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24 august 2012 Last updated at 09:37 GMT  

Complaint against German rabbi galvanizes debate

The debate over religious circumcision is heating up after a German doctor filed a complaint against Rabbi David Goldberg for performing the ritual on a child. 

Formal criminal charges haven’t been filed against the rabbi, but the complaint alleges the procedure caused bodily harm and references a recent ruling by a court in Cologne outlawing the practice. The ruling isn’t enforceable outside the court’s jurisdiction, but it has caused several hospitals throughout Western Europe to recommend that doctors don’t perform circumcision until lawmakers can decide whether or not to allow it. 

The possibility that governments could outlaw the practice has many members of Europe’s Jewish community worried. Danish Chief Rabbi Bent Lexner recently said a ban would be equivalent to telling Denmark’s 400-year-old Jewish community that it “may as well leave.” 

European Jewish Parliament Member from Germany Nathan Gelbart told JN1 that Jews in his country would be able to live with certain regulations on the practice, but said the basic ritual must be preserved. 

MEJP Nathan Gelbart: 

“People are trying to force Jews to abandon a tradition that is a pillar of Judaism. It’s not one of the 613 Mitzvo; it’s a pillar of Judaism like Shabbat. Nobody would dare to discuss with Jews why Shabbat should last for one complete day—why not for only two hours? Why should our meals be completely free of pork meat? Why not 10% or 15%? These are such basic discussions that there is no ground for compromise. We can compromise on whether circumcision should be carried out near a hospital in case anything should happen to the kid.” 

Germany’s parliament is currently debating a law that would decide the legality of the practice, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel taking a firm position that the right to religious circumcision must be maintained. Gelbart added that he thinks it’s likely lawmakers will decide to allow the ritual to continue but perhaps require a doctor to always be present or require that it’s done near a hospital. But what a decision like that will mean for the rest of Europe remains to be seen.

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