Berlin, Germany – Berlin’s Jewish community denounced on Thursday the city’s rejection of male circumcisions conducted by traditional specialists, saying the restriction was “flagrant interference” in religion.
The city-state of Berlin had announced a day earlier that it would not prosecute doctors conducting the ritual on boys in accordance with ancient Jewish and Muslim practice. But it said a mohel, a professional Jewish circumciser, could not claim the privilege.
The assembly of the city Jewish community passed a unanimous resolution saying, “this is flagrant interference in a Jewish tradition going back more than 3,000 years.”
A mohel is trained in the circumcision of baby boys and must live strictly according to kosher rules. Jewish groups said it would be rare to find a man who is both a mohel and a doctor at the same time.
The city-state said immunity from prosecution would apply on its territory if doctors used painkillers and obtained written parental consent and proof that the family belonged to a Jewish or Muslim community. Two other states said they had set similar conditions.
A legal row erupted after a ruling in June by a court in Cologne, which found that a doctor had inflicted unlawful bodily harm by circumcising a 4-year-old Muslim boy at his parents’ request.
Although the Cologne ruling was only binding in a small region, doctors across the country halted the operations for fear of prosecution. The federal government has said it will soon introduce a law to ensure circumcision remains legal.
Jews are also concerned that Germany will demand use of a local anaesthetic during circumcision. One of Israel’s two chief rabbis has visited Berlin to say that this is not allowed in traditional circumcision.
Germany’s President Joachim Gauck released Thursday a letter to his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, assuring him “the way of life and beliefs of Jews in Germany” needed to be protected. Peres had earlier asked Gauck to intervene and speak up for Jews.
Jewish groups plan a demonstration on Sunday in Berlin with Christian supporters to protest against the restrictions on circumcision. They have appealed to Muslims to also take part.
Muslims in Germany mostly ask doctors to perform circumcisions and have no equivalent of the mohel.