percent compared with the same period in 2014.