The Unkindest Cut Of All: German Rabbi Faces Charges For Performing Newly Outlawed Circumcision Procedure

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The rabbi will be the first to face potential legal action following controversial ruling that banned the ritual for causing ‘bodily harm’ to a child.

A German rabbi is facing charges for performing a circumcision, less than two months after a Cologne court outraged Jews and Muslims by outlawing the procedure.

Rabbi David Goldberg has become the first rabbi to face possible legal action for performing the ritual after an unidentified doctor filed a criminal complaint against the spiritual leader, alleging “bodily harm” to the child involved, the Times of Israel reported.

The charges against the 64-year-old, a rabbi of the Bavarian city of Hof for over 10 years, have sparked widespread anger among Jewish and Muslim communities, with many groups demanding that Germany pass legislation to protect the practice.

“The charges laid against a Jewish religious leader for performing a fully legal action is outrageous and a very troubling escalation, sending a deeply problematic message,” Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, told the Jerusalem Post.

“It has been many decades since a Jew was charged for practicing Judaism openly and is reminiscent of far darker times,” he added. “We hope that in Germany, of all places, the authorities would remain far more sensitive to this issue.”

The complaint comes nearly two months after judges in Cologne banned the ritual, claiming that the procedure resulted in criminal “bodily harm” to those unable to consent. The ruling was in response to the case of a Muslim boy who suffered medical complications after being circumcised.


Several lawmakers spoke with Yona Metzger, the chief rabbi for Israel’s Ashkenazi Jews, this week to discuss the controversial ruling.

The local chief public prosecutor, Gerhard Schmitt, told Reuters that it’s too early to determine whether the case against Goldberg will merit a trial. His office is currently in the process of reviewing the doctor’s charges.

Goldberg, who has performed over 4,000 circumcisions without complications, said that he has not performed the procedure in Germany since it was banned in June.

The Israeli-native said that he stopped performing the rituals because of a lack of demand – not because of the legal prohibitions.


“I’m hoping for a law to be passed that permits everything again,” Goldberg told Reuters. “Then this will all be over.”

Several other countries have passed laws designed to regulate or limit circumcision.

In Sweden, the procedure can only be performed by those certified by the National Board of Health. The 2001 law requires that the ritual be performed while the child is under anesthesia and a doctor or nurse must be present.

No law regarding the procedure has been passed in the U.S., but several groups, such as Doctors Opposing Circumcision and the Anti-Circumcision movement, have called for an end to the practice.

Approximately 79 percent of adult men in the U.S. have undergone the procedure, according to a 2007 CDC study.