Jewish leaders in Britain and across Europe expressed outrage this week after charges were filed against a rabbi in Germany for performing circumcision, just weeks after a court ruled against the practise.
Rabbi David Goldberg, the Chief Rabbi of Hof in Bavaria and one of the few Orthodox mohels in the country, is believed to be the first person to be targeted for legal action following June’s ruling by the Cologne District Court that circumcision amounted to “bodily harm”.
In a ruling which sent shockwaves through Jewish communities worldwide, the court said: “The fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweigh the rights of the parents.” The ruling came in a case involving a four-year-old Muslim boy who suffered heavy bleeding after the procedure.
While Rabbi Goldberg has yet to be informed of any charges and claims he hasn’t performed any brit milahs in Germany since the ruling earlier this summer, Jonathan Arkush, vice president of the Board of Deputies, said: “The proposed prosecution of Rabbi Goldberg is misconceived, especially in the light of the German government’s stated intention to overturn the affect of the Cologne court decision. We look to Chancellor Angela Merkel to secure the religious rights of the Jewish community in Germany as quickly as possible and lay to rest any further doubts.”
While stressing that the legal ruling earlier this summer was a “decision of a local court and not a ban” and that he anticipated an appeal if politicians do not step in, Arkush said that in the wake of this week’s development, the Board contacted German Jewish leaders to offer advice and support. Also calling for swift action from the government was the Conference of European Rabbis which described this week’s development as “another grave affront to religious freedom” and the European Jewish Congress.
EJC President Dr Moshe Kantor branded the move a “very troubling escalation sending a deeply problematic message to the Jewish community. It has been many decades since a Jew was charged for practicing Judaism openly and is reminiscent of far darker times. We hope that in Germany, of all places, the authorities would remain far more sensitive to this issue”.
He added: “We hope the government will immediately intercede, especially after the office of Chancellor Merkel reaffirmed the right of Jews to continue practicing circumcision. The government needs to send a clearer message that Jewish religious life should be allowed to continue and thrive in Germany and to enact legislation without delay to clear matters as there is obviously a lot of confusion.”
The news emerged as Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was in the country to hold talks over the issue of circumcision. It has been reported that a doctor in the state of Haase made the complaint against Goldberg, who told the Jewish News last night that he hoped a new law would make clear the right to perform religious circumcision but he was concerned he could be brought before a court.
If asked to perform a brit now in Germany, he said he would consult a lawyer and the country’s Jewish leaders. He said: “If they advised against it I would look to perform the brit in a neighbouring country.”
The Rabbinical Centre of Europe said “several” European businessmen are ready to contribute “any funds necessary” to ensure he will have high-level legal representation if the case reaches that stage.