PARIS — Religious Jews in Marseille face a wrenching choice: whether to wear the skullcap that proclaims their religion or tuck it away in hopes of staying safe.

It’s a dilemma about identity and freedom of faith that has confronted religious communities elsewhere in Europe and the United States. It’s becoming especially acute in France, from where a record number of Jews emigrated to Israel as it grapples with anti-Semitic violence increasingly inspired by the Islamic State.

An attack this week was the last straw for the Marseille Jewish community’s religious leadership: A machete-wielding 15-year-old slashed a Jewish teacher in the street. Under police questioning, the boy invoked the Islamic State.

Zvi Ammar, head of the Israelite Consistory of Marseille, asked Jews to go without the kippa “until better days.” Kippa is the Hebrew word for skullcap, while it is known as a yarmulke in Yiddish.

Ammar called it the hardest decision he’d ever made. His words disturbed and divided French Jews and non-Jews alike, and evoked Nazi-era fears.

And they were a slap to the French government, desperate to reassure its Jewish community – the world’s third largest – and a nation shaken by a violent year.

The president called the recommendation intolerable. Two Jewish legislators wore kippas to French Parliament in protest.

“It means that we are projecting part of the responsibility on the victim,” said France’s chief rabbi, Haim Korsia.

“What is the limit? … Someone who walks in the street on Saturday morning on his way to the synagogue, isn’t it too visibly Jewish? It doesn’t end. And then, some people won’t be allowed to wear a (Christian) cross in the street, to wear such or such religious sign?” he asked. “At some point, we have to defend the model of our society and it is a society of secularism and freedom of religious practice.”

Israel’s foreign ministry has a “behavior recommendations” section on its website to ensure safety for Israeli travelers, advising against highlighting “your Israeli identity (in dress, equipment, behavior) when not necessary” or engaging in political arguments.

German Jewish leaders have suggested skullcap discretion in recent years, notably in areas with large Muslim populations.